"Something Different" Puzzle Pack

I am pleased to share this collection of "Something Different" crosswords, originally published between 1985 and 1994 in Crossworder's OWN Newsletter and Tough Puzzles, edited by Stanley Newman. Years ago I digitized these puzzles for my personal use, and with Stan's permission, offer the files for everyone to enjoy.

Both links lead to the same .zip folder containing 26 .puz files. Download the folder to your computer, and "extract" or "unzip" it to access the individual files. Look to the top-right for the "download" icon on both sites. You do not need a Google or Dropbox account.

The .puz files can be opened in Across Lite and other solving programs. If you prefer solving on paper, open the puzzle in your program of choice and print from there. File names include the publication date (year/month) and author's initials.

UPDATE, 4pm PT: Puzzle "88-08" was missing a handful of clues. Fixed and re-posted the entire bundle. To download just that puzzle, click here.

CONTACT ME with any questions or problems!

(from the experts)

"In this puzzle, most of the answers are made-up words and phrases. For example, the clue "Stupid plane" would lead to the answer DUMBJET, and "Similar to cartoon character Fudd" to ELMERIC. Normal answers are clued in the regular way."
--Peter Gordon, Fireball Crosswords

"This is an unusual crossword type that allows any phrase that makes some sort of sense and can be fairly clued. A few examples: "Seafood transportation" is LOBSTER BUS and "The Crow State" is  CAWIFORNIA. All wacky answers are clued in a very straightforward manner. Those few answers that might actually be found in a normal crossword are clued normally."
--Stanley Newman, Masterpiece Crosswords

"Something Different crosswords allow made-up entries that can be clued in any way. For example, the clue "Flowery poem about one 1980s fad" might lead to ODE ON A RUBIK'S CUBE; the clue "Like margarine" might lead to OLEOESQUE. Most Something Differents will include some real words as well, particularly among the shorter entries; these will be clued normally and are good places to start. Expect anything and keep your mind open!"
--Trip Payne, Triple Play Puzzles

(from me)
  • Look for the "normal" short answers that are clued regularly. Start there to gain a foothold.
  • Fill-in-the-blank answers work as in normal crosswords, though the "partial" phrases are longer and more outlandish. 
    • ___ is a curved line = AN ARC
    • "Listen when I'm ___!" (bell's annoyed remark) = TOLLING TO YOU
  • Long answers can often be solved one component at a time.
    • Impartial flightless bird = FAIR EMU
    • Frame the star of "Home Improvement" = SET UP TIM ALLEN
  • The most fun answers are straight-up jokes clued as a whole, like "City near Cantataburg" = ORATORIOVILLE
  • There might be unnecessary articles (A, THE) in a phrase, or awkward syntax, or other weirdness. Just remember that the usual crossword rules don't apply!
  • If you're new to Something Different, I recommend starting with the later puzzles, because the first ones made are less smooth and more difficult.
Michael "Rex Parker" Sharp posted a video about Trip Payne's recent Cuckoo Crossword for Fireball Crosswords. Check it out for some more fun clue/answer examples! (SPOILERS if you haven't solved Fireball Year 11, Puzzle 14, published 4/1/20)

Evan Birnholz wrote a Something Different for the Washington Post Sunday crossword, and posted a detailed write-up about constructing the puzzle, including solving tips (and SPOILERS for the Post Magazine puzzle of 9/16/18).


Because they were written 25 to 35 years ago, these puzzles may contain:
  • Old-school crosswordese like UNAU, ANOA, AI, etc.
  • References to entertainers, politicians, and celebrities who aren't very famous anymore
  • Language that's culturally insensitive in 2020, like "Indian" meaning Native American (UPDATE: to avoid the most uncomfortable material, skip puzzles "85-10" and "86-12")
  • Stray typos, which are entirely my fault


Crossworder's OWN Newsletter was the first "indie" crossword publication, founded by Stan Newman as an alternative to the not-so-fun New York Times puzzle under Eugene Maleska's editorship. Along with GAMES Magazine, the Newsletter represented the "New Wave" of crosswords, emphasizing creativity and wordplay, and providing outlets for brilliant young puzzlers named Shortz, Hook, Reagle, Shenk, Cox & Rathvon, to name a few.

Something Different was invented by two of the all-time greatest cruciverbalists, who both sadly passed away in 2015. This "editorial" by Henry Hook appears with Merl's puzzle in the October 1985 Newsletter:

I recently, half-jokingly, suggested to Merl Reagle the idea of a "something different" puzzle, wherein any conjured phrase that is grammatically sensible and fairly-and-squarely clueable may appear, allowing for a puzzle that can be best described as "goofy." For example, "Milestone in an actor's life" might be WALLACE BEERY'S FIRST SHAVE. Or "Philharmonic transportation" might be ORCHESTRA BOAT. [. . .]
[This] is the first crossword of its kind ever to be published.

Stan recalls that Henry was the first to create such a puzzle, but that grid wasn't published until 1989 (it's the only one by HH in this collection). Several different authors wrote Something Differents in the early years, before Trip Payne took over as the regular constructor, with a puzzle in almost every issue. After the Newsletter (later renamed Tough Puzzles) shut down, Trip remembers making a few more for GAMES or World of Puzzles, under the title "Anything Goes." It wasn't until the mid-2000s that Peter Gordon revived the idea for regular publication, running Trip's annual April Fool's Day puzzles in the New York Sun and Fireball Crosswords.


Four additional Something Different crosswords from Tough Puzzles are available on Triple Play Puzzles, along with many other free puzzles by the master of the Something Different form, Trip Payne. (Those four are not included in this collection.)

Fireball Crosswords (edited by Peter Gordon) publishes a Cuckoo Crossword by Trip Payne every April Fool's Day. Previous years of puzzles are available at the website and in collections from Puzzlewright Press.

Evan Birnholz posted three free Something Different puzzles at his indie site, Devil Cross: Puzzle #12Puzzle #40; Puzzle #69

In the coming weeks and months, I'll be posting more digitized puzzle collections from the Newsletter, including standard crosswords, diagramlesses, and (non-ACPT) tournament sets. Have fun and stay safe!

1 comment:

Ben said...

Great stuff, Dan. Thanks for your efforts in sharing theirs.