Saturday, December 1, 2012

Neither fish nor fowl (Sunday brunch: Dec. 2, 2012)

I guessed right.  We do have a Hex variety cryptic in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. Though after explaining the difference between bar-style and block-style puzzles, we get an example that’s neither.  I’ve seen this kind of grid in straight crosswords too, though not often.  Patrick Berry is good at them.  If you’re intimidated by the lack of any guidance for the acrosses (“threads”), there are some tactical suggestions below the fold (click the "read more" link).

I also guessed right that last weekend’s New York Times variety puzzle was a block cryptic.  It was a better puzzle than their last cryptic: not as playful as we get in The Nation, but the quality of the grid was as good.  This week is an acrostic, and it’s not behind the paywall, so go solve it.  Deb Amlen is back from vacation with comments from Hex. 

No fish or fowl in the Hex block cryptic in the National Post either, but lots of veggies.  Falcon has solution and commentary for you.

tips for the Wall Street Journal puzzle below the fold. 

Step 1: run through all the across (“thread”) clues and try to solve as many as you can.  Write the answers next to the clues, since we don’t know where to put them yet. 
Step 2: do the same thing with the “patches.” 
Step 3: put the first letters of any “patches” you solve into the corresponding numbered spaces. 
Step 4: see if you have two or more letters in a row of the grid.  The rows 1/2/3/4 and 6/7/8/9 would be ideal.  Make a note of those letters.
Step 5: try and find that letter pattern in the “thread” answers you have.  If you get one, fill in the intervening letters in the row and any letters that spill over into the next or preceding rows
Step 6: check that the letters you just entered are included in the “patch” words you got, remembering that the “patch” letters are in random order.  If there’s something that doesn’t match up, then you’ve got to erase that row (except the numbered spaces) and try to find a different stretch of across letters that will work. 
Step 7: using the enumerations (letter counts) from the "thread" clues, pencil in an extra bar at the boundary between each of the other "threads."
Step 8: fill in the remaining "thread" answers that you've already gotten.
Step 9: where you have most of the letters of a "patch" already in the grid, pencil in the rest of the choices and see if that will help you with the "thread."  If the patch is an anagram, you don't need to have solved it to be able to use it here.
Step 10: keep working back and forth that way until the puzzle is solved.  

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