Puzzle #5: Themeless #3

The flavors of Natick, MA
The flavors of Natick, MA

Hello, puzzle people!

For almost twenty years now, I’ve been going to eat numbing hot Sichuanese food on the Framingham/Natick line in my state of Massachusetts. If the term “Natick” is unfamiliar to you, it’s a square in a crossword grid that sits empty because the two crossing entries are too hard to solve and won’t cancel each other out. I hope you don’t have this experience today. If Sichuanese food is unfamiliar to you, I recommend you try some as soon as restaurants open back up in your locality. It’s a wonder.

It’s Themeless Week again at Square Pursuit, and I’ve been riding hard on the themeless train since Byron Walden’s excellent championship puzzle in this previous weekend’s Crossword Tournament From Your Couch. If you haven’t solved it, you can head over there now and grab it for free, along with the others, and consider making a charitable donation in return.

My themeless this week may be a bit gentler than usual, but you’ll have to tell me. May it be full of numbing hot flavors and devoid of Naticks. Enjoy, everybody! Back with an apt themed puzzle next week.

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Puzzle #4: “Speed Solving”

Hello, everybody! It’s theme week again at Square Pursuit, and this time around I made something special for the people headed to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Which got canceled for obvious reasons. What do you do?

You post it anyway! A whole bunch of people have been practicing speed solving (that’s going as fast as possible on these puzzles while making no errors) in order to have a shot at glory in Stamford, CT. That glory awaits us in September, when the tournament’s been rescheduled, and I will most certainly be there.

This Saturday, however, I’m going to be on my couch doing this: http://www.crosswordtournamentfromyourcouch.org/. It’s not the same, of course, but I’m here to tell you that the puzzles involved are all made by really good constructors and that the people running it are crossword veterans. In addition to the fun and camaraderie, it helps raise money for those who need it to fight COVID-19 and the other harm it’s inflicting.

This week’s puzzle takes a moment to honor all speed solvers, but in particular to highlight the work of a couple notable ones from times gone by. These two were solving before I was old enough to even make it through a New York Times Monday! As always, I hope you folks enjoy it. Take care out there and I’ll see you with a fresh themeless next week!

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Puzzle #3: Themeless #2

Welcome back, people! It’s themeless time again at Square Pursuit.

Thanks so much to everyone who has given me support as I’ve been getting this puzzle blog off the ground. It’s been a fascinating way to interact with the community so far, and a great reason to keep the creative wheels turning.

There are a few autobiographical moments in today’s offering, and I hope there’s something fun in there for everybody. My estimation is that this puzzle is a touch more challenging than the first themeless, but you’ll have to let me know. Enjoy!

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Puzzle #2: “Jazz Matriarchy”

As a person in jazz, I often roll my eyes at the way the genre is represented in puzzle grids. Usually we get ELLA Fitzgerald (jazz legend, good letters), ETTA James (great non-jazz singer who dabbled in the style in later years) and maybe Al HIRT (easy-listening trumpeter who had a great sound and played little serious jazz).

A couple of weeks ago, I solved an excellent puzzle by Will Nediger that contained more real jazz legends in one grid than I’ve seen in years of solving crosswords. It’s witty and fun on multiple levels. I hope you’ll pause here and consider solving that one. OK, we’re back!

Now it’s Women’s History Month and thanks to the advocacy of constructor and feminist Rebecca Falcon, solvers get to experience an exciting run of exclusively female constructors in most major crossword outlets! Please consider pausing and checking out these fresh voices and excellent puzzles. OK, we’re back!

Rebecca and Will’s work got me thinking about that near, dear field in which women do amazing work that is ridiculously overlooked. Today we have a puzzle containing the names of four important artists that many people may not know. With that in mind I’ve tried to keep this one pretty straightforward, but if you’re stumped, I hope you’ll consider doing some googling followed by some listening. I promise you’re going to hear something you like!

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Puzzle #1: Themeless #1

Hot dang, it’s a 15×15 themeless!

The more puzzles I make, the more I’m able to appreciate the subtle genius of the constructors I admire.

I’ve been writing music for decades, and have found that the way towards burnishing that craft has been doing it regularly, again and again, and watching the lesser elements fall away as the the core mechanism gets stronger. As I’ve gained musical fluency, I’ve come to sound less like someone trying to compose meaningful music, and simply more like myself. In this spirit, I’ve chosen to lean into constructing some themeless grids of my own in hopes of seeing that same sort of gradual refinement, and if possible, to put something personal into these little squares.

By which I mean: enjoy the puzzle people, and tell me what you think!

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