Friday, July 11, 2008

my very first crossword

Last night/this morning, I wasted time on crosswords, again. This time, I made a crossword. It is my very first, and it is probably either way too hard, way too easy, or, even better, way too hard in some parts and way too easy in others. If you try it, let me know what you think! Click here to get a printable page or here to get a puzzle playable with Across Lite on Windows/Mac, xword on Linux (here's the deb file). Solution here.


Anonymous said...

Good jobjob, Jubjub! Heck of a first effort—way better than my first efforts when I started making puzzles. And they sold even though the fill wasn’t the best, so I have no doubt from this that you could sell stuff.

Pluses, as I see it: You have a bunch of lively, fun entries and nice compounds: THE MAD HATTER, DEADMAN, SEA DOG, ALGEBRA, I SEE IT, FINE ART, MILKSHAKE, SHOELACE, NL EAST, ON EDGE, MY BOOK, CREEP, BIMBO, IN-HOUSE, T.S. ELIOT, etc. That’s way more lively stuff than I’ve seen in most beginner efforts. Also the fill is very clean, by which I mean few obscurities or partials. A lot of your cluing is interesting and fun, including 7 Across (Iggy Pop), 26 Down, 41 Down.

ACO. Have never seen that or heard of the org. I doubt ACO would fly in any of the major puzzle markets.

Also, the puzzle is a curious kind of hybrid—it isn’t themed (at least I don’t see one), but also wouldn’t really cut it as a themeless, I don’t think. (26 3’s is too many, for one thing.) That’s not a serious criticism, of course, since I know this was basically a finger exercise. But still, if you want to keep at this, as I hope you do and think you should, you’ll find that the hard part is coming up with good themes that are fresh, tight, consistent, and fun.

I haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood” so I didn’t get the OIL – MILKSHAKE connection. Had to look it up.

With all the lively stuff here, some of your longer entries (ALLITERATION, TRITENESS) are a little on the blah side. Love THE MAD HATTER, though. And given your screen name, I gather you’re a Lewis Carroll fan. :-)

You do know that you can’t really get away with “Wendy’s ___ator” for BACON, right? It’s a fun reference but not allowed as a cluing technique, alas. Wish it was!

Just curious—how’d you happen to come up with this particular grid? Just a random thing, or were there certain entries you wanted to get in?

Anyway, thanks, it was a lot of fun and I think you have a nice flair for this racket.

myles [at]

jubjub said...

Thanks for trying it out, Miles! I'm glad to hear it was somewhat doable. I had some of my friends try it, and they couldn't get any traction. ACO was the last thing in the grid, and I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it. In my next attempt, I will maybe try a little harder :).

The puzzle isn't themed, since I figured it would be hard enough to get reasonable fill without one. It's good to know that your advice about structure; I hadn't really thought about it at all. I actually started with two long Vonnegut answers, KILGORETROUT and BILLYPILGRIM, as well as DEADMAN cuz I liked the Iggy Pop in a dress part. Eventually, the Vonnegut answers were removed when nothing seemed to work well with them. So, long story short, the structure is more or less completely random. I think in my next attempt I will start with a structure from a published puzzle, and try and put a theme in. It was certainly a fun puzzle trying to make words fit together!

I wasn't crazy about TRITENESS, but I'm a Nabokov fan so I liked ALLITERATION, but it does have a lot of vowels, so maybe it is kind of crossword-standard.

Yeah, I didn't know if the ____ator clue would be allowed, but I really liked the Baconator name :).

imsdave1 said...

I killed myself doing this puzzle - probably an age thing (53). I've been trying to do this for months, and have gotten a couple of decent ones put together (though Rex skewers them). Not gonna harp on the few plural singular probems. Keep it up - Jubjub's got talent!

p.s. - only one google for ACO. anonymous is right about that one - it'll never fly. I tried AFS (American Field Services) which was the first study abroad program. My wife went to Germany in 1974 in that program. AFS was summarily shot down.

jubjub said...

Thanks for trying, imsdave! I agree that there are probably too many pop references. A few of my friends, who admittedly do not do crosswords, but have seen/listen to all the same movies, TV, and music, gave up after a few minutes.

So, it is probably not an age thing, but rather a not living in my head thing. The cluing was pretty random, just spitting out whatever came into my head when I saw the word, and, apparently, my head is filled with random phrases from pop culture ("my head is filled with things to say" just popped into my head :)).

I agree that ACO is not a valid word. I was hoping that it would be okay since all the crosses were "easy". It is, according to Wikipedia, a French auto club, but that does not excuse it. Basically, I got tired of twiddling things around at that point. Same with AIMES, which is the present-tense second person singular of AIMER, to love.

Okay, thanks again for trying! I am already excited to try to write a second puzzle!

Jim in NYC said...

Yes, Jubjub, good puzzle, about at the Friday/Saturday level for me.

First let me just say I agree with all the nice things Myles said above. Now here are some specific suggestions:

62D, ACO: Since the abbreviation is in French, the clue should have been in French.

35D, the clue is misspelled.

59D, the clue should be "Boba tea, at times" or something like that. "E.g." is wrong because it indicates that "boba tea" is one of the synonyms for "iced".

27D, can you please explain this one?

43A and 65A, these clues were annoying. We learn as children not to confuse actors with the characters they play. It didn't impact on the difficulty, just on one's respect for the puzzle.

Your market may be pop-culture-type publications. Some of those pop clues were just impossible for me.

I'm surprised that imsdave1 had AFS rejected as a clue. It gets loads of relevant Google hits as in my book it's quite well known.

AGain, nice jobjob, JubJub, keep it up.

Jim in NYC said...

BTW, your expertise in posting the puzzle and solution in the different formats was impressive and a nice gift for the solver.

Favorite clues: 12D, 26D, 41D, 32D, 47A.

And most emphatically, 29A, Ancient corpse preserver [BOG]!

jubjub said...

jim in nyc --

thanks for trying it out! i really appreciate the comments and suggestions!

27D is "It's on!", which is something one might say before a fight, or maybe a dance-off :). For usage, see the South Park ep "You Got F'd in the A" here.

I agree that attributing movie quotes to the actors who said them is a bit wrong; I thought the characters names were more obscure, but I will try to abide by that rule in the future!

I was surprised by how easy it was to make the Across Lite version. The basic Across-Lite program that we use to do the NYT crossword will input a text file and output the .puz file. My friends who tried the puzzle refused to do it without an online version :).

thanks again for spending time trying out my puzzle!

Joe Krozel said...

Hi Jubjub: If this is your first effort, you are very much a diamond in the rough -- and maybe just not aware of some "standard" rules. (The first commentary was very much on mark).

Your word count (number of entries) is 78, which is the upper limit for themed puzzles. Unthemed puzzles have a 72-word limit -- at least for NYT.

Excellent multi-word fill. You should treat I SEE IT as a complete phrase and clue it as such, e.g., "Searcher's Cry." The way you currently clue it is known as a partial phrase, and they shouldn't exceed 5 letters by NYT standards (6 for lower tier publications). The other problem right in that vicinity was the repeat word IT in the crossers: IT A and ITS ON. This would not be allowed.

The Southwest corner is a little weak: ACHANCE is a partial that's too long, and ACO is not good at all. (An alternate fill is PONTIAC, ESSENCE, ROASTED -- but there are many other possibilities).

You have 26 3-letter entries, and the limit is somewhere around 20. Most of your 3-letter entries are very good (except for ACO) -- but you should try to avoid having two abbreviations (ARR and MBA) in close vicinity.

Overall, the puzzle has a lot of lively fill and substantial usage of multiword phrases. Very keen.

One last thing: be forewarned that editors typically change between 40% and 80% of the clues in every puzzle. So, make a good effort, but don't get your hopes up too high for that aspect.

jubjub said...

Joe Krozel --

Thanks for the encouragement! It means a lot to me, as the LIES puzzle is my favorite crossword of all time :).

Thanks for the pointers, too. I only know the rules I've casually picked up from doing puzzles, so it is great to know the finer details. In fact, I only noticed that I never see two letter answers in xwords when I was trying to make up the grid :).

I agree that the southwest is the weakest part; it was the last part I filled in, and I think I was losing steam at that point. I think the next puzzle I make (which hopefully will be with my someday to exist crossword writing software) will be over multiple sittings so that the fill isn't so uneven.

Thanks again!

Joe Krozel said...

Hi Jubjub:
Glad you liked the LIES puzzle. It got a lot of notice.

You have a lot of raw talent as a crossword constructor, and could probably get your skill up to publishing level. (You're very close). For starters, you might want to visit the website and get a copy of the NYT spec sheet. For $25(?) you could join the group and get access the word database for a year, and the C-L Email list to post questions. You might even consider finding a mentor such as Nancy Salomon to guide you along -- just Email her.

Beyond that, you could plunk down around $150(?) and purchase Crossword Compiler software. It's better than the freeware (which might not use ranked wordlists). Finally, you could use the downloadable wordlist provided on the Cruciverb website ...except that it's unranked too, and it's a massive undertaking to supply your own.

Since you're a regular puzzle solver, you're probably aware of themes and the paralellism required of them. So, perhaps you might consider a themed puzzle next and cut down on the 3-letter entries.

Just some thoughts to direct your effort in case you were interested in taking this pastime to the next level.