Crossworld News and Notes, July 2023

Last time round we shared word of changes at The Atlantic, including the new feature “The Inferno,” a tall, narrow puzzle that gets more difficult from top to bottom. Editors Caleb Madison and Paolo Pasco held a Reddit AMA in which they discussed the new feature The Inferno and answered questions about their constructing and editing work.

We have little new information since last time to share on the crosswords associated with Apple News Plus, other than that folks who can access the iOS 17 beta can access puzzles now. We’re eager to see what we learn from announcements, once they come.

Patrick Berry has a new book, “Set Design,” a total of 50 puzzles (nine sets of mini puzzles, a meta puzzle, and a supersized Rows Garden). PDF only, $15. Suites like this are can’t-miss

Crosswordr is a new place to solve and share crosswords. A handful of constructors have listed puzzles on the site, which is still building out features but incorporates a level of curation and recommendation in putting puzzles in front of solvers. The team hopes to build out an ecosystem where (my words) the constructor-solver relationship is more robust than simply solving a puzzle, and the deeper connective tissue in the community is brought forward more. Learn more at the site, or touch base with the team on Reddit or in their Discord.

Elise Corbin has announced “Words on Fire,” a single-constructor charity pack supporting the March to End Fossil Fuels, featuring four new puzzles and two re-worked from Elise’s archive. Elise’s puzzles chase intricate, high-concept themes and are really on the forefront of creativity in the crossword space right now. Learn more about Words on Fire and solve some of her backlog at her site, Cruciverbology.

Two names familiar to puzzleheads, A.J. Jacobs and Greg Pliska will launch a short-form daily podcast called “The Puzzler,” named after Jacobs’ recent book. The podcast promises it “will challenge listeners and celebrity guests with original, audio-friendly puzzles that are complete with weird history, fun trivia and lots of laughs.”

The National Puzzlers’ League’s annual convention was held earlier this month in Montreal, and attracted a flurry of press attention. New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, who is also active in the NPL, appeared on the CBC podcast “The Current” (Will’s segment begins at about 22 minutes) and an accompanying article further speaks with Shortz, on crosswords, and on the NPL Convention.

Mike Selinker offers “Mindspaces,” a book of puzzles and essays on creativity and mental health. Currently in pay-what-you-want presale with proceeds going to charity, Mike’s Lone Shark Games is also offering the book as part of a humble bundle with other game and puzzle design books he’s previously offered. More information at Lone Shark Games.

Lemonade Disco has expanded! In addition to the every other month themed packs, they will now offer twice-monthly midi puzzles at gin + grapefruit. Submissions are open, and specs are available at the link.

The Verge published a bit of a P.R. piece with Jonathan Knight, Head of Games at the New York Times, focused on the changes to the Times’ Crossword app, which has now caught up to the “Games” terminology we’ve seen on the web for a bit now. Nothing super groundbreaking other than a tidbit that reveals the sheer magnitude of Wordle and confirming what we’ve assumed: Spelling Bee and the Mini far outstrip the full-size puzzle in solver attention.

Speaking of the Times, last time round we shared a new game, Connections, and word of a new feature: the Easy Mode newsletter, in which subscribers receive early access to that week’s Friday puzzle on Wednesday, but with easier clues, written by associate puzzle editor Christina Iverson. Victoria Coren Mitchell, host of the BBC’s “Only Connect” quiz show tweeted noting the similarity. After an (in retrospect, unsurprising) flurry of tabloid-y headlines overdramatizing her tweet, she devoted her weekly column at The Telegraph to further fleshing out her thoughts, with the headline: “Does it matter if The New York Times’s new puzzle is an Only Connect rip-off?”

As for the Easy Mode Newsletter, themeless constructor extraordinaire Robyn Weintraub chimed in on the feature this past week in her constructor notes at XWord Info on that Friday’s puzzle. Among a larger series of thoughtful reflections was this recommendation:

“But that’s the thing … it’s my grid getting reclued, and it just feels weird. I hope Easy Mode is wildly successful and has the desired result of introducing many new solvers to themeless puzzles. But I also hope the NYT takes the next step and begins offering ORIGINAL easy themeless puzzles rather than this questionable hybrid.”

Congratulations to Adam Doctoroff, winner of the Boswords 2023 Summer Tournament, and to second- and third-place finishers Tyler Hinman and Marie desJardins. Congrats also to Paolo Pasco, winner of the online division, Peter and Claire Rimkus, winners of the in-person pairs division, and Harold and Paul Ngyuen, winners of the online pairs division.

Looking ahead to Boswords’ Fall Themeless League, set for Monday nights in October and November, a partial constructor lineup has been announced: Catherine Cetta, Jill Denny & Jeff Chen, Sam Ezersky, May Huang, Tom Pepper, Ross Trudeau, Amie Walker, Grace Warrington & Greg Warrington. As has become normal procedure for the Boswords leagues, a final constructor selected from an open submission process, details of which should be available shortly.

The next tournament on the horizon is Lollapuzzoola, August 19 in New York City.  Registration is open now.

Further ahead, the 46th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is April 5-7, 2024.

Congratulations to everyone who has recently made crossword debuts!

New York Times: Kunal Nubar (6/23), Anthony Gisonda (6/27), Victor Sloan (6/28), Ben Tolkin (7/1), Alison Perch (7/6), Hanh Huynh (7/13), Jonathan Kaufman (7/14), Mary Crane (7/26)

Los Angeles Times: Alice Liang (7/5), Hanh Huynh (7/7), John Andrew Agpalo (7/9), Zachary Schiff (7/16)

USA Today: Jared Goudsmit (6/26), Catherine Cetta (7/11)