Friday, December 17, 2021

Asym № 3 (Themeless)

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Happy December! This whirlwind of a month is finally slowing down with the holidays coming up next week. I'll be spending time away from home with family, and hopefully get some free time to finish constructing a bunch of in-progress puzzles! That and catch up on my puzzle backlog which has only grown since last month...

This asymmetric offering today began with the vertical stack in the NW and grew out from there. Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Chasm № 7 (Themeless)

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Happy November! The last month really flew by. In addition to being busy with work, I've filled most of my free time again with singing to make up for all of the lost time during lockdown.  Though my tired voice tells me I may have gone back a bit too hard, the recent soul-stirring concerts have made it all worth it.

This puzzle ended up turning into a wiiiide boy, but doing so helped make the center come together!  

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Chasm № 6 (Themeless)

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Happy October! I'm doing a range of autumnal activities today - pumpkin picking, cider tasting, corn mazing, etc. etc. 'Tis the season. This chasm has some fun entries I'm excited to include, mixed with some common entries that may have some stretchier clues than usual (you can be the judge.)

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Chasm № 5 (Themeless)

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Happy September! This month's puzzle is another Chasm, pretty similar to the grid I used for Boswords this past spring with the intersecting septuple stack middle that I keep coming back to. It's become one of my favorite grid designs. Registration is open for the Boswords 2021 Fall Themeless League by the way, so go sign up if you haven't already for a bonkers roster including some of my literal favorite constructors. 

In other fun news, I have the NYT Saturday puzzle tomorrow! It should be a memorable one 😜

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Chasm № 4 (Themeless)

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Happy August! Another Chasm this month - this time with a septuple colonnade crossing a triple stack of 11s. A couple of rarer entries in here - sort of necessitated by the grid design, but I'm all for that 😉

Note that Lollapuzzoola is this weekend! If you haven't, you should sign up for what looks like an incredible suite of puzzles.

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Collab № 2 (Themeless w/ Brooke Husic)

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Hi everyone - back again with another collab! Very excited to bring you this indie collaboration with superstar constructor Brooke Husic! Over the past year Brooke has probably helped me the most grow with my cluing - in particular thinking more considerately about difficulty, inclusivity, diversity, and creativity. Hopefully that comes out in this puzzle! We were both interested in exploring some fun 14s, as they often get the short end in 15x15 puzzles, so we opted for a 14x14 that features seven of them!

You can check out more of Brooke's puzzles on her site xwords by a ladee.

A note from Brooke:

Obviously Ryan is one of my crossword idols, and I solve his puzzles as soon as they drop. His geometric/filling/cluing style is so different from anything else I'm solving and I super admire it as a solver ,,, and now as a collaborator! I hope you enjoy this decidedly made-for-indie puzzle!

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Asym № 2 (Themeless)

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Back again - with an asymmetrical grid this time! The story with this one is that I got the NE quad stack corner built, and then couldn't for the life of me find a compelling matching corner in the SW with rotational symmetry.  So, I switched things up and made a charcuterie board of black square shapes in the middle, including a T, +, and my ol' reliable staircase. 

I also have the Saturday puzzle over at the New York Times today! If you're hungry for a Chasm-like treat, check it out 😄

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving (check out his Freeform Freestyles for more asymmetrical goodness!) Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Collab № 1 (Themeless w/ Matthew Stock)

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Happy July! VERY excited to be sharing my first ever McGrids collaboration, and with the inimitable Matthew Stock no less! I've been impressed with Matthew's consistently high quality puzzles and reputation as one of the nicest constructors out there, so it was naturally a joy to work together. I didn't make this one easy for him by sending over a particularly wide open corner, but he jumped at the challenge with some excellent gridwork, and after a lot of iteration we ended up with this feisty fiesta of a grid you see here! It's a bit of a toughie 😅

You can check out more of Matthew's puzzles on his site Happy Little Puzzles.

A note from Matthew:

So honored and excited to be a part of the first McGrids collab! I’ve been a fan of Ryan’s themelesses for as long as I’ve paid attention to bylines on crosswords, and I was stoked when he sent me the opening corner of this one as a potential collab. Ryan makes it look easy, but working these wide-open grids is so challenging (I didn’t make it any easier on us by taking out most of the helper squares Ryan sent in his initial layout). I’m super thankful for his flexibility and patience as we hammered this one into shape, and I’m really proud of what we ended up with. Hope you enjoy!

Thanks to Brooke Husic for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Diag № 1 (Themeless)

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Happy June! This month's puzzle is the first in a new series of puzzles with diagonal symmetry called "Diag".  There's a lot of untapped potential in diagonally symmetric grids, as they have only recently begun to get representation in mainstream outlets thanks to advocates such as Brooke Husic.  I had a diagonal themeless puzzle in the NY Times last year which spurred my own interest to explore further!

In this puzzle I like the intersecting stacks of 11s in the NE - a pattern you couldn't do in a 15x15 rotationally symmetric grid (at least without blacking out a couple of chunky corners).  I also like how the black squares in the middle kind of look like a Minecraft pickaxe.

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Chasm № 3 (Themeless)

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Happy May! I've been loving the spring weather recently in D.C. With the new CDC guidelines it has been wonderful to be able to get back to singing in person, which I've sorely missed over the past year.  I have my first in-person concert in early June (!!!), and we're incidentally performing one of my pieces "An Fear Róin" (The Seal Man) which is very exciting.

I had both the NYT and LAT Saturday puzzles on May 1 in a fortuitous turn of events. Check those out if you haven't already!

Anyway, this puzzle started with the open center, where I again expanded the grid - this time left and right - to add in some longer entries. Each of the corners has a set of black square ・゚*✧・゚*sparkles*・゚✧*・゚ to throw in some extra pizzazz.

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving! Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Chasm № 2 (Themeless)

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Happy April!

It's been an eventful month. I constructed the Week 5 puzzle in the Boswords Spring Themeless League, which featured a wide open middle. I also made the Saturday 4/3 LA Times puzzle, which had one of my new favorite grid designs with open quad stacks.

Today's puzzle is a sort of "Variation on a Themeless" inspired by my Boswords grid design, but flipped! The cluing is challenging, though probably not as hard as my Boswords Stormy division clues...

If you haven't already, I highly recommend donating to the Baltimore Abortion Fund for a pack of 14 original puzzles from a superstar lineup edited by the incomparable Rachel Fabi. I've been doing a puzzle a day to stretch out the fun, and I've loved them so far :-)

Thanks to Will Nediger for test solving! Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Chasm № 1 (Themeless)

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Hello Crossworld! 🍀

This puzzle marks the first in the Chasm series of puzzles, all of which will feature wide open middles. If you've done my puzzles before you'll know that I love these types of puzzles with imposing, gaping maws in the middle. Part of the solving challenge in these grid designs is trying to find toeholds without much assistance from shorter entries. These types of puzzles are also how I got into constructing in the first place!

For this grid I originally tried getting this middle to work in a 15x15, but I wasn't happy with the fill in the corners, so I just...extended it. By bumping out the top and bottom and making it a 15x19 I was able to fit in some more long entries, including quad stacks in the NW and SE! Why not?

Thanks to Will Nediger for helping test solve. Ãdh mór!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Monday, March 1, 2021

Vowelless Mini № 1

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Happy March!

This is the first of a series of vowelless mini puzzles. I've been inspired since working through Frank Longo's pioneering Vowelless Crosswords book to give these types of puzzles a try. I also thought they would work well in a mini format, allowing for some more colorful phrases with fewer boxes.

For those of you who haven't tried vowelless crosswords before, the concept is pretty simple: all vowels are removed from the answers in the grid. For example, the entry MIND-BLOWING would become MNDBLWNG, and AVERAGE JOE would become VRGJ. To avoid complications, no entries will contain the letter "Y".

These puzzles can be pretty tough because of all of the missing letters and difficulties with pattern matching. As a result, the cluing will be more straightforward for the most part. Though this first one is fairly challenging, I'll also try to make some easier ones in the future.

I'm pretty new to working with vowelless grids, so let me know if you have any feedback, and if you'd be interested in seeing these more regularly!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Asym № 1 (Themeless)

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Hello Crossworld!

I'm super excited to be debuting my indie crossword blog McGrids!  I've been making crosswords for a few years now, with several dozen published across various publications.  My specialty has been themeless puzzles, particularly those with wide-open grids and low word counts.

For this blog I'm looking to continue exploring crossword construction beyond standard formats and expectations.  I'll be grouping these puzzles into several parallel series—some will be more familiar, some more experimental.  This puzzle is the first of the Asym series of themeless puzzles with deliberately asymmetrical grids. 

As of now, I'm planning to post a new puzzle monthly on the 17th plus whatever else I feel like/have time for in between.

Special thanks to Brooke Husic and Ada Nicolle for their help and advice with putting this together.  Please check out their puzzles if you haven't already!

Hope you enjoy!