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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Indie 500 Puzzle edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

May 30 marked the first (hopefully annual!) Indie 500 Crossword Tournament, hosted in Washington, D.C. by constructors Erik Agard, Peter Broda, Neville Fogarty, Andy KravisEvan Birnholz, and Finn Vigeland.

While I couldn’t attend the tournament, I did download the tournament puzzles, and after a few weeks, I had the opportunity to sit down and tackle the six puzzles prepared for the event. And today, after a few weeks’ reflection, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on those puzzles, both for the organizers and for any interested PuzzleNationers who might be considering participating in the future.

[Note: I solved the PDF versions of these puzzles, which apparently differed in some ways from the PUZ versions.]


Puzzle 1: Welcome to D.C. by Erik Agard

The opening puzzle offered a solid challenge, utilizing the colors for the various lines of the Washington Metro as clues for the themed entries. (For instance, “Red Line” led you to the answer BASE PATH.)

Agard’s effort set the tone for the rest of the tournament with a some accessible pop culture-fueled clues as well as a fleet of strong, fair clues most puzzlers should have no difficulty cracking. A few more obscure references were made — an Internet meme and a Hunger Games “ship” name among them — but without hindering fair cluing.

Interesting grid entries included GINSU, YOUSE GUYS, and NIQAB, and my favorite clue was probably “Summer’s end?” for TOTAL.

Puzzle 2: Looseness of the Vowels by Peter Broda

Broda’s puzzle incorporated shared boxes — some grid squares were divided in half, allowing two vowels to be placed instead of one — and answering each themed clue required a two-word phrase that shared every consonant.

(For instance, clue 52 Across read “With 52 Across, what David Ortiz practices that annoys his neighbors?” And the grid, once filled, read B[I/A]GP[A/I]P[IE]S, a.k.a. BIG PAPI’S BAGPIPES. This is why the clue cites itself in “With 52 Across,” so that the solver knows the answer word applies twice)

Those neat touches of wordplay weren’t the only tough crossings, however. The crossing of two unusual phrases in BE GENTLE with LAYS STAX actually forced me to abandon the puzzle at one point and return to it later to complete.

Interesting grid entries included TV CHEF, ICE KING, and VISA BILL, and my favorite clue was “Former red giant” for USSR. (Being a science and astronomy geek, I was instantly misled by this one.)

Puzzle 3: Candy Bars by Finn Vigeland

Finn was chosen as the guest constructor to join the five fierce puzzlers who organized the Indie 500, and I was thoroughly impressed with the very clever construction of his grid. In Finn’s puzzle, certain paired black squares were replaced with a graphic of a candy bar, and it was up to the solver to deduce that each entry, either down or across, that touched the candy bar was missing either C, Y, or both.

[The candy bars were in color in the PDF, but I printed them in b and w for solving.]

For instance, in this section of the grid, DIS and ALL (clued as “Checker, for one” and “Word after straight or male, in social justice conversations,” respectively) were actually DISC and ALLY when you added the CY. [Get it? CandY bar?] Similarly, REST and ALTA were actually CREST and YALTA, and the across entry CLING WRAP was actually the theme entry CYCLING WRAP.

This was my favorite of the six puzzles in the tournament, one with a great hook and excellent execution.

Interesting grid entries included SENIOR GALA, DOT GOV, OH BEHAVE!, and PT BOATS, and my favorite clue was easily “Brian who crosswords would have you believe is the only musician worth knowing (other than 97-Across, maybe)” for ENO. (97-Across was, predictably, ONO.)

Puzzle 4: A Cute Puzzle by Andy Kravis

After a pair of heavy-thinking puzzles, Puzzle 4 was an excellent palate cleanser difficulty-wise, complete with solid cluing and some fun entries. Kravis’s puzzle had solvers adding an accented E to the end of themed entries in order to complete them. For instance, “A giant leap for elephant-kind?” was JUMBOJETE.

A well-constructed puzzle (quite possibly designed to lure solvers into a false sense of security before Puzzle 5 walloped them), this was probably the most accessible puzzle of the six, one that casual solvers would quite enjoy.

Interesting grid entries included MINAJ, TEAM USA, KOOPA, and A-MINUS, and my favorite clues were the mildly-risque pair of “Prince Albert’s can?” for both ARSE and LOO.

Puzzle 5: Swap Meet by Neville Fogarty

Apparently, whether it’s the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament or the Indie 500, Puzzle 5 shall forever be a beast of a solve.

Fogarty’s puzzle was by far the toughest of the six, and I admit, it took me forever to uncover the hook: antonyms which crossed at the same starting box were swapped. For instance, 1-Across was “Numbskulled” for THICK and 1-Down was “Dilute” for THIN, but you had to place THICK as 1-Down and THIN as 1-Across.

Beyond that, challenging crossings like IDEA MAN and LAD MAG kept me guessing, and the creative grid entries left few crossword standards for any struggling solvers.

Interesting grid entries included ONE SEC, SHAKY CAM, FAIR GAME, XKCD, and IRISH STEW, and my favorite clue was probably “Number for the troops” for OVER THERE.

[Say, since we’re discussing crosswords, have you checked out the
Penny Dell Crosswords App? This concludes our shameless plug.]

Puzzle 6: The Final Lap by Evan Birnholz

The closing puzzle of the tournament was offered in two difficulty levels: the Inside Track (designated for solvers who finished in the top 25% of the field in a crossword tournament with published standings in the past 5 years) and the Outside Track (designated for everyone else). I opted for the Outside Track, then looked over the cluing for the Inside Track.

This themeless closer was no layup, though; no matter which track you were on, the cluing relied on solid trivia knowledge and classic puzzle-solving skill. (Kudos to Evan for crafting a solid grid with tough AND tougher clues. And for dropping a much-appreciated Army of Darkness reference in the Inside Track clues.)

Interesting grid entries included WHAT ON EARTH?, MOON UNIT, EDIT MENU, and PIE CHART, and my favorite clue (among many I quite liked) was probably “Things a benched player might work on during practice” for ETUDES.


Overall, I thought the Indie 500 was an impressive series of puzzles, rich with cleverness and style. Puzzle 5 easily rivaled ACPT’s Puzzle 5 in terms of difficulty, and the cluing was topnotch. I look forward to its return next year, and hopefully some of you will join me in accepting the Indie 500 challenge!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

HUGE App Announcement! (Plus Fred!)

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! We’re doing things a little differently today!

You see, we’ve released an exciting new update for the Penny Dell Crosswords App, and I’ve invited PuzzleNation‘s Director of Digital Games Fred Galpern to discuss what the latest version of the app brings to the table.

Fred, welcome to PuzzleNation Blog! Before we get to the big announcement, I’d like our fellow PuzzleNationers to get to know you a bit. What’s your background in puzzles and games?

Thanks, Glenn. I’m excited to share more about the new app update. My background is varied. I studied illustration at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and have studied digital art & graphic design on my own ever since.

A few years after graduating, a close friend invited me to interview at the video game company where she worked. This was the start of a fun and engaging career mixing technology and art.

Prior to PuzzleNation, I worked on several video games including System Shock 2, Thief, Zoo Tycoon and Scratch: The Ultimate DJ. I also spent some time working on really fun game hardware such as the Drum Rocker and the iCade iOS controller series.

When I joined PuzzleNation, my exposure to traditional print puzzles was limited to the occasional newspaper or magazine. This opportunity to bring those classic print experiences to digital solvers has been a thrilling ride!

And when you’re not leading our crackerjack team of app designers and puzzlers, how do you spend your free time?

I get the “crackerjack” joke but it’s really true! The PuzzleNation team is very small and we’re only successful because each person is an expert in their field. Without this team we’d be nowhere.

Most of my free time is spent with my family. Fortunately, we’re all proud geeks. We enjoy the usual mix of films, TV, and reading but recently, we’ve become deeply engrossed with board games.

Not the usual fare, though — our love is the modern flood of games that mix strategy, skills and just a little luck. Our favorites are Ascension, Star Realms, Legendary, Dice Masters, Machi Koro, Sushi Go!, Splendor, Coup…and so on.

I also love to draw, play guitar & ukulele, and hope to get back to a regular running routine in the near future.

Okay, I think everyone is primed and ready for this big announcement! Let’s talk about what’s new with the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

This update is very exciting. As some of your readers know, the Penny Dell Crosswords app is consistently one of the top apps in the App Store. We receive thousands of reader comments telling us that they love the puzzles but wish there were more free ones.

We struggled with the best way to give our solvers free puzzles, and it wasn’t easy. What your readers may not know is each puzzle is created by the expert puzzle editors at Penny Press & Dell Magazines. Those folks deserve a fair wage, and so the challenge is to find a balance between giving solvers what they want and keeping our team employed.

That’s a long explanation for this announcement…

FREE DAILY CROSSWORD PUZZLES!

That’s right, every day there is a new, free crossword puzzle available in the Penny Dell Crosswords app. To cover editorial costs, each puzzle starts with a short ad. These ads are commonplace in free-to-play apps, especially competing crossword apps.

We think our puzzles and ad-supported free puzzle experience are the best available, and look forward to feedback from our app users.

Is that weekdays or every single day?

Every single day!

Now, can solvers stockpile these free puzzles for a rainy day?

Users can take as long as they like to solve a free daily puzzle. Once a solver completes their current puzzle, they simply tap to get today’s free puzzle! It’s fun and a bit challenging to complete a puzzle every day. If they need more time on a particular puzzle they simply continue solving. The current puzzle will remain on their device until they request a new puzzle.

Also, if solvers dislike the ads before the free puzzles, they can choose from over 1,000 puzzles in our Puzzle Store.

Fred, thanks for taking the time out to share such awesome news with the PuzzleNation audience. I can’t wait to check out these new puzzles! Any parting thoughts for your fellow PuzzleNationers?

Happy solving!


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