Are you into crossword puzzles? Have you been feeling that the crossword puzzle world has become stale – same old, same old? If you do, you are not alone. Over the past ten years there has been a growing movement towards younger, hipper crossword puzzles, called ‘indie’ crosswords. BuzzFeed, the Internet media company which describes itself as a “social news and entertainment company” launched its own quasi-indie crossword puzzle last October. It was aimed at millennials, giving them Internet savvy, pop-culture oriented puzzles to solve. The crosswords were edited by a 23-year-old Internet hot shot. It was hoped this crossword puzzle would give the New York Times a run for its money. It did not. At the end of August, BuzzFeed ended its crossword puzzle when its editor resigned to go out on his own.
This did not mean the end of the crossword puzzle revolution. Devoted independent crossword puzzle supporters have pursued their cause. There is a collection of very popular ‘indie’ crosswords on the Internet. They are evolving and multiplying, creating their own niche. Some of them have been rated higher than the NY Times! A professional puzzle constructor, Brendan Emmett Quigley, likens indie crosswords to beer brewers. The New York Times would be considered the Budweiser and the indies are the small-batch micro-brewers.
What do supporters like about the indie crosswords? They are relevant and timely, as opposed to the stuffy, long established crossword puzzles that often take months to get published after they are edited. All topics are fair game and aren’t edited out as they are in some of the established media institutions. The indies have a freedom that the large media puzzle creators do not. Sometimes the indie clues are even adult-themed. They also have no size restrictions as they do in most major newspapers, which means that they can make their grids interesting, challenging and unusual. The New York Times puzzle is considered an elderly uncle, a little out of date and behind the times. The Wall Street Journal added a daily crossword puzzle a year ago and it is rated below The New York Times in the bottom third of the top 15 most popular crossword puzzles.
Like much of the Internet, the most popular indie puzzle creators are struggling to make a living at their craft. Some have used crowd-funding to get started. Some of them are subscription based, like Matt Gaffney, considered the big kahuna of the indie puzzle movement. Gaffney thinks large newspapers and indies will co-exist but describes the indie puzzles as “where all the crazy, new, fun stuff is happening”. The American Values Club crossword, an indie site edited by Ben Tausig, is also by subscription. Brendan Emmett Quigley has a ‘pay what you want’ model. The former BuzzFeed puzzle editor, Caleb Madison, is back in the indie world. He has launched a new puzzle project called Solve the Internet. The site is still being created but puzzles are coming soon.
Aries XWord: Crossword Puzzles by Andrew J. Ries
Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest
Fireball Crosswords by Peter Gordon
Glutton for Pun – Crosswords by Erik Agard (free)
Jonesin’ Crosswords by Matt G. (editor) (free)
There is an indie crossword puzzle tournament called the Indie 500 that began in 2015. The second annual ‘crossword prom’ as it’s known, was held last June in Washington, D.C. It is the creation of five indie crossword creators, each with their own indie crossword sites, and all aged 31 or younger.
http://www.crosswordfiend.com/blog/ – a popular blog that lets readers rate a selection of puzzles every day.