Puzzle #8 – Freestyle Alpha

size: 15x15
style: themeless
difficulty: decently challenging, but not like one of those impossibly hard indie themelesses

Crossword confessional: I'm not typically a big fan of themeless puzzles. They just don't tend to, y'know, get me going the same way that a solid themed puzzle does. Don't get me wrong—I have a huge appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into a great themeless, and there are plenty that I have genuinely enjoyed, but most of the time I find it hard to get on the creator's wavelength or overcome the obscenely high difficulty that some set for their solvers.

So in a lot of ways, making this puzzle forced me to go outside of my comfort zone. At the same time, I made myself comfortable by not trying to fit this puzzle into a hole, and just writing it as I'd like to see a themeless written. I utilized a very wide array of original and classic cluing angles, and in general I had a lot of fun with the cluing, probably too much fun... and I think you'll see why. This is a very "me" themeless (and I'm not gonna apologize).

If it's not clear from my last three puzzles (between the April Fools grid, the ridiculous SpongeBob grid, and the decidedly 6x9 grid), I'm not shy to messing with my solvers and doing things that wouldn't fly in mainstream venues. This puzzle has at least a couple genuine stumbling blocks that might frustrate you, make you laugh, hopefully not make you cry, but will force you to pause and think about things... differently. Although difficult, I hope all of the different angles I utilized are fair and the fill still comes across as clean. I know it's not perfect.

And a huge thank you to Mikey and Quiara for being the guinea pigs for this experiment!

Puzzle #7 – Let's Not and Say We Did

size: 12x7 (midi)
style: ehehehe
difficulty: ???/5

Hey! Two puzzles in a week! I'm on a roll. Gonna spare you the long-winded spiel and just give you the goods. Came up with the idea this morning and ran with it. Good luck have fun!

There were really only so many themers I could come up with in a midi-size puzzle, so I'm really happy with where the themer density ended up. The only one I'm disappointed I didn't get to include was [6-A] with the answer ILL (meant to be interpreted [Sick, say] if it's not clear). The entry ILL could have fit, but there was no good way of also making 6-A an actual entry, and I figured I wanted to keep all of the misdirects pointed at actual entries.

Also, for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQJDrohLoOw

Puzzle #6 – SpongeWord SquareGrid

size: 11x11 (midi)
style: themed / et tu etui?
difficulty: ???/5

This puzzle speaks for itself. It takes major inspiration from et tu etui's Zootopia™ puzzle—after I solved that masterpiece, I just started to think about how I'd going about creating a puzzle like that, and as soon as I realized how much simpler it would be than I thought, I got to work on the first logical thing that came to my mind: The first three seasons of SpongeBob.

I have been on record as saying that seasons 1-3, when the show was directed by Stephen Hillenburg, is perhaps the longest and most consistent run of top-quality comedy writing on any show, ever. Sure, there are better individual shows and episodes of other comedies, but go back and look through all of the episodes in these three seasons. There's not a single dud. They all slap. It's unbelievable. 

So this will likely be the first of many tribute puzzles—for the past month I have been hard at work creating more, uh, "serious" puzzles which will (hopefully!) start to appear elsewhere sometime this year. This blog is where I'll keep the rejects of those attempts as well as these kinds of "silly" puzzles... But personally, I don't see this as very silly? Legitimately, this puzzle is a love letter to one of my favorite shows of all time. I hope it makes you laugh and brings back some good memories, like it did for me while constructing it. Enjoy!

By the way, feel free to reach out if you'd like to collaborate on one of these kinds of puzzles (it can be anything! I think I want to do a movie next...) or if you have questions about how it was done. I had a blast making it and would love to see more of this style. And I know this one isn't perfect—my method was pretty messy and could be executed much better with a little more practice under my belt. But I think this turned out pretty well for a test run.

Notes on solving: I inserted a lot of images into the upload below to help people out and jog memories, and because it's fun! As a result, I highly recommend solving using the PuzzleMe link or at the very least, the embed below. I am providing the .puz and PDF files as a courtesy, but please know that you will be at a disadvantage due to the missing content. But don't let that stop you!

4sqr – Snack Pack #2 – Now even printer-friendlier!


In case you haven't been clued in yet, I like squares. I just think they're neat (but not as neat as hexagons). I've always been a big geometry enthusiast, so things like large-scale symmetry and patterns scratch a certain itch in my brain. Recently I've been binging Numberphile videos on YouTube, and this video in particular really got me thinking. I'll let James explain it far better than I can, but imagine if a standard four-square court or chessboard could only be made of squares of different sizes—but still with integer-length sides.

The image above is the smallest possible (yes, it's been proven!) example of these so-called "squared squares", and is the logo of the Trinity Mathematical Society, the student group responsible for discovering several of these squares, by hand, and popularizing the idea. Image source and more reading here.

Anyway, I'm here with more not-so-elegant squares of squares. Enjoy this week's Snack Pack!

pdf / png / solution

4sqr – Snack Pack #1


The first week of my weird little experiment is done, and as promised, here are the puzzles in printable format (also in PNG, in case opening in Paint and drawing in the answers there is more your thing). Links are below, and I'd love to know what you think and what suggestions you might have! Thank you to everyone who has submitted clues so far—it's taking quite a while to sift through all of the quality.

In case you don't know what's going on, here's what you need to know:

  • I am providing a new home for all two-letter crossword entries (of which there are 676). If you know one of these entries personally, or if you would like to be matched with one, please visit this link to find out how you can help today. Looking for all manner of unique, intriguing, and inclusive cluing angles.

  • I am using these entries to produce daily "bite size" 2x2 puzzles (and a "fun size" Sunday puzzle). Quite literally, these are meant to be bite-sized—solved in a matter of seconds if you're able to figure out the clues.

  • I am releasing these puzzles daily (and in all sorts of fun colors) on my Twitter account, but if you don't have Twitter or would rather just receive this weekly Snack Pack, then just come back here every Sunday.

  • If you are a puzzle constructor and would like to come up with your own bespoke puzzle featuring two-letter entries, I am open to guest slots or a quick collaboration!

That's it! If it's not clear, I don't intend for these puzzles to be much of a challenge. I'm realizing in my crossword constructing journey that I really just want to make puzzles that I would enjoy doing myself, and while I do appreciate a proper intricate challenge, most of the time I'd rather snack on something bite size but still satisfyingly sweet. 

pdf / png / solution

Puzzle #5 – An International Mystery

size: 6x9 (midi)
style: themed
difficulty: 2/5

So, I've been stuck in a bit of a cluing rut recently. I'm currently sitting on three different fully-filled 15x15 puzzles that I just can't bring myself to fully clue—so I've been spending most of my crossword energy recently working on a new set of projects: The Two-letter Cluing Project and 4sqr, which is going to be a collection of daily 2x2 puzzles, with a slightly larger Sunday puzzle, all designed to showcase the plethora of two-letter crossword entries which have been unfairly suppressed and maligned by the likes of one William F. Shortz and Big Crossword. CWAC™—giving two-letter words a home since February 2021. First snack pack will be released right here, this Sunday! Stay tuned. And follow me on Twitter if you'd like to receive the daily puzzles on the day they release.

Oh right! I also made a puzzle for today. See below. I expect many of you will discover the theme fairly quickly—I didn't make it very subtle. Regardless, I had fun making this one. And hopefully I'll climb out of my rut and get back to publishing more full-size marties shortly. Enjoy.

puz / pdf / solution

Puzzle #4 – The Crass And The Curious

size: 18x5 (midi)
style: themeless
difficulty: 3/5

I know you're tired of January 2021 current events puzzles. So am I. But, it was an insane month for news, and I would have felt like I missed the bus if I saved this seed entry for any longer. And for some reason I decided that it would be a pangram! Trust meit didn't happen accidentally and made the process way harder than it had to be, but I hope the fill is good enough to make for a smooth solve. Let me know what you think!

Also, huge shoutout to Chris Piuma for providing the clues to 5-down (originally too boring) and 22-across (originally too insensitive). 10/10 test solver, would recommend.

puz / pdf / solution

Puzzle #3 – Therapeutic Hazards

size: 9x9 (midi)
style: kinda-themed
difficulty: 3/5

I'm alive! Took about a month off from publishing anything as part of an oh-so-cliché, but oh-so-needed, social media cleanse following the stress of the holidays and whatnot. I've still been constructing, moreso on large grids in the hopes of getting something published sometime this year, but I'm ready to start carving out the time for these blog posts again. I'll be doing them weekly now—I promise.

Enjoy this little midi. Not really a whole lot to say, except that I accidentally created a tongue-twister with 11-A's clue. Just try saying it ten times fast.

puz / pdf / solution

Adaptation (2002)

Puzzle #2 – Suggestibility

size: 15x15
style: themed
difficulty: 3/5 I think? I don't really know how to gauge this yet.

I'll try to be quick with the body of this post since I'm trying to work on my brevity in writing. Today's puzzle is themed. I think it works well, but it could have been better if other potential themers had the forethought to match letter counts with each other. Oh well. I'll let the puzzle speak for itself.

Also, from now on the flavor image will simply be a still from any movie (or TV, selectively) scene I was reminded of while making the puzzle, which doesn't have any direct connection to any clues, without any other context. Bonus points if you can identify the movie and what connection it may have to any of the entries (the connections may be pretty cosmic—my brain tends to connect things that aren't really connected pretty often). Today's should be pretty easy.

Anyway, enjoy! 

puz / pdf / solution

Other potential themer entries included GEORGEBUSH, FREDDIEPRINZE, JOHNKENNEDY, KINGLOUIS/KINGHENRY/etc. and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. I absolutely did not mean for this puzzle to end up as being quasi-sports themed, but here we are. I also would have loved to include more female entries, but the nature of the theme made it practically impossible (if you can find any mothers who named their sons after them, let me know! Jada Pinkett Smith/Jaden Smith was the closest I could come up with) for the themers. 

Puzzle #1 – Use Your Words!

size: 9x9 (midi)
style: themeless
difficulty: 2/5 

Okay, so, I'll be the first to admit—Puzzle #0 was kind of a disaster, but that's why I called it Puzzle #0! It had too many problems to list: Problems with grid fill, with entries, and with cluing. I appreciate all of the feedback, negative and positive, and I especially appreciate everyone who has given me tips so far on how I can make the next one better.

And here's my attempt at better! It was clear to me that one of my biggest problems was grid fill—I simply settled for crappy fill in my first puzzle way too often, and it led to poor entry choices and weird cluing angles. With this puzzle, I focused on getting a nice, clean fill before doing anything—then I had fun with the cluing. Those of you who liked my cluing style from #0 should enjoy this one as well. It's on the easier side, with less ridiculous wordplay/obscure geography trivia, and more cross references/funny clues.

Thank you to Quiara Vasquez for the test solve! This would have gone up with lots of head-tilts (not the 5-down kind) and minor technical errors had she not provided her thoughts. Happy solving!

puz / pdf

"Buzz, your girlfriend! 7-across!"

Puzzle #0 – What a Score!

Oh, hi! I'm new here—to crossword construction, crossword critique, and the crossword community. I've been solving crosswords for about... 10 years now? What started as a way to kill time between classes has become a daily fixture of my life, and earlier this year I discovered it was possible to actually make my own. What a revelation. After about a dozen scrapped puzzles, lots of really really horrible entries/clues (some of which may have even made it to the final draft below!), and some extremely constructive feedback, I was able to put together a puzzle I'm proud of.

But I guess I should also write a little about myself so you know what to expect from this blog! I'm a run-of-the-mill Millennial living adjacent to NYC with keen interests in cooking, baking, geography, linguistics, mathematicssciencemusic (incl. music theory and such), outdoor recreation, video games, and film. I have strong opinions on all things food, I am a dog person, and I prefer warm fuzzy socks to slippers. Expect puzzles on anything bolded—don't expect too many literary references, modern pop culture references, or history references (though I'm very interested in history, I just don't know too much about it... yet).

Well uh, here it is. The first puzzle that I've both 1) completed, and 2) felt enough confidence in to publish. It's a classic themed 15x15, and the theme may have ended up a little ham-fisted, but I'm hoping the cute bonuses and wordplay make up for that. Also, a few of the entries will probably make you groan and roll your eyes, so I apologize in advance. Have fun and let me know what you think!

puz / pdf

"Hey Benny! 6-DOWNNN!!!"

Thought I'd include this little spoiler block below the puzzle too so I can talk about spoilery things in the post. If you haven't finished the puzzle yet, get outta here! Finish the puzzle!

Anyway, obligatory clip from Total Recall (really nothing else to say about it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujd9IbAbIo

SURESHOT is the weird entry that kinda throws off my theme (which, if you didn't figure it out, is song lyrics that reference analog film). KODACHROME and POLAROID both fit great, and are very gettable lyrics, but the Canon Sureshot was not as well-known and was a camera, not a film format. So it's a bit... off. This is on top of the fact that Sure Shot by the Beastie Boys isn't a super-well-known song. I don't feel great about that one, but I couldn't find anything else and I was so zeroed in on this theme. Oh well. I also deliberated heavily on the revealer, with other possibilities such as FILMMUSIC, FILMTUNES, and several others I'm sure I'm forgetting. I just couldn't find anything else that quite fit while also allowing for symmetrical themers and whatnot.

But hey, if you got this far, I'm assuming you had a good time. I'm hoping to stay on a weekly schedule with a variety of puzzles -- minis, midis, themes, themelesses, and even a few 21x21's up my sleeve already. I'd also love to experiment with wacky formats and meta. Stay tuned!