Games Interactive: Helter Skelter

So, with the cryptics down, it’s time to turn to the rest of Special Crosswords. I discover I was mistaken earlier: there are several World’s Most Ornery Crosswords in here. My mistake stems from the fact that they’re not all listed together in the puzzle selection menu. Most puzzles are grouped by type, but that’s because the list is alphabetical and most puzzles have names like “Cross Numbers 1”, “Cross Numbers 2”, and so forth. But the World’s Most Orneries all have individual titles, like “A Manny Splendoured Thing” or “O. C. Can You Say”, alluding elliptically to the theme of the longer clues.

gi-helterApart from that, there seem to be only two other puzzle types I haven’t described yet. First, there’s the Helter Skelters. There are ten of them here. The idea behind them is that the clues aren’t separated into Across and Down because the words can go in any direction, including diagonals. Each word starts at a number and goes towards the next number, but there’s no indication of where the word ends. This is another of the puzzle types where computerization has a noticeable effect on the experience: on paper, you have to repeatedly pause to hunt for the next number, which is a distraction that can break the flow of clue-solving. These puzzles are on the small side, so it didn’t take long to get through them all. After doing half of them, I actually chose multiple puzzles from the main menu for once, to do the rest in a lump. The only real difficulty is that some of the squares, usually along the edge, have only one word passing through them. I know I’ve seen similar words-going-in-all-directions puzzles elsewhere that came with a promise of two clues per square, but not here.

Only one of the Helter Skelters here is severely messed up. In these puzzles, the cursor normally advances as you type, and does so correctly even on diagonals. But in this one puzzle, the cursor doesn’t advance at all — if you type an entire word, you’ll just repeatedly overwrite the same square. Even navigation with the arrow keys is broken. To enter a full word, I had to click each square with the mouse. And for my pains, I wound up with a score of 0% for that puzzle, because about half the letters in the game’s solution are blatantly wrong to the point of not even spelling pronounceable words. I assume this is somehow connected to the cursor movement problem, but I don’t see how. I suppose that it’s harder to spot major problems like this for a Helter Skelter than for a normal crossword because the actual solution looks like nonsense too until you trace through it. But I’d think someone would have noticed the problem if the game had received any playtesting whatsoever.

The other Special Crossword type is the Clueless, which I’ll describe in my next post.

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