Here are my five nominees for Crossword of the Month for September 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:
Cross Hatching by Peter Broda. Fireball Crosswords, September 11th, 2014.
In most months, this strikingly original two-way rebus would have won Crossword of the Month with room to spare. Eleven squares in the grid represent the letters EGG on the across and just a normal single letter on the down. Each down is a kind of bird, though, visually dropped from its egg, and the eleven hatches spell the Beatles song FREE AS A BIRD. Remarkably clever, novel, and well-executed.
Untitled by Joel Fagliano. The New York Times, September 18th, 2014.
The least clarifying clarifications imaginable make for an amusing theme.
Untitled by Erik Agard. The New York Times, September 20th, 2014.
That odd duck called the “themed themeless” pays an entertaining visit. The grid looks freestyle, but a subtle mini-theme lurks herein.
Mismatched Socks by Byron Walden. American Values Club Crossword, September 24th, 2014.
An archetypal Byron Walden puzzle: unique theme, lots of it, and a wide-open grid masterfully woven around it.
Repeat Offenders by Francis Heaney. MGWCC, September 26th, 2014.
In most months, this strikingly original concept would have won Crossword of the Month with room to spare. The author goes out of his way to flout the crossword guideline that the same word should not appear in both the grid and in a clue.
I told myself we’d never have a tie in Crossword of the Month, but here it is. My admiration for both of these puzzles is such that leaving one without the CotM would rankle more than going against precedent.
In the Broda puzzle, we have the lovely visual element of the bird eggs hatching downward, and then the apt reveal phrase. That the downs stand for simply the bird’s first letter in the two-way rebus is another surprising and amusing factor.
In the Heaney, he breaks the no-duplications rule in as funny a way as possible: in ten cases, crossing entries conceal each other in their clues. Then ten squares where those pairs cross spell out the fitting answer to the meta: RECIDIVISM.
Ties will be an extremely rare result here, but these two puzzles were of a special class, and they share the honors as September’s Crossword of the Month.
Full list of Crossword of the Month winners:
September 2014 — Peter Broda, Fireball Crosswords; Francis Heaney, MGWCC (tie)
August 2014 — Josh Knapp, The Washington Post
July 2014 — David Phillips, The New York Times
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