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Lots of happenings happening. Let’s get right to it:

Today’s Puzzle

Today’s puzzle is a 72-word themeless, spiced up a notch from the last themeless. Enjoy — there will be a new puzzle on August 30.

Instant Devil Cross Updates

Just a friendly reminder — Devil Cross is on both Facebook and Twitter, so if you want instant updates about when new puzzles or items go up, be sure and follow me there.

Lollapuzzoola 7

Last weekend was the seventh installment of Lollapuzzoola, the funnest and Lollapuzzooliest crossword tournament out there. I finished 62nd among the in-person crowd. I can’t say too much about it here because there’s still one day left to purchase the at-home version (which you can buy for $10 here), except a) the puzzles were spectacular, and b) it’s both great and horrifying to know that I had the same exact score as puzzle editor Peter Gordon despite the fact that he solved all of the puzzles with only the down clues (to say nothing of speed demon Joon Pahk, who finished 6th overall (!!!) as a downs-only contestant). Congrats to the local finalists Patti Varol, Sara Nies, and Simon McAndrews, and the Express finalists John Delfin, Francis Heaney, and Scott Weiss.

Indie 500 Crossword Tournament

Huge news on the indie puzzle front! Messrs. Erik Agard, Andy Kravis, Neville Fogarty, Peter Broda, and I are teaming up to form a new crossword tournament, titled the Indie 500. We’re holding our inaugural tourney in Washington, D.C. in May 2015. While we don’t yet have a final date and venue, you can read more about the tourney and sign up for our mailing list at our website here. We’ll post more information as we know it, but I can say that I’m confident that we’ll bring the goods (Peter, by the way, wrote today’s New York Times puzzle. So he’s already brought said goods.)

“Character Study” Contest Results

Devil-Cross-16-Character-Study-solutionTricky meta puzzle that I posted 11 days ago! Just 44 entrants got the correct answer. This one asked solvers to find a specific video game console.

The puzzle’s longest entries (ARRANGEMENT, PIANO CONCERTO, NONDENOMINATIONAL, AN INNOCENT MAN, and DENNIS GREEN) were kind of a red herring since they didn’t have any obvious association with video games, nor any explicit connection to one another. The one major thing that stood out in this grid was the preponderance of N’s. They were everywhere. Every single answer in the puzzle had at least one N. Some solvers took that feature to mean NINTENDO, which is close, but not quite correct (in fact, NONDENOMINATIONAL contains all of the letters of NINTENDO, which turned out to be an unintended coincidence). What you had to do was make this a literal character study and count up all of the N’s in the grid. There are exactly 64 of them. That leads to the meta answer NINTENDO 64, colloquially known as the N64.

(And as an added wrinkle, there were no N’s in any of the clues, so I tried to make this a true N64 puzzle. Too bad I couldn’t avoid the N’s in my name and the one in the clue heading Down.)

Solver comments:

Roger Barkan writes, “Nnnnicely done!”

Thanks! But shouldn’t that be nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnicely?

Ian Livengood writes, “I think I played GoldenEye (Rocket Launchers in the Complex level) 3-4 hrs a day when that puppy came out.”

So did I, Ian. I highly recommend this funny video for illustrating just how frustrating it was to protect Natalya in that game.

Matt Gaffney writes, “Whoa…! That must’ve been a bitch to construct.”

Devil-Cross-16-Character-Study-original-mistakeOh goodness, yes, it was. This one caused me fits. It turns out that it’s pretty hard to write a puzzle where every single answer has to have at least one of the same letter, even one as common as N — not to mention that I made things tougher on myself by not using any N’s in the clues, which meant no useful words like an, on, in, and, and one. In fact, several solvers asked me about the entry I misspelled which caused a three-day delay in publication. Take a look at the original grid here. See that beautiful entry running right down the middle? NONDEMONINATIONAL? That one little M/N switch caused a near-disaster. Even after changing the M and N to the correct positions and tinkering a bit with the southwest corner, the only entries I could plausibly fit into the space where OMAN was sitting were -ONYM (the suffix) and ONEM (parsed either as ON ‘EM or ONE M). All of those entries looked dreadful, so I ripped out the entire upper half of the grid and refilled it. The extra work turned out to be a good thing, though, since I think the published puzzle ended up being better — the original had a couple of partial phrases (which I personally loathe) and way too many repeats of words like ON and IN.

Regarding the spelling mistake, David Plotkin writes, “Well, I suppose if you’re going to name your website Devil Cross, you’re going to need to spend more time wrangling your ‘inner demons’.” Finn Vigeland suggested [“Oy, monster, moi am indeed a French citizen”] as a clue for that bogus answer. And when I mentioned that there was a slight possibility to make small changes to the grid rather than a complete overhaul, Matt Gaffney wrote again, “Ah, I see you’ve got the crazy. Congratulations.” I kinda love that quote.

Finally, John Wilson writes, “Everyone here in Vikings territory appreciates the DENNIS GREEN reference.”

Oh, just for old times’ sake:

The winner of the contest, randomly selected from all 44 correct answers, is Phoebe McBee. She’ll receive a Devil Cross t-shirt. Congrats, Phoebe!