Here are my five nominees for Crossword of the Month for April 2014. Note that if a puzzle requires a subscription to solve, clicking on the title below will lead to a review of the puzzle. If no subscription is required, clicking on the title below will lead to the puzzle itself.
In chronological order, our five nominees are:
A Farewell to Arms by Patrick Blindauer. www.patrickblindauer.com, April 1st, 2014.
I propose we label as “spoof puzzles” those crosswords that (gently) mock another crossword. They’re becoming a thing now, and this Blindauer is the best one I’ve seen so far.
Untitled by Peter Wentz. The New York Times, Apr. 11th, 2014.
One of the two best in a month of many outstanding freestyle puzzles, most of them written by constructors in their 20s. And all in a similar style: with a focus on maximizing the number of marquee entrees. At the risk of sounding dogmatic, this is what a themeless puzzle should look like.
Flight Path by Francis Heaney. American Values Club Crossword, Apr. 16th, 2014.
Yet another extremely clever idea from Francis Heaney: you’re a prisoner busting out of jail, and the crossword is both your prison and — if you can uncover its secrets — your escape path. (No review available, but a subscription to the AVCX is available at the puzzle link. The puzzle can also be purchased by itself at that link.)
White Lies by Evan Birnholz. Fireball Crosswords, Apr. 24th, 2014.
A novel and complex theme trick: every (!) across entry’s first letter is incorrect; those wrong letters spell out a relevant Oscar Wilde quote.
Untitled by Joel Fagliano. The New York Times, Apr. 25th, 2014.
The other of the two best of April’s many lively themeless puzzles.
Extremely competitive month, but this elaborate and elegant ruse comes out on top. Patrick ingeniously spoofs the Tuesday, Mar. 18th New York Times puzzle in a way I won’t reveal here in case you’d like to see it for yourself.
I did say it was elaborate: you’ll need to 1) Solve the 3/18 New York Times puzzle; 2) Read the first three paragraphs ONLY (anything beyond that is spoiler territory) of my write-up of it here to see the special circumstance surrounding that NYT puz; 3) Solve the April Blindauer, linked above (click on April 2014 / PDF); 4) Know that there is an unannounced meta in the Blindauer, using a similar hidden message to the NYT of 3/18; and 5) Solve that meta. Phew!
If you get lost, or just want to read about it instead of solving, I explain everything here.
The spoof puzzles have arrived, and this serpentine send-up is the one for future spoofs to beat. It’s also my pick for Crossword of the Month for April 2014.
Full list of Crossword of the Month winners:
April 2014 — Patrick Blindauer, www.patrickblindauer.com
March 2014 — Brendan Emmett Quigley, American Values Club Crossword
February 2014 — Neville Fogarty, www.nevillefogarty.wordpress.com
January 2014 — Peter Broda, The Cross Nerd
December 2013 — Francis Heaney, American Values Club Crossword
November 2013 — Pete Muller, Muller Monthly Music Meta
October 2013 — Francis Heaney, American Values Club Crossword
September 2013 — Anna Shechtman, American Values Club Crossword