Beekeeper Crosswords

Themed Puzzles from Beekeeper Labs

Puzzle #113: “The Good Earth”

Posted by on September 9th, 2009


Occasionally people ask how long it takes to make one of these puzzles, and I’m never quite sure because I build them gradually over the course of several days. This time around, I went ahead and timed myself. The rough numbers are as follows:

  • Generate theme concept: 3 days (not full time)
  • Turn theme concept into a set of theme phrases: 30 minutes
  • Generate grid and fill around those theme phrases: 1 hour
  • Write clues: 4 hours

Total: 5 1/2 hours plus a few days thinking about theme possibilities. I could have grabbed a ready-made grid from a library somewhere and used any one of several programs to automatically fill it in half a second, but the results would reflect the lack of human effort and judgment. I could also churn out clues in 5 minutes by using a library of canned clues, or 1 hour by simply being less creative, but much of the art of a good puzzle is keeping the clues fresh and original. (Opinions may vary on how well I succeed at this.) Some puzzles definitely take longer: I always allow at least 8 hours just in case. And, of course, a really complicated theme can get arbitrarily difficult to develop and/or fill.

Title: The Good Earth
Difficulty: Wednesday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #112: “Craving Chicken”

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009


This puzzle proved to be rather more difficult to finish than I expected. You see, most crossword constructors maintain large lists of potential fill words that they’ve gleaned from all over, often prioritized by quality and “liveliness”. And, inevitably, some words creep in that aren’t actually words at all. This is typically no problem — since you are carefully choosing which words to put in the grid, you just notice that bad word in your list and get rid of it. What you don’t want to do is discover this dud after you’ve already written clues for 3/4 of the puzzle. In extreme cases, you can sometimes fudge it (i.e. “flys” isn’t a normal word, but there is a band called “The Flys”). However, the right thing to do is to laboriously rip out 2…7…15 words — however many are required — and replace them with alternates that actually produce a proper valid fill. You then quietly weep over all of the lovely clues you crafted for all of the lovely words that are no longer in the puzzle.

So it goes….

Title: Craving Chicken
Difficulty: Thursday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #111: “All of the Above”

Posted by on August 27th, 2009


When you are trying to come up with themes on a regular basis, you’ll take your ideas anywhere that you can get them. This one was very straightforward. I spotted a much-repeated topical phrase in the news which was exactly 15 letters long. Perfect! All I needed was three more phrases that were somehow similar, 68 other interesting words and 36 black squares to fill in the rest of the white space in the grid, and I was set. Really, once you have the first 15 letters, it’s all clean sailing from there. šŸ™‚ Well, in actually, the two of similar phrases ended up being thirteen letters long, which meant that the black squares didn’t fall into place as neatly as they should; the third similar phrase started playing hide-and-seek for a while; and then all the other words started getting uppity — so it was more like clear sailing through a piranha infested swamp. But still, in principle it was all nice and easy. And principles are important.

Title: All of the Above
Difficulty: Thursday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #110: “Tender Streak”

Posted by on August 20th, 2009


Well, the result (sic) of last weeks survey are in, and tentatively support my conclusion that nobody much likes clues in the form of “see 593 down”. (I’ll definitely agree with the summary of “too clever by half”. They’re hard to resist for a constructor, but really they’re for his benefit rather than the solvers.) Thus, I’m giving them a rest for the foreseeable future. What you’ll see instead (and perhaps still find to be overused) are parallel constructions in clues, which can often be used in the same places as those annoying cross-references. Thus, this puzzle gives you closely linked pairs of clues such as ‘”Found it!”‘/'”No, I didn’t find it after all”‘ or ‘Marks for seƱoras and niƱos’/’Capital filled with seƱoras and niƱos’. Your mileage may vary on these sorts of clues, but they’re at least a variety that I know I enjoy when I’m solving other folks’ puzzles.

Title: Tender Streak
Difficulty: Wednesday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #109: “Appreciation”

Posted by on August 13th, 2009


There are some conventions that show up in crosswords that vary in popularity. For example, in this puzzle there are four pairs of clues that explicitly refer to each other in various ways. I’ve found that some people like this sort of thing, since it unifies different parts of the puzzle. Others describe might it as simply annoying or even lazy. Obviously I lean towards the former view, or I wouldn’t keep using the technique, but here’s your chance to express your opinion: do you like these sorts of clues, hate them, or just contentedly take whatever we throw at you without worrying about it much?

Title: Appreciation
Difficulty: Thursday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #108: “Making Your Mark”

Posted by on August 6th, 2009


Title: Making Your Mark
Difficulty: Wednesday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #107: “Thin Pretense”

Posted by on July 29th, 2009


What makes some puzzles come out very hard, while others tend to be easy? You can go into the project trying to accomplish one or the other, and you might succeed, or you can just fill in the grid and see what happens. There are tricks to making puzzles easier: putting in shorter words, less dense interlock, simpler definitions. To make it harder, you mostly have to follow your natural hyper-vicious instincts (and I think most puzzle-makers are sadists at heart) and not actively work at making it easy. Having a lot of theme words, or long theme words, helps too, since it makes for a very crowded grid. This week, I (mostly) didn’t hold back, and the result is a puzzle that my testers found particularly challenging. (I reined in the difficulty a little bit as a result, but I still had to pass out the Advil to compensate for the headaches that resulted from the testing process.) Maybe you’ll find it easier — solvers tend to be a hardy bunch — but you’ll probably find at least one clue and one fill word to hate me for before you are finished filling. Won’t that be a nice reward for both of us?

Title: Thin Pretense
Difficulty: Friday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #106: “Infrared/Light”

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009


The title of this one may say “Light”, but don’t assume that means you are in for an easy time. We’ve included enough uncommon words (but still no UNAU), odd themes, intentionally misleading clues, unintentionally misleading clues, and twisted meanings that you should be kept on your toes for at least a little while. And remember: if you don’t understand the theme, look at the title; if you don’t understand the title, look at the theme.

Title: Infrared/Light
Difficulty: Friday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #105: “In Depth Analysis”

Posted by on July 15th, 2009


This commentary has intentionally been left blank. Thus, it is rather like the mind of the person composing it.

Title: In Depth Analysis
Difficulty: Thursday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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Puzzle #104: “Early Deployment”

Posted by on July 8th, 2009


Judging by our comments, last weeks puzzle managed to be somewhat more confounding than we had anticipated. Thus, we’re taking it a bit easier on y’all this week. However, just ’cause we’re taking a walk on the mild side doesn’t mean that we’re compromising on anything else that you are looking for. The puzzle is still themed, still filled with as much fresh vocabulary and innovative cluing as we can manage, and will hopefully still make you groan at least once and scratch your head at least once. If we can manage to inspire a chuckle or a curse, then we’ll really know that we’re on the right track.

We also notice that this is puzzle number 104. At one per week, this apparently means we’ve been giving you free puzzles for two full years now. Happy Birthday, or something like that. It’s been a long road, with lots of changes along the way, but its been a great time sharing with all of you.

Title: Early Deployment
Difficulty: Wednesday
Download: Across Lite or printable PNG (w/ solution)

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