Breaking the Binary (acrostic)

 Hi everyone! Today, I bring you the first ever acrostic I've made! Was it the wisest to pick a super long quote for my first acrostic? Probably not, but I soldiered on, and I think this is pretty fun. That said, this is the first puzzle I've made that I'm fairly certain will not work well as an embed on my blog, so you'll need to click through to Crossword Nexus.

For those of you who don't recognize the quote, you will probably want to watch this video (which is very spoilery!) for slightly more context. Would you believe that the original quote is more than twice as long as this acrostic?

Thank you to Alex Boisvert for test solving and for building the tools necessary to create this acrostic!

Solve the puzzle on Crossword Nexus

Season's Greetings

 I had the pleasure this year of helping run Crosscord's first secret snowflake holiday gift exchange! We had just over 30 participants, ranging from new constructors to some of the best in the biz. (We even got Et Tu Etui!) Overall, the exchange, was a huge success, and people made some really fantastic puzzles.

While I definitely didn't make one of the most impressive puzzles of the exchange, I've decided to share the puzzle I made for RandomSaucepan, who suggested he'd appreciate references to a certain TV show. I think the puzzle is fun and fairly easy, so I hope you give it a try and enjoy!

Puz | Crosshare

Yearly Recap

 Hi everyone! It's almost the end of the year, and since I started making puzzles summer of 2021, 2022 is the first full year I've spent as a crossword constructor! I've made a bunch of puzzles this year. All were some form of indie, most of them were on this blog, and all of them were great in my totally unbiased opinion. I figured this post is a good excuse to talk about my favorite puzzles I've made this year, as well as a handful of my favorite clues. It was hard to narrow it down (and in particular I left out a lot of really great collabs with really great people), but I've decided to highlight (in no particular order) 5 puzzles from this blog, 3 other puzzles of mine, and 10 clues.

See you all with more puzzles in 2023!

A Crossword Rose Puzzles

Does It Quack?: I made two 13xs this year because, idk, I'm a rebel. This puzzle definitely came about because I am Too Online and realized the two spanners would work great together, but overall, I just think that I had some great stacks in this grid and some clues.

Magical Realism: This was a theme idea I had ages ago (well before I started constructing!), and while it's a fairly simple theme, I feel like the theme and the overall vibe of the puzzle are just delightfully geeky. This was also the puzzle I brought for the puzzle table at ACPT. I'm not sure if that brought anyone to this blog, but if it did, hi!

Now You See Me...: This was my Pride puzzle and another theme I had the basic idea for ages ago. (I swear I had the themer SURF TENSION in my head for a full year.) This is the sort of puzzle that makes me really happy I have a blog, because a puzzle that does silly wordplay about erasure of certain queer identities is definitely something that's not going to play great to mainstream audiences (and not necessarily something I'd want to give to an editor), but I really liked being able to make it.

Pleasant Company: This was one of my four(!) collabs with Shannon Rapp this year. I really love the theme of this one, and obviously I love working with Shannon! While this one didn't quite work out in the venues we submitted it to, I liked getting to have it on my blog.

soft piano music: This is one of my favorite themeless grids I've ever made! Another one where I tried to shop it around and couldn't find a non-blog home for it, but I love this puzzle regardless and was glad that people could solve it on the blog.

Off Blog Puzzles

Well Kept Secrets: This is another collab with Shannon Rapp, this time hosted on Will Nediger's blog Bewilderingly. I think this was a really fun and clever theme concept, and it was interesting to work on a grid with unusual constraints (and I think we pulled it off really well).

Themeless #32: This a themeless I made for Inkubator, and I strongly believe this is the best puzzle I've made to date. I started with a seed entry I loved, and the rest of the grid just came together cleanly and with a bunch of entries I loved. I also feel like my voice is really all over these clues, so many thanks to Stella and the editing team for letting me keep my clues about pickles or Pretty Pretty Princess in the edit!

invisible string: This was a collab with Lila Goldenberg, and we had so much fun making it! The clues throughout this one are just really fun and voice-y (and if a little minitheme of Taylor Swift's folklore appeared, what else did you expect of us, really?). Lila's going to be on the Lil AVCX roster in the coming year (which I'll be editing for!), and I can confidently say you should keep an eye out for her--she's a rising star.

Selected Clues (highlight to see entries!)

[Back together?] for CROWDFUND

[Ones who want us to tell you that this puzzle is brought to you by some trendy millennial brand that dared to ask what if this thing you can normally buy at a store was available online, using a subscription model, and more expensive] for SPONSORS

[Top gear?] for STRAP ON

[Accessory that might be placed on an ear to denote a female teddy bear and a neck to denote a male teddy bear, because apparently even teddy bears are subject to the gender binary] for BOW

[Paddington, e.g., when he was young and pure and not yet tweeting royalist propaganda] for CUB

[Remote working needs??] for AAS

["Hello, Reddit, I (31M) behaved like a complete monster, and then my girlfriend (22F) got upset and said something kind of mean, and I just can't tell who was in the wrong. ____?"] for AITA

[Reacted to with a rushing pulse, reeling head, and flushing face, according to "Wicked"] for LOATHED

[Hubbubs, which might be about nothing, and might be about the fact that your friends are coming up with elaborate schemes to hook you up with the guy you keep fighting/flirting with and also that your cousin's fiance just slutshamed her and left her at the altar, which doesn't quite seem like nothing, you know?] for ADOS

[What, according to the NYT, keeps a watch on you, proving them to be pocket watch haters] for STRAP

The Ticking Clocks

 I'm not usually a fan of tribute puzzles, but a movie I really love has gotten popular on Tumblr recently, and I thought I'd make a crossword puzzle about it. If you're not familiar with the main subject of this puzzle, you might find the puzzle confusing (though you can learn more about the movie here). Outside of the theme content, I tried to clue this one pretty easy, so if you're a fan of the movie but not a seasoned solver, you should still be able to enjoy this!

For anyone who found this post through Tumblr and isn't a regular A Crossword Rose visitor, welcome to my blog! I have a bunch of puzzles that, honestly, aren't very much like this one at all but have a lot of Internet humor and other fun references in them. If you're interested in doing more indie puzzles, check out the Daily Crossword Links website, where you'll find links to all sorts of really cool crossword puzzles. I'd also like to specifically shout out AVCX, an indie crossword subscription. I'll be editing for their midi branch next year, and we hope to put out really fun and fresh midi crosswords (that, once again, are not very much like this silly tribute puzzle).

Puz file | Crosshare

A.I. (with Alex Boisvert)

 Welcome back to A Crossword Rose, where this week's puzzle's cluing style is... a little different. Yes, that's right, Alex and I used some code he wrote for Tabula Rasa and some code I wrote in college top of the line AI to clue a crossword. I'm sure all the resulting clues are totally normal clues with no factual or grammatical errors.

In all seriousness, the answer to "can an AI given a clue database clue a crossword?" is, at this point, yes. While there's still plenty of debate to be had about how good current language models are, crossword clues are short enough (and the number of reasonable ways to clue most entries is small enough) that it's absolutely possible to train an AI to write clues. In fact, the very simple model I started with here (a bigram model with some extra code to prevent it from simply copying long clues from the database) mostly produced fairly coherent reasonable clues. Of course, an AI can't really find new angles or word things in particularly creative ways, so many of the clues were short and/or uninspired, but they were perfectly serviceable clues.

The model that produced the clues you'll see today is not that "perfectly serviceable" bigram model--or at least not exactly, since I've added some extra code to encourage longer clues and inject some extra randomness. I think the resulting clues are fun, though some are certainly more coherent than others! With the exception of the theme answers, 100% of the clues were written by our AI, and we used the AI's first output for almost all of them (though we had to regenerate two clues to avoid tricky crossings). Let me know what your favorite AI clues are--I think 31A is great, though I also love the world that 32D imagines.

Thanks to Norah for test solving!

iPuz | direct link

soft piano music (themeless)

 Today's puzzle is a themeless. It is also, in full disclosure, another puzzle that's coming off the rejection pile, which I hope doesn't discourage you from solving it, because I really, really love this grid. It's always a little bittersweet posting this sort of puzzle, because rejections are rough, and, in all honesty, it can be kind of discouraging to still be mostly making blog puzzles when it feels like more and more great constructors are (very deservedly!) shifting to publish more at non-blog outlets. At the same time, I'm very glad to have this space to post puzzles that reflect my voice and interests, and I'm grateful to anyone who solves these puzzles, whether we're friends, acquaintances, or strangers.

As for the puzzle itself, 19A and 54A were the seeds (and inspired the title), but I think I managed to pack it with a ton of fun fill beyond those. As for the clues, I've swapped out three or four of them to add more indie flavor to this, but most of them were the clues I originally submitted. Fun fact: one of the most standard crossword clues in here actually has a reference to my Dungeons and Dragons character. (All I'll say is that I loved Greek mythology as a kid and love playing a ridiculous bard as an adult.)

Crosshare | Puz

It's a Wild World (with Dan Schwartz)

 Today I have a collaboration with friend of the blog/excellent cryptic solver/amazing cat owner Dan Schwartz! We collaborated months ago on another puzzle that is very good and fun (in my totally unbiased opinion), and I hope you find this one very good and fun too! (And while you're at it, check out Dan's blog for more excellent puzzles.)

Dan came to me last spring and asked if we could use one this puzzle's themers somewhere. I spotted a theme it could belong to, and the rest of the puzzle came together from there. We initially tried to target this one for mainstream publication, so the clues may be a little less unhinged than usual (though still full of our personalities and interests). After a few rejections, we've decided it fits better as a blog puzzle, particularly since the themer that inspired the whole puzzle might be better known to blog audiences than newspaper audiences.

From Dan: "I had never seen 20-Across in a crossword before, and asked Rose if we could make a puzzle around it. She came up with this theme for it because, again, Rose is an incredible genius. I hope you enjoy this puzzle, we certainly enjoyed making it!"

Puz | Crosshare