Dear friends, solvers, readers, and puzzlers everywhere:
It is with immense pleasure and gratitude to announce that I have been selected to write the weekly Sunday crossword for The Washington Post Magazine, a position long held by the late, great Merl Reagle. The first puzzle will run on December 6. I can barely put into words just how excited I am for this new journey I’m about to take; but I’m gonna try to put it into words. Today, by the way, just so happens to be the ten-year anniversary since my wife Vicki and I started dating, so today seemed like a great day to share the happy news.
It goes without saying that I have some very, very big shoes to fill. Merl wrote some of the funniest, most clever puns you will ever see in a crossword. He was a pioneer in the indie crossword movement, something for which I owe him a huge degree of credit. As I wrote in late August after Merl passed away, my biggest regret as a crossword constructor was that I didn’t get the chance to get to know him better on a more personal level when I had the chance. So I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to do his legacy proud — and maybe create one of my own — by writing a good, regular puzzle each week for a long time just like he did. It’s the best way I can get to know him better now.
A Big Life Change like this often means making some changes elsewhere, and the first one I need to address is this website. While I’m excited to begin my work at the Post, it’s a bittersweet moment for me to announce that I will no longer be writing a weekly puzzle on Devil Cross for the foreseeable future. I’d grown attached to this place, chatting with many different readers and sharing what I love to do each week. Devil Cross is not going to end completely, however — I may write the occasional blog post when the inspiration strikes, and in fact, my hope is that I will publish at least one more puzzle here before my first Sunday Post puzzle goes live. I’m just one short of my seventieth free puzzle, and that seems like a good number for wrapping things up. And you never know; maybe one day, when I’m more settled in with the Post and I’ve got some spare time, I may write more Devil Cross puzzles again. In the meantime, though, please keep supporting the other independent puzzle writers in my sidebar by solving their puzzles and showing them some love. They’re the main reasons I started my own site.
The second big change for me is that I am also no longer going to be an editorial and organizational co-leader of the Indie 500 Crossword Tournament. As much as I loved helping to run the inaugural tournament last May, my new responsibilities with the Post are likely going to keep me pretty busy. But I know that anyone who’s at all interested in attending the next tournament or solving the puzzles from home will be in good hands with my other co-founders. If I can make it for the 2016 tournament, you’d better believe I will be there.
There are really too many people for me to thank for this opportunity in one blog post, so I won’t list everyone right now. I’ll be sure and write a more thorough post about that later. I’ll just say that many, many people deserve my deepest gratitude for helping me along the way to become a better puzzlemaker and inspiring me to make crosswords my career. It’s not every day that a person can say that he’s found his dream job, but I feel confident that I’ve found it — and never in my wildest dreams did I think that when I started Devil Cross that it would lead me here.
I hope to see you all on December 6!
Solution, if you get really stuck
Start your engines, everyone: today marks the inaugural Indie 500 Crossword Puzzle Tournament! So much time, preparation, blood, sweat, tears, and words have gone into this project over the past fourteen months, and it’s finally here. I’m stoked as all get-out.
I’m down here in Washington, DC with Vicki; my fellow tournament co-founders Erik, Peter, Neville, and Andy; and a bunch of nerd friends who seem to think puzzles are fun enough to jet on down to the nation’s capital and chill with us (and they’re right). I won’t be posting any immediate updates here — I’ll be too busy helping to run the show — but you can follow the standings on this sweet-looking Leaderboard. I’ll post some updates on Twitter every now and then using the #Indie500 hashtag, so be sure and keep an eye on that, and come follow me and say hi while you’re at it.
In honor of today, I’ve created a variety puzzle called a Checkered Flag. It’s sort of like a regular crossword mixed with a Rows Garden puzzle: the answers read either across or down, but they run in a zigzag formation instead of in neat horizontal and vertical rows and columns. The overall effect is that your “across” and “down” answers (or Zigs and Zags, as I call them) cross each other at two squares rather than one. The instructions are in the PDF files, and I’ve given you three versions of the same puzzle with varying difficulty. The Easiest version lists the Zig and Zag clues in the order they appear in the grid. The Harder version tells you if the answers are Zigs or Zags, but their clues are listed alphabetically. The Hardest version lists all clues alphabetically. If you take on the Hardest version but it’s proving too difficult, no problem — the other two versions should have you covered, and there’s a solution link above. There’s no online solving option for this, so you’ll need to print it out.
One more reminder: you can still order the Indie 500 tournament puzzles for solving them at home, and we’ve just launched our long-awaited meta suite, the Indie 500 Meta World Prix! You can order both of them here and we’ll e-mail them to you as soon as we can.
That’s all for now. Good luck to everyone competing today, and thank you to everyone for all your amazing support in helping us get this crazy brainchild of ours off the ground.
Update, 5/30/15 @ 8 am ET: I realized that in the Hardest version, the orientation of the solution can be written in two ways, where all of the Zigs can instead be Zags, and vice versa. I’ve marked the new PDF to say that the first listed clue in the Hardest version is a Zag answer to be read down. Solvers at home likely wouldn’t have noticed this issue, but the people at the tournament will notice that I printed out a bunch of copies without that qualifier, so …… adventures in puzzling!