Regular crossword puzzles generally bore me. The same words tend to turn up again and again, and there’s only so many ways you can define “erne” or “Asta”. I prefer British-style cryptics or at least regular-style puzzles that have some sort of twist to them that you have to figure out. Like you know the answer to the clue is “brown sugar” but according to the grid the answer is only six letters long, and eventually you figure out that the first “letter” of the answer is the colour brown, because the answer in the other direction is “Leroy Brown”, and then you realize that a whole bunch of squares in the finished grid are meant to be colours instead of letters…
When it came to constructing the puzzle for the 2019 Holiday Contest I knew I wouldn’t really be able to use a trick like that–but I did want to make it more than just being able to find the answers by looking stuff up on BGG. Hence the multi-layered approach whereby first you had to figure out what game I was talking about in each clue, then you had to figure out the designer. And to force people to solve as many of the clues as possible, I added another layer whereby certain shaded and circled letters sprinkled throughout the grid had to be anagrammed and/or interpreted. Puzzles where you can cheat by only solving certain parts and leaving the rest alone feel “cheaty” and I wanted to minimize that.
So in the end the shaded squares can be anagrammed into “Knizia” and the circled letters can be read top to bottom to read “bid with suns”. That can only refer to The Good Doctor’s 1999 classic Ra, which was the answer to the Contest.
Sixteen intrepid puzzlers were able to penetrate the thicket and come to the correct solution, and from those we have randomly selected the winner, Lance Coffee–if that is your real name–whom we will contact to send his prize.
So happy 2020 y’all, and yes I’m already thinking about the next contest. Maybe we’ll do a scavenger hunt…
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