Constructors’ Favorite Crosswords from 2017!

Yesterday, I wrapped up my efforts to celebrate 2017’s contributions to the long, marvelous legacy of puzzles and games.

But before saying goodbye to 2017, I reached out to other constructors and puzzlers to ask them if they had any favorite crosswords from 2017, either of their own creation or those made by others.

So let’s check out the favorites from some world-class constructors in their own right.

Note: Wherever possible, I’ve included links to the puzzles, but for the most part, the links included filled-in grids, so if you want the full solving experience, scan for dates, outlets, and names to hunt down copies for yourself.

And remember: every single person who replied stated that there were other puzzles they loved that they knew they were leaving out, so don’t consider this in any way to be an exhaustive list. 2017 was a dynamite year for crosswords!


We’ll start off with some of crossword gentleman Doug Peterson‘s favorites:

– Monday, May 8 NY Times puzzle by Zhouqin Burnikel aka CC Burnikel. It’s an LGBTQ theme executed so nicely for a Monday. Difficulty and theme are spot-on for an easy puzzle. Lots of fresh, colloquial fill. CC is the master.

– Saturday, July 22 LA Times themeless puzzle by Erik Agard. All of Erik’s themelesses are fun, but this one stood out a bit more for me. SHIRLEY CHISHOLM, KITE-EATING TREE, TOOTHBRUSHES stacked on top of ORTHODONTISTS. Fun stuff everywhere you look.

– Wednesday, August 9 AVCX puzzle “Birthday Bash” by Francis Heaney. Broken PINATAs that have dropped their candy into the grid. It doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂 OK, slight ding for having one PINATA filled with ALTOIDS, but this was still a blast to solve.

[Image courtesy of Party Cheap.]

Several constructors, including Joanne Sullivan and Patrick Blindauer, heaped praise upon the puzzles from this year’s Lollapuzzoola event, and rightly so. They always push the envelope in terms of creativity with Lollapuzzoola, and folks went all out for the tenth year of the tournament. Blindauer cited Paolo Pasco’s tournament opener in particular as a delight.

Patrick had several other recommendations:

It’s no surprise to see New York Times puzzles getting a lot of love. George Barany cited David Steinberg’s June 8th puzzle as particularly clever. Definitely not surprised to see those words associated with David.

[Image courtesy of Snark Squad.]

David Kwong sung the praises of Mark Halpin’s Labor Day Extravaganza — which doesn’t contain any crosswords, but it is still very worthy of mentioning — making a point of mentioning that “the meta puzzle involving the spider’s web was so expertly constructed.”

Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley did an entire post highlighting his favorite puzzles from the previous year, which marked the only overlap between today’s entry and my list of puzzles yesterday. As it turns out, we both enjoyed his “Next Level Shit” puzzle from November 2nd. He cited “Party Line” from September 28th and “We Have Achieved Peak Puzzle” from November 9th as two other favorites.

[Image courtesy of Arrested Development Wiki.]

To close out today’s rundown of killer puzzles, we’ve got a murderers row of recommendations from Evan Birnholz of Devil Cross and The Washington Post crossword:


Thank you to all of the fantastic constructors who offered their favorite crosswords from 2017! Please check out both these constructors AND the constructors they recommend! There are so many great puzzles out there for you if you bother to look!

Here’s to a terrific, challenging, baffling, and creative new year of puzzles to come!


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Thursday is National Puzzle Day! Are you ready?

I was recently informed that January 29th is National Puzzle Day.

Considering that I am something of a burgeoning puzzle scholar, I was surprised that I didn’t know there was a national puzzle day. I try to stay on top of these things, after all. So I started researching.

As far as I can tell, this isn’t a nationally recognized holiday in an official sense, which is why we don’t get the day off from work. Blasphemy! Everyone should have the day off to celebrate puzzles! (This is also why there seems to be some dispute over whether it’s National Puzzle Day or International Puzzle Day.)

Although more prominent coverage has only appeared over the last five years or so, I found references in school schedules and archived activity calendars stretching back years and years!

Some articles state that (Inter)National Puzzle Day was created in 1995 by a consortium of game companies, but some conflicting sources seem to predate that claim. And it is intriguing that Tetris debuted in the United States as a PC game on January 28, 1988.

But, in any case, Thursday is a day to celebrate all things puzzly, and I’m here to offer some suggestions for how to participate in (Inter)National Puzzle Day fun! (Many of these can be done any day of the year, which is handy for those of us snowed in right now!)

#1: Team-tackle a crossword puzzle

Are you daunted by the puzzles published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The L.A. Times, or even your local paper? Gather everyone in the house and tackle it as a team!

Not only are you pooling a greater wealth of knowledge by including more people, but one suggestion could trigger another, and then another, and suddenly, you’re filling in whole chunks of the grid with flashes of puzzly insight or bits of crowd-sourced trivia!

It’s a great technique for building both familiarity and confidence in crosswords, and a neat way to challenge yourselves as a team! (By the way, the Penny Dell Crosswords App is ideal for such activities, since you can use the alternate clue feature AND pass the phone around with ease!)

[Image courtesy of mykidcraft.com]

#2: Make your own jigsaw puzzle!

If you’ve conquered all of the jigsaw puzzles in your house, you can always make your own! Either flip one over and draw something new on the back of an old puzzle, then separate it and re-solve…

OR

Get a big piece of paper, create your own image, cut it up, and try to solve!

I’ve found that cutting them into triangles, squares, and other common shapes is easier — and surprisingly more challenging — than trying to recreate jigsaw-style pieces.

And, of course, some companies sell blank jigsaws so you can create your own images!

#3: Create a scavenger hunt!

Now, I realize that scavenger hunts can be very time-intensive, but a great one can be simpler than you think! Limit the scope, but make it more personalized.

For instance, do you have a lot of books? Great! Make it a book-focused scavenger hunt! Ask for a book…

–with fire on the cover
–with sky on the cover
–a book that’s a certain color (or your favorite color)
–a book based on a movie
–a book without a person on the cover
–a book where a word in the title starts with the same letter as the author’s name
–the book with the funniest word on a given page

Toys, photos, funny google searches… if you tailor it to your family or household, a terrific scavenger hunt can be both easy to prep and fun to play!

#4: Come up with your own wordy puzzle challenge!

Are you good at anagrams? See how many words you can make with the letters in a given word, like INCREDIBLE.

Are you good at rhyming? Create rhyming phrases and see if people can guess the original!

Put your creative strengths and puzzly skills to the test by creating puzzles for those around you!

Let us know how you’re celebrating (Inter)National Puzzle Day, PuzzleNationers! Our pals at Penny/Dell Puzzles are working on a Word Seek Challenge for Thursday, and I’ll post more details when I have them. But until then, keep on puzzling, and enjoy!

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