CURRICULUM VITAE: Fresh Freestyle Crosswords

New crossword book from Todd McClary!

life as a puzzle

TLAAP_tile_martiniFresh Freestyle Crosswords, my new book of themeless, or freestyle, crossword puzzles, is currently available for preorder and will officially drop on November 1!

Over the weekend I received a box with advanced copies of the book. It was like Christmas in October, which I guess is the way everybody experiences Christmas these days. The cover design is eye-catching, if a bit edgy for the author in question, and the inside layout is slick and attractive as is the case with all Puzzlewright titles.


The material from the book comes from the Autofill Project, which I started several years ago. The project was a label for my pastime of improving the wordlist database that I reference for crossword construction. Part of the project involved creating puzzles to test autofill quality, as well as highlight interesting database additions. I dubbed these puzzles “unthemelies” because they were themeless and a bit unseemly, at least at the…

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Virtually Fantasy Con – Blog Hop Hunt – Marsha A. Moore

Want to go on a Virtual Treasure Hunt – search for the hidden numbers!


Hi, I’m Debbie Manber Kupfer author of P.A.W.S. and I’m your host for this stop in the Hunt.

If you would like to find out more about the Hunt, please click here –

Somewhere on this page is a hidden number. Collect all the numbers from all the authors’ posts, and then add them up. Once you’ve added all the numbers, and if I am your last author, please head to the official website and click on the ENTER HERE page to find the entry form. Only entries will the correct number will qualify to win.


The author I’m pleased to be hosting for Virtual FantasyCon’s Blog Hop Hunt today is author, Marsha A. Moore of paranormal and fantasy romance novels.


Hello! I’m Marsha A. Moore and I’d like to share with you one of my popular mini-stories from my collection of fantasy flash fiction Tea Leaf…

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Puzzler’s Wednesday – Meet Hasslethymi

Welcome back to Puzzler’s Wednesday. Today we have a special treat. Meet British cryptic crossword setter, Ashley Smith AKA Hasslethymi. Ashley recently released his new collection of 100 Cryptic crosswords that you can pick up for just £2.50  from his website.



  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Ashley?

I currently teach English to Grade 7 & 8 students in Cambridge, UK, where I also studied for a Modern Languages degree in the 1990s. I’ve just moved to an old cottage on top of a hill in Shropshire, 150 miles away, however. This will make my weekly commute interesting during the autumn. From Christmas, though, I am a free agent and, unless I can make my living out of crosswords, tutoring and e-learning resources, I’ll be looking for work nearer to home in the New Year.   


  1. How did you choose your puzzler name, Hasslethymi?

Hasslethymi is just an anagram of ‘Ashley Smith’. I did much prefer the pseudonym ‘Miss Healthy’, but decided against it, what with it being deceptive on two distinct fronts.

  1. When did you start solving and making puzzles?

I set my first full puzzle in December 2013, having spent 20 years as a regular solver of UK cryptic crosswords in newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian. I messed around with setting a few clues for fun, e.g. for messages in birthday cards etc., and then just took it to the next level.

  1. Do you just concentrate on cryptics or do you solve/create other kinds of puzzles too?

I mainly focus on cryptics because I enjoy playing with language. I do enjoy Sudoku, Futoshiki, Kakuro etc., but the novelty tends to wear off more easily with me, because numbers just don’t have the same subtleties and range of possibilities as words, to my mind.

I was always intrigued by the possibility of combining the logic aspects of Japanese puzzles with words in some way, so this led me to develop my own new form of puzzle called the ‘Riyechi’, chosen by me because it sounded quite Japanese and because it didn’t exist anywhere else on Google in this spelling. ‘Riyechi’ is, in fact, a transliteration of the Croatian word ‘riječi’, meaning ‘words’. The idea for the puzzle format came to me quite by chance during an Easter holiday and I spent some time toying with the concept to see if and how it could work. Not sure if it will take off in the long term, but I create them more for the mental stimulation than anything else.

I also enjoy setting online quizzes via Sporcle–sporcle.html  which I develop both as e-learning resources for my pupils and as general knowledge challenges for anyone who chances upon them.

  1. A cryptic clue that always stayed with you?

Eden Hazard (9,5)  [Answer = Forbidden Fruit]

This one was originally thought up by Sanket Shrivastava, I believe. For those who don’t know, Eden Hazard is actually a Belgian footballer who currently plays for Chelsea. I always love the opportunities that names present for cryptic clues, especially given that they would never have been dreamt of prior to the name becoming well known. For example, nobody would ever have realised that PRESBYTERIANS is an anagram of BRITNEY SPEARS without the latter’s rise to fame.

  1. Favorite constructor?

Too many to mention, I’m afraid. In fact, if I’m honest, I’m usually focussing so much on the clues that I don’t always register who the setters are. I think that might also come from the fact that I ‘grew up’ with the Daily Telegraph, whose setters are always anonymous. I think there is such a wealth of talent in Facebook groups such as 1 Across and Cryptic Crossword Society that setting is becoming much more of a collaborative endeavour, with less focus on individuals. This can only be a good thing for keeping the world of cryptic crosswords alive and in a state of constant forward movement.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not doing puzzles?


I’m very keen on exploring generally, so will always try to get out and about, either on foot or by car, discovering new places. I always take lots of photos of the places that I visit and enjoy experimenting with software to create interesting photographic effects. I’m also very into taking up new challenges by trial and error. Last week, I taught myself the following: how to use a sewing machine to make a pair of curtains out of an old duvet cover; digging a French drain; repointing some dodgy brickwork; and re-roofing a garden shed. How well any of these turn out in the long term remains to be seen!


  1. If you could have dinner with one famous person who would choose?

Of those no longer with us, Charles Darwin would be top of the list, given that he discovered one of the key truths upon which modern science and understanding depends. He is also a figure whose legacy can be nothing other than timeless. I’ve also always wanted to meet the British playwright, Alan Bennett. His turn of phrase and worldview seem to accord with my own.

  1. If you had a superpower what would it be?

Invisibility, both for personal security and for the fun of it.

  1. Tell us about your new collection?

It’s simply a compilation of pretty much all of the crosswords that I have set over the past two and a half years. As I started off by publishing them straight to my website, it made sense to draw them all together into a single collection once I had amassed enough of them to make a decent collection. I also thought it would be useful for myself to see the progression of my own setting, given that they are featured in chronological order. No. 1 was my first ever completed crossword and No.80 was written in June 2016, so it’s like seeing a time-lapse version of my setting history. No. 81 to 99 are grids that were originally produced for a small magazine in the UK called Preston Pages. No.100 is just a little added extra with a Nina that might appeal to those on the other side of the pond (hint!)

  1. Would you like to share a puzzle with us here at Paws4Puzzles?

I’d love to know what people think about Riyechi. Cryptic fans might particularly like the RiyechiX variant, which uses cryptic clues within the concept of the Riyechi grid.


All feedback welcome!


  1. Do you have anything else you would like to share? Links to website, etc.

Anyone who likes a bit of word chaos might like to drop into my website here Do drop me a line and I’m always happy to help with puzzle-related queries.

Be sure to pick up your copy of 100 Cryptic Crosswords!


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Friday Freebie – Griddlebone!

Good morning folk a little something FREE today over on my author site.


The werecat flexed his claws, as he waited in the shadows. Griddlebone wished he could rescue them all, but his orders were clear. He could only take one …


Hi everybody, I have a treat for you this Friday – a free copy of my werecat story, Griddlebone.

Griddlebone was originally part of the Sins of the Past horror anthology and this wily werecat will also make an appearance in the third volume of the P.A.W.S. saga, Umbrae, that will be out in early 2017.

Pick up your copy today!

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Precipitous Brew (5)

How a cryptic clue inspired a character!



Occasionally when I’m out I have a random idea for a scene far ahead in the P.A.W.S. saga. All kinds of things inspire such scenes and in this case it was a cryptic crossword clue I created – “Precipitous Brew” – the clue is a double definition. Both parts of it lead to the same answer. I’ll leave the answer off the post in case you’d like to guess it.

Anyhow I gazed at that clue and thought what a wonderful character name it would make, and then started thinking who Mr. Brew would be. I decided that Precipitous is Hugo Hogswarth’s counterpart in the London P.A.W.S. Institute that is hidden deep within Hampstead Heath. Now in a future P.A.W.S. episode Miri will visit London P.A.W.S. and encounter Precipitous Brew.

Here’s a little snippet of their first meeting:

(In the kitchen at the P.A.W.S. Institute of London in Hampstead Heath.)

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Asante’s Gullah Journey – A Word Seek and a New Release!

Today on Paws 4 Puzzles we have a treat for you – a special interactive word seek to celebrate the release of S.A. Gibson’s awesome fantasy, Asante’s Gullah Journey. Solve the puzzle here and then scroll down to read a snippet of the book and enter a fabulous giveaway. Click the grid to solve.


Asante’s Gullah Journey by S. A. Gibson

Asante Gullah Journey

Beneda’s most important goal is to defend the family farm. Her people held the land through the change that ended the use of technology in the world. Now her mother’s land is threatened. With the help of a Library swordsman and her bow she will do whatever is necessary to save the land.

This middle grade to young adult adventure novel will appeal to lovers of action, futuristic fiction, post-apocalyptic tales, and swords & soul.

African Asante and Gullah Beneda, sword and bow, join forces in this post-apocalyptic setting, for family, birthright, and oh so much more.

Click here to buy now!


Want to read a snippet? Sure you do!

Old Lady walks ahead, not even noticing. She got some strong legs that one. Across the water, Jolan spies the boatman, dropping passengers on the far shore. Soon their group all waits on the shore

“Won’t be long now.” Beneda waves, and Caleb and Jolan follow her lead. She tall, might be the only hand the ferryman see from afar. “He be back to take us soon.”

“I’m scared o’ boats.” Caleb shakes like a wet dog, Jolan feels a bit sorry for him.

“Ah, honey. Ain’t nothing to fear.” Old Lady grabs at him, squashing the boy to her apron then swats his backside. “We all come here by boat.”

Pete, he shakes his head, groans, “Don’t tell about Igbo Landing, gra’ma!”

Lady scowls at her grandson. “Why not? All folks need t’ hear that one.” Jolan hopes that face she aims, that glower, stays on her grandson, not him. He like stories. But then she peer at Beneda. “Girl, you know de story?”

“Yes, Lady.” Beneda nods, a good girl, she gives the old one her smile. “I heard.”

Lady casts her eyes on the boys. “You young’ns hear the story?” Both Jolan and Caleb’s heads shake. “Well, now’s soon enough.”

She spies some shade under a big cypress. Shuffles over the meter or two, waving everyone to come join her. “Sit you down, Pete, get comfortable. I’ma tell them the story of Igbo Landing.”

Jolan settles in the shade, aside Caleb. Pete steps close to Beneda and Old Lady leans back against the tree.

Lady takes a deep breath, adjusting her shawl, in the distance a shout can be heard from the far bank. “In the last century of slavery in this land. Long ago, now, back so many generations you need more’n two hands to count.

“Black people from Igbo in Africa got seized and put on a ship to America, in chains.” She wipes her brow. Bringin’ out a water flask, she drinks deep.

“About three score folks, they say. All ages, down to lil’ ones.” Jolan has heard similar stories. The old days, when black folks labored on the farms. Slaves.

“Then the whole lot of these Igbo was sold to a master on St. Simon Island. They all delivered by small boat. From Savannah.” She stops, glancing to each of them. Then she stares across the rushing water. Is she looking at boats returning?

“Then they git unloaded from the boat ont’ the swampy land, in chains. The Igbo leader looks at his people. He looks at his new master. He spy the deep water, of the swamp. He gives a command. The people they all fin’ to sing a hymn of they land. And, they march together into the water. The master and he men try to stop it. Many Igbo get they freedom that day.”

“Bu-but, did they die?” Caleb wants to know. “The Igbo?”

Old Lady Harris frown, then smiles at Caleb. “Yes, many died, but they not slaves.”

Pete waves everyone up. “The boat! Ya’ll hurry, let’s cross.”



Win the ebook of Asante’s Gullah Journey
by S. A. Gibson from Amazon
participant must reside in the United States and be 18+ years of age


Meet S.A.Gibson


Published author of academic book, chapters, articles, and post-apocalyptic “woodpunk” fiction, S.A. Gibson turns his passions for sciemce in written worlds of wonder and fascination. He lives with his wonderful wife and their beloved Dachshund-Chihuahua in Southern California,


Author Links


Amazon:  S. A. Gibson author page
Gibson novels page
S. A. Gibson page

Website:  Author page

Twitter:  @Smalllinux




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Jigsaw P.A.W.S.

Who likes jigsaw puzzles? Here’s one that you can solve online. Click the pic to solve!

preview35 pieceBeBraveNY
Pick up your copy of P.A.W.S. by Debbie Manber Kupfer.

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