Variety Cryptic #5: “Spring Cleaning”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

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
PDF Solution with explanations

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

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

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

PUZ
PDF
PDF Solution

Cryptic #7: “Apples and Oranges”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

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

PUZ
PDF
PDF SOLUTION

Variety Cryptic #4: “Sliding Scale”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

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

PDF Solution/Explanations

Cryptic #6: “Ancient Styles”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Happy New Year, cryptic folks!

It looks like the first puzzle of 2021 is going to be the January monthly cryptic! This one might play a little harder than last month’s but is hopefully still approachable for folks. I’d happy to dial the difficulty back next time if it’s too rough on people.

As always, I’m thankful for the supportive crossword community. Special thanks this time around go to k0rmad and Nate Cardin for the insightful test solving. Nate has some phenomenal new cryptics that you folks will be seeing soon. Don’t miss them!

Good luck, enjoy, and see you with a themed crossword next Wednesday!

Solve Online

PUZ

PDF
Solution & Explanations

Variety Cryptic #3: “So, How’s It Going?”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Hello, puzzle friends!

It’s time for another variety cryptic at Square Pursuit. Once again, I’ve tried to keep things pretty approachable for all solvers while putting a tricky clue or two into the puzzle for the experts. I hope this one is as fun to solve as it was to make!

I’m so thankful for the warm welcome I’ve received from folks in the cryptic community on both sides of the pond. Setters, solvers and streamers have been incredibly kind and encouraging to me as I continue to my explorations in this new form. Special thanks to ky, Hayley Gold, and Neville Fogarty for test solving this one, and helping me make it as good as it could be.

Take care, enjoy, and I’ll see you on Wednesday with a themed non-cryptic crossword!

Solve Online

PDF

PDF SOLUTION + explanations

Cryptic #5: “The Eternal Question”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Welcome back, cryptic folks!

In this month’s offering we’ll be exploring an age old question that transcends borders and generations. I think there’s a strong possibility that each solver’s answer will be a bit different and that many won’t even fit into the neat little boxes I’m offering you here in this grid. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what you think!

Thanks again to k0rmad for being a wonderful and generous test solver! I’ve tried to calibrate this puzzle to give a light challenge to seasoned solvers and feel welcoming to new folks. Hopefully it hits a sweet spot for you. If cryptics aren’t your thing, next week should be a fun one here at Square Pursuit. There’s going to be some extra fun going on and some special guests as well!

That’s that! Take care, enjoy the solve, and good luck answering the Eternal Question.

Solve Online

PUZ

PDF

PDF Solution/Explanations

Variety Cryptic #2: “Somebody’s Gotta Lose”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Hello cryptic fans!

It was so fun to hear about folks enjoying themselves with last month’s variety cryptic that I just had to make another one. Once again, I’ve tried to create something approachable for less-experienced solvers, though there are a few tricky clues here and there, and of course a bit of a mischievous variety element going on.

I know that there‚Äôs an even smaller scene of solvers for variety cryptics than there is for independent crosswords in general, and I really want folks to feel welcome in this space. I’m always happy to hear civil feedback so I can keep making these even better. Extra thanks to cryptic solvers k0rmad and Citizen Ra, who gave this one a test run and picked all the right nits!

Like last time, there’s no .puz file, because this thing is full of bars, not blocks! Also like last time, I think there isn’t much to be lost in solving online, though a bit of scratch paper may be nice to have.

Enjoy, take care, and see you next week with a crunchy-ish themed puzzle!

Solve Online

pdf

.pdf EXPLANATIONS + SOLUTIONS

Cryptic #4: “Filling the Crust”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Welcome back, cryptic folks!

I’m in the mood for pie, how about you? My appetite must have gotten the better of me while constructing this one because it’s quite a pie-forward cryptic. I hope you’re hungry!

Folks who have been following my cryptics may have noticed a really difficult one at the beginning of last month followed by a much more straightforward variety cryptic a couple weeks later. Today’s puzzle has a couple of trickier entries, but should resemble the latter more closely in terms of overall challenge. I’m getting the vibe that approachability is important to those who have been solving here. Please let me know if this one hits the spot or if it doesn’t put up enough of a fight for you! Civil feedback is always appreciated.

Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget to check out the solution document after solving if you’d like an explanation of every answer in the puzzle. I’ll see you next Wednesday with a regularly-scheduled themed puzzle and maybe even another variety cryptic in the not too distant future….

Solve Online

.puz

.pdf

.pdf SOLUTION + Explanations

Variety Cryptic #1: “Wild Night Out”

**Hello! You’ve found one of my cryptics from before I figured out how to make cryptics well! Please enjoy the diamonds in the rough, but expect neither elegance nor fairness. It takes a while to learn how to do it right!**

Welcome back, intrepid puzzlers!

For this October bonus, we’ve got a variety cryptic! For those who haven’t done one yet, that means that this is a barred (not blocked) puzzle with a sneaky meta-like challenge involved.

This particular construction had to motivators. First off, I’ve been itching to make a barred grid, and I found the challenge rewarding! Secondly, it became clear to me through feedback that the October cryptic was REALLY HARD. I decided right away to give you folks something much more approachable and to not make you wait a month for it. I don’t think this one’s a gimme by any means, but I hope it’s lots of fun for everybody. Thanks so much to Avid (have you solved his amazing collaboration that dropped last weekend?) and k0rmad, who I hope makes a puzzle soon so that we can all solve it and grow our brains to massive proportions.

Because of the barred grid, there’s no .puz file this week. I think the .pdf looks nice, and printing it to solve may make the variety element a bit easier to work out. The puzzle plays just fine with the “Solve Online” option too. If you’re stumped or curious, the solution, as always, contains a parsing of each clue and an explanation of the variety element.

Take care, enjoy, and see you next week with a themeless that should be a stiff challenge.

Solve Online

.pdf

.pdf SOLUTION (with explanations)