Solution Grid, in case you get really stuck
I’m ending 2014 with a variety Split Decisions puzzle. There’s no online solving option for this grid, so fire up your old Inkjet and print this sucker out. If this type of puzzle is all-new to you, never fear: the instructions are in the PDF.
This is my favorite type of variety puzzle to solve, though creating it…..that’s a different story. There are no clues like you’d find in standard crosswords, which you’d think would help save a lot of time — especially in my case, since cluing often takes me more time than filling the grid itself. But there isn’t any easy option for creating or exporting a Split Decisions puzzle from Crossword Compiler (I don’t think), so even after you get a workable grid, all that time you save from not having to write clues gets eaten up by typesetting and illustrating the bastard in Photoshop. You have to create a template for the split squares, copy and paste the template all over, rotate the template 90 degrees for the Down answers, enter the letters manually, and rinse and repeat until you’re done. Then you’ll probably want to create a solution grid. And if you’re like me, you might want to spend some extra time making sure the typed letters are aligned neatly rather than staggered haphazardly throughout the squares. Basically, it takes some dirty work to make a Split Decisions puzzle look like a Split Decisions puzzle. It’s not hard to do if you’ve got some Photoshop know-how, but it is a bit tedious.
I learned all of this the hard way last summer, when I created one of these grids for the first time (one that’s twice as big as today’s puzzle) and sent it off to WordPlay magazine, which they accepted. You’ll see that puzzle later in 2015. So that’s good news. Even more good news is that my wife Vicki (who’s far better at design and illustrative software than I) showed me a little shortcut for creating the solution grid, and that probably shaved off at least an hour or two of puzzle-editing time.
All of that leads me to what is really a long overdue note of gratitude for Vicki. She’s supported me this entire time I’ve been a neurotic puzzle nerd, even when I’ve been uncertain about a host of other things in the rest of my life. She’s listened to me bounce countless puzzle ideas off her even though she doesn’t care much about crosswords, and she’s even inspired a few puzzle themes of her own (remember my first meta puzzle, Tech Revolution? That was her idea). Oh, and she helped me in a big way build this website and make it look all shiny and stuff in the first place. And then there’s the whole being-an-awesome-wife thing that she does every day. Whatever happens with me and Devil Cross, I’m lucky as hell to be with her, and if I can be half as good a puzzlemaker as she is a spouse and friend, I’ll be in good shape.
Enjoy the puzzle, and here’s to a happy new year. The first Devil Cross puzzle of the new year will be on January 3, 2015.
I’m a fan of visual gimmicks in puzzles, but I’d never set out to create one until this idea came along. This puzzle, previously titled “Seeing What You Want to See,” turned out to be, uh, an optical illusion of sorts. Yeah, that sounds about right. Now, a slight warning: you know that we here at Devil Cross headquarters like to go for edgy and risqué humor, and this one fits that mold, but there’s a chance that this one may come off as a bit bro-ey, for lack of a better term. But hey, that’s why the site’s masthead says my puzzles like to play with fire, right? I wanted to create a visual gimmick that you just won’t see in any mainstream outlet because…..because for no other reason than I think it’s funny, so I’m hoping that people of all stripes will enjoy the scenery and wordplay involved. It’s also the first 21×21 Devil Cross puzzle, so there’s that, too.
One solving note: there’s one square in this puzzle that will not cooperate with my PUZ file for Across Lite, no matter how many times I tried to force it to listen. Basically, if you solve the puzzle completely, Across Lite will think you have gotten at least one square wrong, even if you know it’s right. You’ll know which one it is.
One other puzzle news note: here’s another reminder that the Indie 500 Crossword Tournament is accepting submissions for a sixth tourney puzzle, and we want all of you who are relatively new to creating and publishing croswords to build one for us. Here’s the link for more info. Get crackin’, since our deadline is now less than one month away!
Finally, one completely-unrelated-to-puzzles note: if you’re in the Philly area and want to catch a fun Christmas concert tonight (Saturday, 12/20), you may want to check out my choir as we sing the Glorious Sounds of Christmas at the Kimmel Center with maestro Bramwell Tovey. If anything, you should go to that show just for Bramwell alone — he’s an incredibly funny and entertaining showman. Trust me on that. I have kind of a perfectly reasonably-sized and musical man-crush on the guy, and my wife’s cool with it. Anyway, you can get a 20% discount on tickets if you type in MendelssohnClub (one word) in the promo code box. Here’s the link.
Enjoy the puzzle, and happy holidays. There will hopefully be a new Devil Cross puzzle on December 27, but travel during the holiday season’s always unpredictable, so stay tuned.
Update, 12/23/14 @ 2:25 pm ET: I made a couple of small changes. First, the clue for 50-Down was slightly inaccurate — it should read [Pac-12 perennial powerhouse] rather than Pac-10, as the conference became the Pac-12 in 2011, which shows how little I pay attention to college football relative to the NFL. Second, there was a small discrepancy between the PUZ and PDF file in terms of the clue for 105-Down. The clue for the PUZ read [Item stereotypically hawked by an NBA star] where the PDF file omitted the word “stereotypically” for space-saving reasons. They should have been the same clue for both versions. Sorry for any mix-ups there.