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Adrian Johnson author page

5 puzzles by Adrian Johnson
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatest
54/7/202110/27/2023
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Adrian Johnson
Puzzles constructed by Adrian Johnson by year
Fri 10/27/2023
SLIMESTITCHES
SPATESOHBEHAVE
CATSATBESEATED
ARENTCELESTENG
RENOHERONRTE
SUITYOURKISS
STEEPPALED
EASELXENON
STRIPIONIC
TAYEVEALTHAT
DRSMECCAWINE
RICEBOWLSTALIA
AVEMARIAMONISM
MINIBARSRINSES
SADLYYESSLATE
POW Sat 8/26/2023
ACTTHEPARTLSD
BABAORILEYTOPO
CRAMPINGUPOVAL
STRIPTEASEMERE
IRLEDIBLE
SHINEONUPSETS
GOESGAGAPATTIE
RULESKAOTRA
ASLEEPENGINEER
MARINODINNERS
PATENSMOS
THINTONAMEAFEW
SOSOINITIATIVE
KNEWFAKESMILES
SERFRESHSTART

★ Today brings our toughest challenge yet on Next Level Constructor. Only the bravest of chefs dare to cook with certain feature ingredients. Fugu is notable for its potential to kill if not prepared correctly, but many others require highly specialized knowledge. Few have ever seen a python steak or yak meat, and it takes fortitude to consider tarantula or jellyfish as the star of a culinary offering.

Appropriate that one of the hardest instruments to play well, the SOUSAPHONE, is featured today

Such is the 64-word themeless, especially when dealing with quad-stacked answers. If woven together with seasoned expertise, this can be a highlight-of-the-year experience … but a few missteps can result in an unsolvable disaster.

While you might consider "disaster" a drama queenish description of a Did Not Finish, tell that to all the solvers out there who cling onto their triple-digit streak of successful solves, gritting their teeth as they pray that today won't be the day they lose it.

Plating up a giant corner like the lower right takes much more than FAKE SMILES and INITIATIVE. It takes a real HELLRAISER to dare to tackle something like this without sectioning off that corner from the rest of the puzzle. Adrian doesn't only smoothly complete his lower-right corner, but he ANIMATES it with some PONTIFF / GNOMISH cutting through a wonderful quartet of long answers.

And there are other delights woven in, like LOVE LETTER, SOUSAPHONE, I SEE IT NOW (TO NAME A FEW)! Yes, Adrian left specks of ENE OTRA SER TOPO across his grid, but those few imperfections enabled so much seasoning and sparkle.

This would have been a high-end offering if made with ground beef or a chicken thigh, but to produce such vivacious work with crocodile might just make Adrian the GOAT.

POW Fri 7/7/2023
TRASHPANDAOPUS
WERESODEADKURT
IWASNTDONEABBA
NIGHOPENLYGAY
SNOCANEASANA
DNATESTINGMAW
BRRSAOSERA
PAELLASMODESTY
AIDETONGUM
WWIGENETICIST
PETCOWHETHOP
RIDEORDIELETO
IWONEIDMUBARAK
NEWTFREESAMPLE
TINSSEASONPASS

★ Delightful colloquial phrases in WERE SO DEAD, and I WASN'T DONE! Stacking them atop each other makes it even better. Having one on top of the other is a 1 + 1 = 3 effect.

Hey, I have feelings! Sad panda

Similarly, placing DNA TESTING and GENETICIST in symmetrical slots is an elegant mini-theme. In today's world of ultra-competitive themelesses, factors like this can help a grid stand out. DNA TESTING stood out even further with its brilliant clue. [Business in which one is paid to establish relationships] made this MBA think of deal brokers.

Such a shame that Adrian got scooped on TRASH PANDA. I laughed so hard when I uncovered it back in November, and my long memory foiled some of the fun today. Glad that Will Shortz spaced them out more than six months, though, as anything closer together than that would have been a travesty.

It's tough for me to remember the exact spelling of AI WEI WEI and EID MUBARAK, but I'm getting better with each repetition. Kudos to Adrian for making every cross 100% unambiguous.

Adrian has such strong gridding skills. It's hard to believe he came onto the scene just a few years ago. Because 72 words is the max allowed, if you're going to work in this sphere, holding fast to fastidiousness is a must. Leaving a single dab of SNO glue is solid work.

You have to do something special to make a 72-word themeless stand out, and Adrian's delightful pairings did exactly that.

POW Mon 1/23/2023
EAVECHEMOGLE
CROCAUTOHUEY
HELLMEANGIVE
ONTIMEGEODES
TAPERECORDER
SHOEHORN
POLEOLESOPEN
IMOANSWERIDO
TACITEATIN
CHAMPAGNEFLUTE
HALFRAINGIST
DONTBLOWIT
OSIRISCHEATS
LEVITYHURRAH
DEETSPSYCH

★ Brilliant fanfare for the common solver today, newbs treated to trumpeting wordplay. I've seen plenty of "disguised instruments" themes before, but nothing as clever as this. I can only imagine the horrible sounds generated by trying to blow into a TAPE RECORDER!

Amazing to find three objects that work so perfectly for this theme. I scoured my memories, flipping through 20 years of orchestras and band experience to find a single other wind instrument that would work. There are some non-wind instruments, like BELL or SNARE, but percussion instruments aren't blown.

Such great use of mirror symmetry, too — it's perfect for these situations when you can't pair your themers in length, but they're either all odd or even-lettered. Lengths of 12, 8, 14, 10? No problem!

Well, not exactly. Mirror symmetry does present different problems than regular symmetry. The trickiest part is often figuring out which rows your themers should inhabit. Note that TAPE RECORDER, SHOEHORN, and DON'T BLOW IT all force black square placements on their sides. Those black squares all have to play nicely together.

You need DON'T BLOW IT as the revealer in row 12, so that restricts your flexibility even further. Stacking TAPE RECORDER and SHOEHORN might seem showy, but with these lengths, stacking two themers is almost a requirement.

Additionally, mirror symmetry sometimes forces long Down bonuses instead of making them optional. Trying to break LOCAL DIVE at the second L causes a cascade of black square problems. Fantastic to end up with a grid that's both smooth and sparkly — LOCAL DIVE is so colorful.

Adrian far from blew it today, giving us a symphony of harmonious delights.

Wed 4/7/2021
HAJJITVADFATS
ANAISELLALIEN
HORNEDTOADURAL
GEORGIAPEACH
ECHODISANCHO
ROOIBOSSYSTEMS
ANTSYPOETSET
MARIOBROS
YSLNUKEREAIR
ECOTONEPRSAVVY
SOURSMAOGAYE
MURIELBOWSER
AREAOOPSYDAISY
AGEDIDEAAPPLE
MEDSNESTMEARA

When I hit MARIO BROS, I had such anticipation of the fun I'd have talking with Jim Horne, a non-gamer. I spent well over 100 hours playing Mario in my teens and twenties. So much to educate Jim about!

"Who's Daisy?" he asked.

. . .

Where's a power-up when you need it?

I could go on and on about Princess PEACH, who Mario rescues, and BOWSER, the big boss. TOAD wasn't as familiar, since he's more prominent in the later Mario games. Reading up on DAISY made me feel old, but she'll probably delight some younger gamers the way Luigi once did.

It's a shame LUIGI GALVANI hasn't reached the level of awareness of Tesla or Edison.

Adrian worked in some great entries — I was sure I had something wrong with so many consonants in a row: SNLH- and PRS-. Fantastic entries in SNL HOST and PR SAVVY.

Similar with vowels, in ROOI-. I can never remember how to spell (or pronounce) ROOIBOS, even though my wife keeps it in our pantry.

Even some of the simple vowel-consonant alternation words felt tricky — I never can remember what an ECOTONE is. And if you don't do a lot of crosswords, seeing two Js in the middle of a word (HAJJI) might baffle.

I couldn't exactly recall what a SEA GRAPE was, but it had a perfect clue, explaining everything a solver needs to know to piece it together.

All in all, lot of vocabulary that might trip folks up, but Adrian did a nice job making sure the crossings were fair. Appropriate for a Wednesday, if on the challenging side.

Fantastic clue for TETRIS — the pieces literally "falling into place."

Playful debut that I'm sure will elate today's generation of Mario fanatics. However, if you're not a Mario player, you can still solve it as a tough themeless.

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