I’ve been on a real variety puzzle kick lately. I recently built a Something Different puzzle (published here last week), a Split Decisions, a Flower Power, a From A To Z, and a Some Assembly Required. I’m not really sure what inspired me to try them all, though I have been lucky enough to get some acceptances to Will Shortz Presents WordPlay. That Some Assembly Required puzzle was a bastard to create — about four days in the making, so I probably won’t be doing that again any time soon. Today’s puzzle is normal — well, normal in the sense that it’s a regular themeless, though I decided to go pretty tricky with my cluing.
Oh, and if you can spare a dime, chip in some money to support both Peter Gordon‘s upcoming Fireball Newsflash Crosswords and Brendan Emmett Quigley‘s website (he’s running a funding drive at the moment). Two great and well-deserving puzzlemakers, if’n you ask me.
Enjoy the puzzle. There will be a new one on July 5.
Before I get to the write-up of last week’s contest puzzle, lemme explain about today’s bonus puzzle. This is a “Something Different” grid. The way it works is that most of the entries are completely made-up, but the puzzle is still solvable because the clues are just straightforward enough to lead you to the correct answers. For instance, a clue such as [Like a comic book character in a cubicle] would produce the answer DILBERTESQUE. In a previous “Something Different” puzzle by Ben Tausig, the clue [Robot kittens created to annoy Garfield] led to the answer HIGH-TECH NERMALS.
This kind of puzzle may either be easy or tough depending on your familiarity with the style. I’d recommend starting with the shorter entries, many of which are legit words and phrases with normal clues. I found that letting go of the traditional constructing pattern and giving myself complete freedom to throw in whatever ridiculous phrases I wanted made this grid remarkably fun to create. The puzzlemaker Trip Payne has built several of these kinds of grids which you can check out here.
Enjoy today’s puzzle. There will be a new Devil Cross puzzle next week on June 21, back on my normal every-other-Saturday schedule.
Minnesota Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Oh and before I forget to mention it, the third annual Minnesota Crossword Tournament is next Sunday, June 22, in St. Paul. I can’t make it there, but I know several of the constructors involved, so if you’re in the neighborhood, check out that tourney action, yo.
“Ringleader” Contest Results
Last week’s metapuzzle asked solvers to find a superhero. Which one was it?
The ends of the five theme answers (EARTH, FIRE, WIND, WATER, HEART) contained the key. The four classical elements (plus HEART) represent the five magic rings which, by their powers combined, would summon CAPTAIN PLANET, the titular superhero from the 90s cartoon “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” 134 solvers got the correct answer, but you know what’s really cool? I got 134 total submissions, which means that everyone who sent in an answer got it right. Even if you hadn’t heard of Captain Planet, it was simple enough to sniff out the pattern on Google. That’s the very definition of an easy meta.
I received lots of great comments from solvers. Here are some highlights:
Lawrence Denes writes,“A true ringleader, indeed, and possibly the only superhero to ever have a mullet.”
Captain Planet did rock the mullet like few others could, but after a quick check through the internets, even Superman had some business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back style going on at one time.
Doug Peterson writes, “I was hoping it was Batman. I always want it to be Batman.”
Sorry, Doug. But cheer up! I’ve now a great slogan for your future run for Senate: “He always wants it to be Batman.”
Tom Tabanao writes, “No doubt this was inspired by LeVar Burton’s Kickstarter campaign/AMA, which is the first time I had been reminded of Captain Planet in ages!”
It wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t know LeVar Burton was doing a “Reading Rainbow” Kickstarter until Tom told me he was. In fact x2, I wasn’t even aware until after I wrote the puzzle that Burton did the voice of Kwame, the Planeteer with the Earth ring. I’m now convinced that Burton is a superhero himself with the power to tickle people’s nostalgia bones whenever he wants to.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: Speaking of Kickstarters, Peter Gordon has only one more day in his campaign to launch Fireball Fortnightly News Crosswords for 2014-2015, a set of 20 crosswords about current events. Get on it soon since he’s still got a way to go to reach his funding goal.)
Michael Areinoff writes, “Didn’t you always feel kinda bad for the heart kid, though? Everyone else could control the elements. All he got was a monkey.”
Ah yes. That would be Ma-Ti, the Planeteer whose Heart ring allowed him to speak with animals. I never felt bad for him. I always thought he just plain sucked. I’ll let this video explain why:
Erin Milligan-Milburn writes, “I had a huge crush on Wheeler as a kid, so this makes me ridiculously happy.”
Wheeler was the Planeteer with the Fire ring. I’m glad you liked the puzzle, Erin, just as long as you didn’t have a crush on Ma-Ti. Really, that kid was beyond useless.
Mike Courtois writes, “Fun fact: The guy who did the voice of Ma-Ti was also the actor who played Kimmy Gibbler’s fiancee at their Nightmare on Elm Street themed wedding on Full House. That’s not the fun fact though. The fun fact is that I was so bored last weekend that I spent an hour on the guy’s IMDB page.”
Okay, so maybe Ma-Ti had a tiny bit of nostalgia power, but just like the other Planeteers, there are others who completely dwarf that power. See Burton, LeVar.
Small spoiler alert for those who are one week behind on solving New York Times puzzles: Brandon Hensley writes, “Interesting serendipity with ARCADE FIRE appearing in today’s NYT.” He’s referring to Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times puzzle from June 6, 2014, which did indeed contain ARCADE FIRE as a marquis answer and was published on the same day as the “Ringleader” meta. I wrote the metapuzzle well before I solved the New York Times grid, though I had a similar shock to find one of my theme entries in the paper on the same day of publication. An eerie coincidence, that.
Jim Quinlan writes, “Fun Fact: I let one go as I was filling in BREAK WIND. Coincidence?”
That’s not quite an eerie coincidence but it’s just as fun of a fact. And that’s a perfect moment to wrap this post up.
The winner of the contest, randomly selected from all 134 correct answers, is Jim Siirola. He’ll receive a Devil Cross t-shirt. Congrats, Jim!
Update, 6/14/14 @ 2:30 pm: I only just realized that I forgot to put in the online solving widget. It’s up now, in case you use that kinda thing.