Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Outward Appearances," by Matt Jones

Editor's Comments

Legendary constructor Matt Jones (of Jonesin' Crossword fame) is up today with an "outer layer" synonym theme!  I like how the theme has a modern vibe—I primarily associated skin and case with iPhones—but that it can still be appreciated by people of all generations.  Matt also worked a lot of fun entries into the fill.  My favorites are TIGER CUB, LASER GUN, CHILI DOG, PAINT CAN, and SPINNER (with Matt's timely fidget spinner reference).  When fidget spinners first came out, I remember thinking to myself, "Eh, I don't need one."  But when I saw a fidget spinner for $3 in New York last summer, I couldn't help myself, and I've been hooked ever since.  I'll close with one of my all-time favorite fidget spinner depictions, a Baby Blues comic:

Monday, May 21, 2018

"Swindler's List," by Val Melius

Constructor's Comments

This particular puzzle actually started out quite differently—wasn't focused on various elements of a casino, was a bit of a mess, had LOADED DICE paired with HIDDEN CARD—these just wouldn't work.

Spoke to a friend, and he was, like, how about MARKED CARD and focusing on items used for cheating.  I was, like, hmm . . . that could work.  Spent the next couple of days doing research and was amazed at all the tricky ways to cheat—they were literally evening the odds.

Spent a couple days on grid design, creating multiple iterations of the fill and overall black square pattern—all whilst listening to some EDM [electronic dance music] and nu jazz.  Music tends to keep me motivated, especially when the grid doesn't work—starting over is easier whilst listening to some tunes; each black square movement feels playful, making you want to get a lot more creative with the design.

Like switching it up in the design phase—won't stick to the regular black squares; they might be gray, blue, green, etc.  Tend to gravitate towards the gray squares, though, since I like Cruciverb.com’s puzzle preview.  Anyways, enough of my ramblings—hope you guys had a great time solving this one; looking forward to creating more amazing stuff.

Editor's Comments

I've been fascinated with casinos since I was six years old.  My family was visiting Las Vegas, and my mom decided to teach me a lesson about gambling by feeding a nickel into a slot machine.  "See," she said, "we're going to lose our nickel."  To her surprise, the slot machine spit out five dollars worth of nickels!

Today's puzzle thus hits the jackpot for me.  In fact, the theme is so narrow that I'm impressed Val was able to come up with four examples, let alone ones that can be arranged symmetrically.  He also did a great job keeping the fill Monday-smooth—he even classed it up with an ESCARGOT.  And finally, Val hails all the way from Saint Lucia, which makes today's puzzle extra-special.  Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Sunday Freestyle XII," by Claire Muscat

Constructor's Comments

Hello, everyone!  My name is Claire Muscat, and I am a recent college graduate living in Chicago, Illinois.  I've had puzzles published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the American Values Club Crossword, Queer Qrosswords, and The Orange Country Register.  I'm thrilled to be adding Andrews McMeel Universal to that list, and I look forward to contributing more!

I always try to start a themeless with a few really fun entries I can build the puzzle around.  In this case, my springboard was HEART EMOJI, an entry I really like because of its modern flair and clue-ability.  That was followed by entries like ATHLEISURE, GLUTEN-FREE, and SLEEPER HIT (as well as the dumb-luck cross of THOR and RAGNAROK), and I was pleased to have a puzzle with so many fresh, exciting entries.

However, I always find the balance between entries I really like and acceptable fill a hard line to walk.  There is fill in there I definitely would be happier without—TCI and ELY in particular, which serve as a good reminder that there is always room for improvement.  However, at the end of the day, I'm proud to put this puzzle out there regardless!

I hope the solving experience is a good one.  Lastly, I am always looking for feedback, so don't hesitate to reach out!

Editor's Comments

Claire put together a lovely themeless, and I'm not just saying that because HEART EMOJI is in the grid.  There are just so many great entries, from the ones Claire listed above to WHITE HATS (clued as [Ethical hackers]).  I also laughed out loud when I saw HAIRY LEGS—that's the kind of unexpected yet totally legitimate entry I enjoy uncovering most as a solver!  Crossing THOR and RAGNAROK is another elegant touch.  Watch for more of Claire's themelesses in the coming weeks!