Puzzle #53: Themeless 27

Hello, crossword people!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Square Pursuit is one year old today! 12 months and 70 puzzles later, this thing is still happening! Thanks so much for being a part of this project of mine — it’s so cool to know that people come back weekly to solve my puzzles. More about year two after the jump!

Today’s themeless puzzle pays tribute to one of my greatest inspirations as a young composer and keyboardist. He passed away a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very glad to get him into the grid. Thanks to Brooke Husic and Will Nediger who tackled this thing with the hard clues. Unlike them, you get to choose your own adventure, but neither path is a pushover this week.

My main goal in creating Square Pursuit was to give myself an outlet, hold myself to a schedule, force myself in front of an audience, and get better as a constructor. I’m very happy to continue the project for another year, but I’m going to be posting somewhat fewer puzzles, in order to allow myself more time for other venues, collaborations, and experimentation. Here’s how it’s going to go starting next week:

  • First Wednesday of the Month – Themed Crossword
  • Second Wednesday – Blocked Cryptic
  • Third Wednesday – Themeless Crossword
  • Fourth Wednesday – Variety Cryptic
  • Bonuses and other fun stuff when the time is right!

Thanks again for being part of this awesome crossword ride. See you next week with a themed puzzle!

Solve Online harder/gentler

PUZ HARDER!!!/gentler

PDF harder/gentler

PDF Solution

Variety Cryptic #5: “Spring Cleaning”

Hello, cryptic people!

I’m seldom happier as a constructor than on the days I get to drop a variety cryptic! I hope it’s fun for you too. It’s been a pleasure to keep learning and setting these things. As usual, the difficulty is gentle-ish, which is to say it should be approachable to beginners without being a total gimme. Thanks so much to Hayley Gold, Nate Cardin, and k0rmad for the invaluable feedback during the editing process.

I’m finishing out a week off of work right now and have enjoyed a lovely virtual vacation to the U.K., during which I’ve solved every major daily cryptic to come out there for five days in a row. That’s 35 British puzzles from The Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Times! As you might imagine, this was pretty time consuming! I’m a second-tier speed solver of non-cryptic crosswords, and this sort of endeavor would have taken me about two hours had the puzzles been straightforward. Instead, this took me about fifteen hours! Good thing it was fun! Some piping hot takes, if you’ll indulge me:

  • U.K. puzzles are much harder than American/Canadian cryptics. Even the easiest ones are often about twice as hard as today’s blog puzzle, in my opinion!
  • Each venue has a really strong house style and even within those, the setters show an incredibly diverse array of voices. It was great to get to know and savor their styles.
  • I think our cryptic rules here are too strict by comparison. There was some really wild and innovative cluing going on that certainly wouldn’t be kosher in a cryptic in the states.
  • The heavy use of abbreviations makes for shorter, more elegant clues while without sacrificing the challenge or entertainment factor.
  • British general knowledge, vocab, and idioms do play a part in making these puzzles difficult for an American like me, but a little bit of Googling and learning makes it a super fun way to engage with someone else’s culture!
  • Themes aren’t required but they do show up a lot and are a really fun addition to standard blocked cryptics.
  • Every single puzzle I solved showed real virtuosity in its construction. The standard is incredibly high, and I have so much to learn and aspire to as a cryptic setter.

If you’d like to share U.K. cryptic solving experiences, please hit me up. I’d love to chat!

That’s that! Take care, enjoy the puzzle, and I’ll see you Wednesday with a themeless puzzle on the one-year anniversary of Square Pursuit!

Solve Online

PDF Solution with explanations

Puzzle #52: “Fancy Footwork”

Hello, crossword fans!

It’s themed week at Square Pursuit! I hope this puzzle gets you up and moving on a wintry Wednesday. It shouldn’t be as tough as last week’s offering but it’s got a few sneaky clues in there and some trivia I love.

This one was quite a challenge in its original form, and I want to give thanks to test solvers Brooke Husic, Will Eisenberg, and k0rmad for fighting through it and giving me some smoothing-out advice. Those who are looking for a rough ride can go back to the collab cryptic from last weekend with MentalPlayground or the choose-your-own clues themeless from a few days before. This weekend I’ve got a gentle-ish variety cryptic that I’m so excited about, and an anniversary themeless to follow!

Take care and enjoy the puzzle. Variety cryptic in 3 days, tough themeless in 7!

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PDF Solution

Bonus Cryptic #2: “The Book or the Movie?”

Hey cryptic people!

I’m so happy to have teamed up on another cryptic with Chris Evans (MentalPlayground)! Chris makes lovely puzzles at an astounding rate and I highly recommend you solve them twice a week over on his site. He’s one of the first people I began talking about cryptics with and we’ve had a lot of laughs solving British puzzles together.

We made today’s offering with a tight theme and some British conventions, and I’d say it’s about twice as difficult as the ones I typically put up on Square Pursuit. I think it’s a really fun puzzle and you should totally give it a try! Here’s some stuff to watch out for, if you don’t solve British newspaper crosswords regularly:

  • We are using British words and more abbreviations than US solvers typically face.
  • We are using UK spellings in this puzzle. You’d surely realise this on your own, but I’m giving fair warning.
  • This puzzle contains cryptic definitions, which are not used typically used in American cryptics. There is no literal half of the clue! Think of a misleading and cute “?” clue from a NYT puzzle or something like that, and you’re pretty much there.

Take care and enjoy the puzzle! 4 days until a themed crossword, 7 days until the February variety cryptic, and 11 days until the one year anniversary of Square Pursuit! See you soon.

Solve Online @ MentalPlayground’s Cryptics

PDF Solution

Puzzle #51: Themeless #26

Hello, fellow crossworders!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about challenging puzzles lately and figured I’d set myself the challenge of trying making something harder than usual! It turns out it’s quite a difficult thing to keep things fun and fresh while also giving folks a really hard time. I don’t think I’ve achieved pure, unmitigated, evil yet, but I do think it stands a chance to entertain you!

The inspiration for using two sets of clues, of course, comes from friend and collaborator Brooke Husic, whose devious puzzles are no secret to connoisseurs. Thanks to Brooke for the encouragement and test-solving as well as Andrew Bradley and Mike Lieberman, who also suffered for the cause.

I’m two weeks out from the one year anniversary of Square Pursuit, and it with it will come some changes to the blog’s format, but I can promise there will still be lots of good puzzles coming in year two!

Take care and enjoy! I heard there was an interesting cryptic collaboration dropping soon…

Solve Online – HARDER

Solve Online – GENTLER






Cryptic #7: “Apples and Oranges”

Hey there, cryptic fans!

With the first Saturday coming so late this month, it feels like ages since I’ve been able to share a cryptic with you folks. As always, I tried to gear this one toward beginning solvers, with a few sneaky challenges in there to trip up the seasoned folks. I hope it’s all sorts of fun for you!

Test solving thanks this time around goes to my fellow cryptic setters Nate Cardin and David Gold! I’ve really been enjoying both of their output lately and highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking for a further cryptic fix. I’ll be around very soon with a special U.K. style-cryptic collaboration which is a great deal harder than what you’ve been solving on my site recently. In two weeks with a gentle-ish variety cryptic that I’m so excited about!

Take care, enjoy the solve! Non-cryptic themeless this Wednesday.

Solve Online


Puzzle #50: “Mexican Picnic Basket” with Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Hello, Crossfolks!

Whoa, 50 weeks of Square Pursuit! So happy to celebrate with one of my favorite crossword people and collaborators, Enrique Henestroza Anguiano. This is not our first time making puzzles together but it’s the first one to see the light of day. We connected over some serious culinary interests this time around — it was hard not to get hungry while making this crossword!

Here’s Enrique:

Excited to be back on Square Pursuit with a culinary crossword collab! This one started with an observation about 28-Across, and it was deliciously fun to elaborate the theme with fellow gourmand Steve. It’s been a joy working together, and I expect you’ll see this byline again in the future. Fair warning: don’t solve this on an empty stomach.

As always, it’s great to get to make and talk puzzles with like-minded folks. Thanks to the wonderful test solving team of Brooke Husic and Matthew Stock, who made our puzzle so much better with their work. This weekend is the first Saturday of the month, so if you’re up for something different, I hope you’ll drop by for a cryptic!

Take care and enjoy the puzzle!

Solve Online

PDF Solution

Puzzle #49: Themeless #25

Hello, cross people!

I’m so excited to share this one with you! I’m constantly inspired by the amazing themeless game in the indie crossword community, with veterans turning out great work time and time again and lots of fresh voices to enjoy and learn from. I hope this one brings you joy.

I’ve got lots of fun stuff coming up in crossworld! Next week on this site I get to publicly share something I’ve made with one of my favorite puzzle people and collaborators. I’d like to thank Will Nediger and Brooke Husic for the test solve this week! The 27th is Brooke’s themeless day, so after you solve this one I hope you’ll head her way for a super-fun super-stiff challenge!

That’s my story! Take care, enjoy, and I’ll see you with another puzzle soon!

Solve Online


PDF Solution

Puzzle #48: “Sing Me a Shanty”

Hello, Sailors!

Since everybody seems to be singing shanties or making puzzles about them, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring with today’s offering. It’s a little tricky, but I hope it’s a fun one!

Thanks for all the lovely feedback on last week’s themeless and variety cryptic. It just makes me want to keep pushing to make better puzzles. It’s great to have you along with me! On the invaluable test solving team this week, we’ve got Brooke Husic, Will Eisenberg, and Ryan Fitzgerald. Thanks so much for the help!

Belt out some sea songs, grab some grog if that’s your thing, and enjoy the puzzle! I’ll see you next week with a regularly-scheduled themeless!

Solve Online


Variety Cryptic #4: “Sliding Scale”

Hello, cryptic lovers!

What a pleasure it’s been to make variety cryptics for you these past few months! This one’s definitely up to some tricks, but should have enough straightforward bits to help newer solvers slide right in. I hope it’s fun for everyone.

I’d like to give my thanks to Chris Evans, Quiara Vasquez, and ky for their generous help test solving. It’s been so fun to talk to make puzzles and talk clues and solve with these folks!

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a themed crossword! Enjoy the challenge and take care of yourselves.

Solve Online


PDF Solution/Explanations