Rows Garden (Crossword Type)

Rows Garden is a crossword puzzle variant involving flower-shaped arrangements of triangular cells, and a dedication to its floral theme.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Rows Garden variant was invented by Patrick Berry, an independent puzzle creator/editor, in 1995, when he was only publishing puzzles as a side-job.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

A Rows Garden grid, as seen in the 2019 MITMH puzzle Rose Garden.

Rows Garden crosswords eschew the traditional square crossword grid, and instead use triangular cells arranged to form hexagons known as 'blooms'. As a result, these puzzles also don't have 'down' clues, instead having a mix of 'row' clues that span the grid from left to right and 'bloom' clues, which are 6-letter entries contained in the hexagons and travelling either clockwise or counterclockwise from a particular point. To complete the 'flower garden' theme, authors tend to use three different colors to color-code the hexagons, creating a puzzle that actually looks like a flower garden. In addition (often to prevent a puzzle from being too difficult), the clues for each individual color are listed together (all of the blue blooms, all of the red blooms, all of the white blooms, for example).

Rows Gardens have one common difficulty adjustment method specific to the genre. Row clues will almost always be given in order, top to bottom. However, the Bloom clues can vary. At their easiest, Rows Gardens will have the bloom clues ordered by their appearance in the puzzle, and the grid will be marked to show where they start and the direction they travel. Removing each of these solving aids will gradually make the puzzle more difficult to solve. Most puzzles will remove the grid marks first and then the ordering. At the higher difficulty levels, then, a Rows Garden will have the only placement-identifying feature for the blooms be the different colors. In rare cases, even this may be removed, either by giving them random colors or making the entire puzzle monotone.

These puzzles, while visually quite different from traditional crosswords, still function on some of the same principals. The system of Row/Bloom clues ensures that every letter is cross-checked. Depending on the difficult level chosen, the puzzle may also have the start of every clue/set of clues marked in the grid, meaning that the primary challenge is solving the clues. The differences in function (mystery clue placement being common, multiple clues in one row, etc.) and the visual style are still enough to make Rows Gardens a unique variant, as well as one that is growing in popularity.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Identification for Rows Garden puzzles should not be a problem, as their grids are distinct and do not resemble any other established puzzle types.

When approaching a Rows Garden, solving clues should be identical to how clues are solved in crossword puzzles. The main difference is the order in which elements of the puzzles are approached. Assuming that a puzzle is in the most common state (rows are numbered, blooms are not ordered), the rows will be the most helpful parts to solve first. Rows will usually have relatively long entries, leaving solvers with a high ratio of clues:fill. Additionally, the way that the grid is laid out ensures that each row will fill out exactly half of the blooms that intersect with it. For example, in the grid above, all rows except A and L fill out half of 7 blooms. This is especially helpful for puzzles where bloom clues are unordered, as even half of a bloom's answer will usually be enough to place a full, answered clue

Not only is the above a recommended strategy, it's often the only way to properly approach a Rows Garden puzzle. Blooms don't usually overlap with each other, meaning that the only way to be sure of a bloom's position without having at least one Row clue overlapping it is if all of the other blooms of that color have already been filled (or the last bloom has been ruled out for all other positions).

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • I Never Promised You A Rows Garden (MITMH 2016) (web) - Click to revealRather than the 'Row' clues going across the puzzle horizontally, solvers need to figure out that they go diagonally (SW-NE). On top of this, clues in the grid and bloom answers that are sometimes just a bit too long point solvers towards it not being a Rose Garden but rather a 'Rhos Garden', in which certain blooms actually extend one past their boundary to form the shape of the Greek letter 'rho'.
  • Bouquet of Balloons (MITMH 2020) (web) - On the surface, a normal Rows Garden, except instead of 'bloom' clues of various colors, there's only a long list of 'Balloon' clues. On top of this, the rows aren't numbered, and solving a few of the Row clues will reveal that they're not ordered top-to-bottom either. This is a rare case of the entire puzzle being blind in terms of placement, meaning solvers have to do a lot of logic work to get everything done.

See Also[edit | edit source]