Meet the Daily POP Crosswords Constructors: Angela Halsted

One of the Daily POP Crosswords app’s best features is the level of involvement from topnotch constructors. We’ve assembled one heck of a team when it comes to creating terrific, exciting, fresh themed crosswords.

And over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to some of them. Some names you may know, some you may not, but they’re all doing amazing work on these puzzles and deserve a little time in the limelight.

In this installment, allow us to introduce you to constructor Angela Halsted!

How did you get started in crosswords?

I solved crosswords off and on when I was a kid but it wasn’t until 2006 that I got obsessed with them. I don’t even remember what puzzle I was doing, but I was Googling for an answer and came upon the Rex Parker blog. I loved the blog and I loved all the commentary, and that made me want to solve puzzles every day so I could participate.

The first time I decided to comment on the blog, I was required to have a username. I wasn’t very creative and I just felt like I was in a hurry to share my thoughts, so I typed in “PuzzleGirl.” Pretty boring. But it’s stuck all these years!

I submitted my first puzzle to The New York Times in December 2008. It was… terrible. But I knew it was something I could be good at if I kept trying. My first published puzzle was a collaboration with Michael Sharp in The Los Angeles Times in January 2011. Since then, I have had puzzles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The AV Club, The Wall Street Journal, and other venues. Most of those are collaborations with Doug Peterson, though I’ve also collaborated with Jeff Chen and Erik Agard.

The part I have the most trouble with when constructing is coming up with the theme. I think that’s why I collaborate so much. For me, it’s a lot easier (and more fun) to brainstorm and hone a theme with a partner.

What do you enjoy about working on Daily POP Crosswords?

Oh, speaking of themes, one reason I like writing puzzles for Daily POP Crosswords so much is that the themes can be very simple, which I can handle! Also, I feel like I’m getting a lot of practice generating themes so maybe I’ll get better at it with puzzles for other venues too.

But the best thing about writing for Daily POP Crosswords is working with Patti Varol. She is a phenomenal editor. She is so smart, so efficient, and so motivated. I have a blast talking with her about puzzles and I’m learning a LOT from her.

I also really love being a part of this project because the puzzles are accessible to new solvers. That’s who these puzzles target and I hope they appeal to people who might be really interested in trying crosswords but are intimidated by harder puzzles.

When I had my first Friday themeless published in The New York Times earlier this year, I couldn’t really distribute it to my co-workers, you know? It was hard and probably would have just made them feel bad about themselves. But I’m constantly telling people about Daily POP Crosswords because I know the puzzles are accessible to new solvers and there’s a possibility they’ll get hooked!

I guess the last thing I want to mention is that Patti has assembled a great group of constructors that includes many women. She is also very open to themes about women. And I like that because crossword publishing and construction are generally male-dominated.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are male crossword constructors. But it’s nice to see someone branching out a little. I hope Daily POP Crosswords will inspire women solvers to take up constructing. That would be amazing.


A huge thank you to Angela for her time! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for her puzzles in the Daily POP Crosswords app, free to download for both iOS and Android users!

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Daily POP Crosswords Is Here!

Hello friends and fellow PuzzleNationers! Come one, come all, because we’ve got a very special announcement for you all! So special, in fact, that we’re doing a special Wednesday post for it!

We have a brand new puzzle app for your enjoyment! Say hello to the best new crossword app on the market today: Daily POP Crosswords!

Available for both iOS and Android users, Daily POP Crosswords takes the topnotch cluing and well-constructed grids you expect from PuzzleNation and goes one step further. We’re talking about pop culture-fueled themed puzzles from world-class constructors!

Free themed daily crossword puzzles right in your pocket every day! Each day has a different pop culture theme, running the gamut from music and movies to sports and history, so no matter what piques your interest, we’re guaranteed to have a puzzle for you!

And yes, we did use the magic word. Daily POP Crosswords is free to download and free to play!

Plus, you get all of the terrific features you know and love!

The pop-up clue screen keeps your grid clear and easy to access! Our optional Smart Step navigation helps you fill the grid by jumping from one entry to the next, building upon the letters you’ve already placed! Our Hint feature can reveal letters or even whole words if you get stuck!

Daily POP Crosswords is without a doubt our best app yet, but you know what? Don’t take my word for it. Check out this quick video preview of the app in action!

With fantastic new free content every single day, you can’t go wrong with Daily POP Crosswords!


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Collection 26 is Here! Plus Bonus Boxes!

Thanksgiving might be just around the corner, but we won’t make you wait! Belly up to the table for some puzzly delights! We’ve got new puzzle sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Collection 26 just landed for both iOS and Android users, and we’ve got a range of puzzles and difficulty levels to fit every solver!

 

You can get 30 easy, 30 medium, or 30 hard puzzles in the Collection 26 set, or level up to the Collection 26 Combo sets, which offer 60 easy or 60 medium puzzles!

And if you’re still hungry, the Collection 26 Value Pack has 150 puzzles! Plenty to sate your puzzly appetite!

But that’s not all! We’ve also got a new 35-puzzle Deluxe Bonus Box for you (which includes 5 themed puzzles) AND our Deluxe Bonus Box Combo 2 that offers double the bonus puzzles! 70 puzzles, including special themed ones you won’t find anywhere else!

You can’t go wrong with these awesome deals! PuzzleNation is dedicated to bringing you the best puzzle-solving experience available, with world-class puzzles right in your pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice! That’s the PuzzleNation guarantee.

Happy solving, everyone!


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Get Into the Puzzly Swing of Things with Swinger!

Puzzles are infinitely adaptable. They’ve gone from riddles to pen and paper puzzles to mechanical puzzles made of wood, steel, plastic, and onward into video games, and now, apps on your phone. More puzzle apps than ever before are available on all platforms; it’s the new frontier of puzzle-games.

One of the puzzle apps that has recently been making some waves in the online market is Swinger, an addictive little puzzly delight.

In Swinger, your goal is to capture the little blue sparkling objects known as balls. To do so, you must tag them with a swinging arm that moves back and forth at your command.

Tap on one of those green rings to anchor one end of your swinger, and it will circle that ring like the spoke of a bicycle wheel. You can tap that same green ring to change direction, swinging your swinger back and forth as needed.

Navigate the ever-changing landscape of green rings to capture the balls, but be careful to avoid the obstacles that crop up over time, because they’ll block your swinger and damage your overall score.

A fun mix of quick reflexes and clever strategy, Swinger is all about adapting to your environment. Timing is key as your swinger swings toward each blue ball, before you tap another ring to move it, either to avoid one of the obstacles or to snag the next ball on the screen. You might even find yourself flipping the grid around in order to jump your swinger from one ring to another!

The concept is simple, but the gameplay grows increasingly complex with each passing screen as the obstacles become more bothersome and the swinger varies in size from ring to ring.

It’s an interesting mechanic that I haven’t seen in app form before. (For long-time video game fans, it has the feel of advanced platform games like Bionic Commando, Ratchet & Clank, or Super Mario Galaxy!)

Swinger is available from PiPiPass Studios on Google Play for Android devices.


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The Best of All Possible Puzzle/Game Worlds?

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[A sampling of the wide variety of modern puzzles and games. Fluxx cards, Bananagrams tiles, a wooden puzzle box, Pairs cards, David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register, Timeline cards, last month’s edition of The Crosswords Club, Puzzometry pieces, Cards Against Humanity cards, multi-sided roleplaying dice.]

This is the most exciting time in history to be a puzzler or board game enthusiast.

Think about it. If you want to play a game or solve a puzzle, you don’t have to go any farther than your pocket, since a plethora of puzzly goodness awaits you on your smartphone.

Puzzle apps are our bread and butter here at PuzzleNation, so this might feel like a cheap plug, but honestly, it boggles my mind how much more accessible puzzles and games are now than they were even five years ago.

And the app revolution is only one part of the story.

I was reading a book the other day, as I am wont to do on the long train rides to and from PuzzleNation HQ. Titled The Revenge of Analog, it was all about the cultural response to digital media, highlighting the resurgence of vinyl records, film, and other tangible alternatives to electronic formats.

In the chapter “The Revenge of Board Games,” the author discussed the social aspect of tabletop gaming, and how sitting down with people and playing a game is a far different, more rewarding experience than online gaming and other social media-based interactions. (A fine point to consider, what with International TableTop Day a little more than a week away.)

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While I do think that’s partially true, I also think that downplays the ingenuity of the puzzle/game community. I think we’re the best of both worlds.

I mentioned in my Tak review last week that puzzles are being created today that could not have been five or ten or twenty years ago. The advent of 3-D printing and laser cutters for homes and small businesses has brought design, construction, and promotion literally to the doorstep of entrepreneurial puzzlers.

Just last week I received a new edition of Puzzometry in the mail, a perk for supporting a team for a school robotics competition. This laser-cut plastic jigsaw will keep me guessing for hours (if its puzzly siblings are anything to go by), and it was designed and manufactured by a single individual.

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Old and new styles are meshing as never before. Many puzzle constructors are partially or fully supporting themselves via email puzzle subscriptions and direct sales to the customer. Events like the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games are organized and advertised mostly online.

Crowdfunding has leveled the playing field for many companies and designers in both puzzles and games, allowing more products than ever before to enter the market. (According to Kickstarter, tabletop game projects raised $52 million dollars in 2013, and that number has surely gone up in the meantime.)

You’ve got a proper board game renaissance as classic games and styles of play are meshing with new technology, and games from across the world are shared on YouTube, at Friendly Local Game Shops, or even in puzzle cafes like Toronto’s Snakes and Lattes or New York City’s The Uncommons.

Whether you’re a pen-and-paper solver or a Penny Dell Crossword App devotee, a fan of classics like Chutes and Ladders or a proud tabletopper experimenting with the newest games, this is an amazing time to be a puzzler or board gamer.

So keep playing. Keep puzzling. And share that with others.


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Apps you can play in a snap!

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Last week, I did a rundown of board games and card games you can play in under 15 minutes. Games that were travel-friendly were also highlighted, since they tend to be quick-to-play and easy-to-learn.

But when it comes to quick-play games that are travel-friendly, you can’t get much easier or more accessible than the puzzle and game apps on your phone! Whether you’re stuck in traffic, trapped at the dentist’s office, or hiding in the bathroom during a family gathering, these are always ready to play!

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Naturally, we have to start with the Penny Dell Crossword App! Not only do you have smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and dozens upon dozens of the best crosswords around, but there’s the free daily puzzle for all app users! Plus, it’s available for both Android and iOS users!

farkle

For the dice game fans in the readership, Farkle is a quick-play version of Yahtzee. You roll six dice, looking for three of a kind, three pairs, and other key combinations in order to earn points. It’s an easy game to pick up whenever you wish, making it ideal for players on the move.

wordbrain

If you’re a word seek or word search enthusiast, Wordbrain might be right up your alley. This Boggle-style game is all about finding words spelled out in grids. As the grids get bigger, more words are hidden inside, and the difficulty level increases. But when it comes to quick-play games, the early rounds of Wordbrain are tough to match for sheer speed.

[The Boggle variant Ruzzle was also mentioned by several PuzzleNationers.]

7littlewords

7 Little Words is a clued puzzle where you assemble the answers from two- and three-letter chunks in the grid below. It’s a clever variation on crosswords, and it can be surprisingly challenging to cobble together the correct words when you stare at odd letter combinations like NHO or OOV.

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For a quick-play resource management game, there’s Mini Metro. It’s up to you to construct and maintain a subway line for commuters. The more you can deliver between stations efficiently, the better. It’s a bright, colorful, engaging way to test your puzzly skills.

[Other puzzly building games include Triple Town, where you combining matching items in threes to build up a neighborhood into a town, and City2048, which applies the same tile-matching as the number game 2048, but in order to build a city.]

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Bejeweled Blitz also got several recommendations from members of the PuzzleNation readership. It offers the same pattern-matching that made Bejeweled and Candy Crush such big hits, but does so with only sixty seconds of gameplay. So if you’re looking for some match-3-style gaming without a big time commitment, this might be the puzzle app for you.

reallybadchess

Finally, we’ve got Really Bad Chess, a puzzly take on the classic game. The main difference? You don’t know what pieces you’re going to end up with until you start a match. It completely upends most of the strategy that goes along with traditional chess, which makes it endlessly replayable.

Honorable mentions go to QuizUp (a Trivial Pursuit-style trivia game) and Joon Pahk’s Guess My Word, as well as all the board game adaptations like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Splendor, that experienced players could play quickly, but don’t necessarily fit the bill.

Are there any favorite quick-play apps of yours that I missed? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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