I got into the whole making (proper) diagramless thing a couple years ago when Will Shortz dropped me a line asking if I could make one for The Times in like a few hours. Will's got a sixth sense for commissioning stuff from me and/or running puzzles of mine when I'm at my most financially troubled, and I applaud him for that. Though I appreciated the assignment, I was slightly disappointed as I looked forward to solving them the every six weeks or so that they appear in The Times. Who knew that making a proper diagramless turned out to be just as entertaining as solving them?
From a solving perspective, it was intriguing to see where the grid's (most-likely) bizarre shape was going to end up. Top-flight constructors know damn well that since it's already a nontraditional puzzle, why not make them in nontraditional grids? And that variety makes for a very satisfying solve. Especially when the constructor pulls off a themed puzzle whose grid is shaped similarly to the puzzle's theme. But from a puzzlemaker's standpoint, the same intrigue was there as well. I noticed I was asking myself, is there any way I can make the puzzle even wierder? Twistier? Can I pull off not only this coffee themed puzzle, but also pull off this coffee cup shape?
A little over a year ago, Pat Blindauer sent me a PDF of a variety puzzle he called a "Diagramless Downword." He had taken the Monday easy puzzle Stan Newman edited for the Creator's Syndicate, and given me nothing more than the title of the puzzle, the clues to the themed entries that went Across, all of the Down clues and a blank grid. What a workout. You have to realize there are seasoned solvers (I call them showoffs) who can solve the very easiest puzzles using only the Down entries. Pat took it a step further with removing not only the unessential Across clues, but also the black and white pattern. Pat's offering was a surprisingly solvable puzzle, and a fun one to boot.
Then again, Pat's always Franksteining together two puzzles that probably have no right to be put together in the first place, and making them fun to solve. So Pat, consider the Diagramless Downword as a direct predecessor to my Diagramless in a Twitter Style feature.
As always, enjoy the puzzles. New one (in a traditional format) on Friday.