Thursday, December 31, 2020

#7: Countdown to Ecstasy


difficulty: "happy medium" (Wednesday-ish)

So yesterday I looked backwards towards the bright spots in 2020, puzzlewise. Today, we look towards the future. My very bright future, because this puzzle is IMO the best of the themed ones on my site so far, and I definitely feel these puzzles sort of clicking into place in a way they weren't previously. So I have confidence that, with this newfound cruciverbal power under my (elastic pajama) belt, you'll be seeing a lot of me in more major outlets come 2021. Just a hunch. Grey Lady, here we come.

But enough about me. I'm definitely looking forward to Malaika Handa's daily 7x7 puzzles, and I'm not just saying that because this brilliant project of hers was directly inspired by one of my stupid questions (long story). And of course, the promise (some would say "threat") of an "et 2, etui?" has me shook. But honestly, considering just how many must-solve constructors came onto the scene this year who had never so much as even touched Crossfire not even six months ago, I have absolutely no doubt that my socks will be knocked into the stratosphere by someone who no one's even heard of. Who knows, maybe in 2021 this blog can be a launchpad for the next star constructor-in-the-making.

So yeah, enjoy the puzzle. Applet under the cut. I hope I'm not "dropping the ball" here. (Little New Year's Eve humor.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Five Indie Puzzles That Made My 2020 Slightly Less Terrible

What a year, am I right? One day you're making jokes about Joaquin Phoenix's bonkers Oscars speech and the incoming plastic bag tax, and the next you're in a forty-minute line at a Key Food where the bread aisle is completely devoid of product, and the next you're out of a job. And in between those days, you're obsessively checking social media to see which of your friends under 30 is gonna die today. Just terrible all around.

On the other hand, when God closes a door, he opens a window (to air out the smell of 100,000 corpses). Would I have taken the plunge into "crossworld" had the pandemic not happened? Maybe. But suffice it to say, the indie crossword scene saw a huge boom due to COVID, and if there is a pandemic "class" of indie constructors, I am probably one of the names at its forefront. But in fact, there are quite a few talented constructors who put out A+ work during this year.

I intended to post this Monday in lieu of a mini, but real life got in the way. This is not a comprehensive list, obviously - for starters, there already exists a completely objective and comprehensive chronological list of the best 100 puzzles of 2020. And besides, there are too many brilliant puzzles being made these days, some of which aren't by Brooke Husic, to list 'em all. So this list is just a set of recommendations for puzzles that fell through the cracks for whatever reason. If any of these don't look familiar, just click the link - I've kept spoilers to a minimum in the mini write-ups but you should definitely go into these blind if possible.

Without further ado, the "Top Five" ...

Thursday, December 24, 2020

#6: Weekly Ego Check (Themeless #3)


Difficulty: hard

Couldn't get my Killing Eve-themed puzzle ready to go for 12/24; your consolation prize is this 66-worder. Blame Evan Birnholz for reminding me 47-A existed.

Applet under the cut; have a very merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Hankering, Hankering, Wet (Monday Mini #2)


Good week for fans of Latin American autocrats here on QVXwordz this Mini Monday. This week's Monday Mini really stretches the definition of "mini," incidentally - is this technically a midi, being a little smaller than a 9x9 and clocking in at 64 white squares? Eh, I dunno. Applet below the cut, per usual. Also, if you're unfamiliar with 7-Down, please acquaint yourself with this work of legitimate the-ay-ter.

(Do people even like these images? They're such a pain in the ass to make, tbh, and I have no way of knowing if anyone even prints them out.)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

#5: Watch Your Tone

Difficulty: easy-ish

I worry this one may not be up to the high standards you've come to expect at QVXwordz-dot-blogspot-dot-com. Just kidding, there are no quality standards on this blog. Anyway, what this puzzle might be missing in sparkling fill, it more than makes up for in its timeliness. It is also very colorful. Literally. Enjoy (?)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Monday Mini #1

One unexpected feature of this blog is that, for one day a week, it makes me want to wake up in the morning to see the compliments stream in. I'm hoping to replicate that good vibe by posting mini puzzles here every Monday morning.

Also, I'm trying to see if I can get PDF exports for these puzzles to work, which is important as I have a puzzle or two planned that wouldn't have full functionality in Across Lite.

If PDFs aren't your bag, then there's a PuzzleMe applet per usual under the cut. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

#4: The Dude Abides

(illus. Kagan McLeod)

Let's start with the exciting news: earlier this week I made my print xword debut! Matthew Stock and I worked together on Monday's USA Today puzzle, "VR Headset." It's recommended for people who like my puzzles, but don't like their difficulty.

Speaking of which, I swear I set out to make an easy puzzle this week. Mission failed. Blame it on the proper names. It is, however, a pangram (and nearly a double pangram at that! stupid Vs), so it's not a total wash.

Many thanks to Claire Rimkus, Brooke Husic, Mali Handa, David Lazar, and Chris Adams for playtesting this bad boy. And speaking of Chris, have you seen his latest mini? It's very good. Especially that brilliant title. Then again, this here puzzle has an incredible title too, IMHO. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

#3: Fab Foursome


Hey, it's this blog's first themed puzzle. Disclaimer: Since I do try to get these published in actual venues, the themed puzzles on this site are going to be wonky in a way the themelesses aren't. E.g., this puzzle wouldn't fly in mainstream outlets for a million different reasons (irregular puzzle size, intractable references to deeply problematic people, clues and entries that fail the breakfast test, a Homestuck reference) ... yet here we are. Another month of this caliber of Q.V. B.S. and you will be begging for some good old fashioned gatekeeping.

Huge "dubs in the chat," so to speak, to Ryan Fitzgerald for test-solving this in real time at 3 in the morning. (Paolo and Lyle helped too.) Extra shout-out to Stella Zawistowski for putting 18-Across on my radar and thus enabling this theme set.

Puzzle below the cut. Enjoy.