The best-loved puzzles of 2013

Region capture 9Have you clicked that “Best Puzzles of 2013” link in the black navigation bar above? It’s a handy listing of the puzzles that Crossword Fiend readers rated the highest last year. The 27 puzzles that garnered an average rating of ≥4.71 out of 5 are included. Once again, the indie puzzle venues dominated the ranks, particularly the more intricately wrought meta crosswords from Matt Gaffney and Pete Muller (plus an MGWCC guest puzzle by Victor Barocas), which account for 10 of the 27 puzzles. Self-published puzzles from Brendan Emmett Quigley and Patrick Blindauer, mostly in the non-meta vein, took another 5 slots (including Tom Pepper’s guest puzzle at BEQ’s site). The subscription-only American Values Club and Fireball puzzles had 6 crosswords on the list. The New York Times had 3 Sunday crosswords and 1 Thursday puzzle on the list. And self-syndicated Sunday crossword dynamo Merl Reagle had 2 winners.

Evad put a tremendous amount of work into gathering links for the 27 puzzles—in addition to linking to the Fiend review of each puzzle, whenever possible we’ve got a link to the unsolved puzzle so you can enjoy the ones you missed. (We’re not able to share the subscription-only NYT and Fireball puzzles.) Thanks, Evad!

Now, naysayers will say “nay, nay, nay.” They will point out that the average ratings come from a ridiculously small voluntary sampling of votes. That said, it’s not as if the overall blogosphere/commentariat reactions to puzzles don’t generally comport with the ratings. (And, heck, the vast majority of blog readers are lurkers who don’t comment, so the comments aren’t exactly a scientifically valid measure of popular opinion, either.) People raved about all of our Best Puzzles of 2013. There was no groundswell of negativity about these fine crosswords, and a lot of folks were knocked out by them. Many of the puzzles that didn’t make the list had ardent admirers too, sure, but mixed in with more reserved reviews.

Kudos to the constructors on the list:

  • Matt Gaffney (7)
  • Patrick Berry (3)
  • Patrick Blindauer (3)
  • Pete Muller (2)
  • Brendan Emmett Quigley (2)
  • Merl Reagle (2)
  • Victor Barocas
  • Jeff Chen
  • Sam Donaldson
  • Peter Gordon
  • Frank Longo
  • Tom Pepper
  • Dave Sullivan
  • Ben Tausig
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19 Responses to The best-loved puzzles of 2013

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks for putting the list together, Evad.

    Certainly this snapshot is imperfect: Francis Heaney’s brilliant year of constructing flew completely under its radar, is the glaring omission. He won my pick for Crossword of the Month twice, which is impressive since it’s only been awarded four times so far.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I agree that Francis had an exceptional year. He didn’t publish too many puzzles, but they were mostly incredible.

      And since themelesses are among my favorites, I’d also love to see a Best Themelesses list, as “p” suggests below. Not sure how difficult the coding is for that. It would also need to include the occasional Jonesin’ puzzle that is themeless.

  2. p says:

    Thanks a lot for this! One request: could you please also compile a Best Themeless list of 2013? Hopefully this is a quick little adjustment, all you would need to do is restrict the list to puzzles that are known to be themeless (NYT friday and saturdays, LAT saturdays, WaPo sundays, BEQ mondays, etc.)


  3. Alex B. says:

    You can’t link to the Fireballs, but you sure as heck can link to PDFs of the NYT puzzles.

    June 6

    July 25

    December 15

    (Linking to the December 8 puzzle is similar but I don’t want to get stuck in moderation limbo for too long)

  4. Huda says:

    A great list and the numbers of votes are not too bad. In watching the voting for the NYT, the die is usually cast by the time you see the first 10 votes. Having 14 people unanimously give a puzzle a 5 is pretty remarkable.

    We need more ladies doing themeless puzzles and on this list!

  5. Dan F says:

    Thanks Evad and Amy! That’s a great cross-section of crossword genius, even if the statistics are imperfect. I might like to see a top ten of just NYT puzzles, since those are much more likely to be disqualified by multiple disgruntled “1” raters.

  6. Jeffrey K says:

    Further to Dan’s suggestion, the LA Times and CrosSynergy both have 365 daily puzzles, all blogged here. It would nice to see the top rated.

  7. Andrew says:

    Nice list, and agree that these were all supremely good puzzles. But I think it’s an issue that meta puzzles dominate the list. I love metas but to me they aren’t quite the same as a standard NYT or LAT; the amount of time and dedication on the part of solvers is much more intense and likely the “aha” moment is going to resonate much stronger than a standard non-meta puzzle. Plus the 5-star ratings may be partly influenced if someone got the meta; someone stumped may not be so inclined (but they may in retrospect appreciate a truly intricate meta, as I am wont to do). I’m not trying to discount these efforts by any means, but as others above have mentioned, it may be more appropriate to separate “Best of” lists by puzzle type — meta, standard themed, themeless, etc.

    • Ian Livengood says:

      100% agree with Andrew. I love Gaffney’s metas, and they rightly deserve all the praise, but it’s a completely different animal than daily puzzles.

  8. Evad says:

    I guess I better get coding… :)

  9. Pete Muller says:

    I’m honored to have 2 of my puzzles included with many I loved solving during the year. I also loved Francis Heaney’s METH and Candy Cane puzzles. Thanks to Dave for the hard work in compiling everything.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      (Blame Pete for the existence of the star ratings widget at all. It was his suggestion that Dave brought to fruition!)

      • Pete Muller says:

        Guilty as charged. I thought it might be a good way to figure out what puzzles were really worth doing when time-constrained (and it turned out to be great for that). I never imagined it would be turned into a ranking system, but there you go.

  10. Sam Donaldson says:

    Those clamoring for lists by category will want to keep their eyes peeled for next month Orca Awards, honoring the best crosswords of 2013. Once again there will be awards in various categories, like Sunday puzzles, themeless puzzles, easy puzzles, gimmick puzzles, and many more. And plenty of nominees will get mentioned, too. It was a good year for crosswords.

  11. Jeff says:

    It’s great to have one place to see grids and read commentary about all sorts of xws. And I’m not just saying that to suck up to Sam when he *subliminal* reads my name FOR ALL THE ORCAS *end subliminal* does his Orca presentation!

    Breaking out my tuxedo T-shirt to watch the show…

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