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  • Writer's pictureJacob Cohen

#103: Word Ladder, Cell Blocks, Cryptic Spiral

Hello, and welcome to my first issue of Puzzles for Progress as a New York Times-published constructor! We're only two weeks in to that run, so plenty more Upon Reflection puzzles in the coming NYT magazines. Now, let's get to Puzzles for Progress.

Every time I do Puzzles fordle Progress, I feel obligated to mention that it's still around, as if it is expected to go away. Well, here remains my custom wordle, this time six letters: solve

The first puzzle is a Word Ladder, a bit shorter and thus friendlier than usual:

Next is a Cell Blocks, also known as Shikaku. This one has a pleasing antisymmetry between numbers and question marks. I also think it's a good introduction of some useful strategies for thinking about how to solve these puzzles. And not too difficult!

Then there's a Cryptic Spiral. I made the first draft of this puzzle in 2021, at a time when I was sufficiently scared of cryptics that I didn't want to post it here. Since then, I've grown to love cryptics a bit more, and I'm surprised by how much I liked the puzzle looking back! I had to clean it up a bit — rewrote some of the clues — but I hope it's a good introduction to cryptics for those of you who, like 2021 Jacob, are intimidated of them. The first cryptic puzzle I ever finished was a Spiral actually! Here's a guide to cryptic cluing. There are a record total of nine links on this puzzle: the pure cryptic, with Steve Mossberg-style "helpers", and with definitions bolded, all coming in pdf, online, or jpz. I'm not actually sure which of the latter two is easier; I "was raised on the helpers". Anyway, cryptics are fun if you can get a feel for them, so hopefully you'll try. And if you're an experienced cracker of cryptics, this one shouldn't be too bad for you. I omitted enumerations for consistency with my other puzzles.

(Note: It’s relatively common that one or two of the above links will be wrong due to carelessness from me. If you find an error, let me know! It’s possible that I’ve fixed it on, or that you can deduce the correct link.)

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