Here are my five nominees for Crossword of the Month for June 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:
Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark by Patrick Blindauer. www.patrickblindauer.com, June 1st, 2014.
No big deal — just another amusing, original, and finely-executed idea from one of the very best in the business.
Flippin’ Digital by Matt Jones. Jonesin’ Crosswords, June 2nd, 2014.
Remember turning a calculator readout upside-down to spell words when you were a kid, like 07734 becoming HELLO? This puzzle replaces numerals in phrases with their upside-down calculator letters.
Oh, You! by Byron Walden. American Values Club Crossword, June 4th, 2014.
Add-a-letter themes don’t make my lists very often, but this puzzle is an exception. Its theme entries are strong, there are a lot of them, and — despite that — the grid is wide-open and dazzling. All of which makes this a textbook Byron Walden crossword.
Ten’ll Get You Twenty by Patrick Berry. Fireball Crosswords, June 18th, 2014.
Schrödingers need a novel twist to make the list, and this one delivers: a top-to-bottom chain of works-two-ways squares connect two fitting entries, essentially giving the middle of the puzzle two different solutions.
Put the Gun Down by Caleb Madison. American Values Club Crossword, June 18th, 2014.
Five theme entries take a fitting, literal turn in the grid.
Like a film director manipulating the viewer’s expectations and emotions, a classic Blindauer crossword is always one step ahead of the solver.
As here: first you notice that the three theme entries are comprised of jibberish; what to make of that? Then you notice the reference to ROT-13 encoding in a clue, and surely your solve is over? But no, entering the words into a decoder produces just more jibberish, which is not what you expected. Hmmm.
After some pondering, you go back to the title: “Rotten” is actually ROT-10, and plunking the theme entries in a ROT-10 decoder reveals that jibberish to be two apt quotes from “Hamlet”: WORDS, WORDS, WORDS! and I MUST BE CRUEL / ONLY TO BE KIND.
The entire journey was planned by the constructor, with several aha! moments en route to the puzzle’s apt conclusion. A clever conception with characteristically maximized execution — each step along the way is just challenging enough, for instance — and my choice for June 2014’s Crossword of the Month.
Full list of Crossword of the Month winners:
June 2014 — Patrick Blindauer, www.patrickblindauer.com
May 2014 — Sam Donaldson, Fireball Crosswords
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