A trio of snapshots from the American Crossword Puzzle Championship. I took blurred photos, then made adjustments in Photoshop, including the addition of a watercolor effect (it shows up more when the photos are enlarged). The last shot is a rare photo of Don Christensen, the man who takes pictures of everyone else over the weekend. Don is about to capture Will Shortz and Mike Shenk, the final-puzzle constructor, for posterity … and hopefully not fall off the stage.
Free. An original 15×15 crossword puzzle of mediumish difficulty.
By chance, about five years ago, I heard that Will Shortz would be hosting a small get-together at his house for a few puzzle friends. That didn’t involve me, but an annual crossword tournament Will holds in his hometown the week before — that would. The event is always followed by a trek of the puzzling faithful to stately Shortz manor for snacks and drinks and hobnobbing.
After the tournament, while clogs of puzzlers were clustered in Will’s kitchen, dining room, and living room, I planted a small puzzle hunt around the house. There were three clues. Each was a 4-line poem on a small piece of paper giving a hint as to the location of the next clue.
On the day of Will’s party, I sent him an email explaining what I’d done. At the end of the email was another 4-line poem to start the hunt.
The first clue was hidden in a vase on his mantel, not far from a Rotten Tomatoes award for the best-reviewed documentary of the year, Wordplay. Where was the second clue? I’m not remembering. But the third one was inside a fake can of Coca-Cola in a kitchen cupboard otherwise filled with cans of Campbell’s Chunky soup. Its message led to the “prize” I’d squirreled away in the back of his freezer, a small container of mustache antifreeze for use during the upcoming winter.
I’ve never asked if he’s used it, but I suspect not.
Here’s a “fun” puzzle, adapted from one that appears in iFlush: Hurtling thru History. Click on the image to download a PDF.
People ? Celebrity Puzzler
Here’s the cover we didn’t use. To find out the actual title, click on the cover.
Inside you’ll find a dozen of our patented Top Ten Jumbo Puzzlers, plus a quintet of Top Ten Fun Fact pages covering today’s sizzlingest celebrities. Also, back by popular demand, seven types of puzzles and a six-page treasure trove of trivia.
Puzzles and art direction by Patrick Merrell; edited by Cutler Durkee and Lisa Russell; photos by Linda Pacheco; brought to fruition by Isata Yansaneh; published by Time Home Entertainment; 128 pages;
$11.99 less on Amazon.
Coming October 29, Jumbo Word Search: The Hunger Games Edition (the unofficial puzzle book for fans). A whopping 240 pages of Hunger Games stuff you’ll find nowhere else:
• An entire section of puzzles for each Hunger Games book and another for the movies.
• Fascinating Hunger Games facts at every turn.
• 8 types of word search puzzles: regular, jumbo, plot search, one-word, clue, quote, trivia, and THG.
Edit/design by Patrick Merrell; puzzles by Jamie and Patrick Merrell; cover by Anne-Michelle Gallero; published by Time Home Entertainment.
$12.99 less on Amazon.
Five factoids from the book:
• Bathsheba Everdene, the lead character in Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, inspired Katniss’s last name.
• WINNERS’ DESPOT is an anagram of PRESIDENT SNOW.
• In a 2012 People magazine poll, the “which hunk do you like best?” voting favored Peeta over Gale, 73 percent to 27 percent.
• Suzanne Collins found occasional relief from the realities of working on The Hunger Games by writing episodes of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, a preschool Nick Jr. show.
• Other fictional Buttercups: the princess in The Princess Bride, a unicorn in Toy Story 3, and a tomboy Powerpuff Girl.
iFlush: Hurtling thru History is now officially available (ages 8 and up; 96 pages).
A FEW OF THE TOPICS:
Grover Cleveland’s rubber jaw • Cynisca, chariot princess • New York’s creepiest island • Mayan books • The widow pirate • Santa Anna’s leg • The treehouse tribe • Civil War picnickers • Mummy cats • Russian America • The real story of El Dorado • Invasion of the Aussie bunnies
PLUS 40 unique puzzles, one accompanying each article.
The first iFlush book, Swimming in Science, is available now — ahead of schedule.
After all these years, it’s my first-ever hardcover book, so I’m all in a tizzy. The publisher has even splurged on embossing and spot gloss for the front cover and schmancy endpapers inside.
What’s in it? You can read about the premise by clicking on the book, but I’ll add to that by listing some of the science topics in it:
Extremophiles • Tesla’s earthquake machine • Elektro, the Moto-Man • science fiction • Sophie Germain • Pong • Professor Laura Bassi • quackery • Shen Kuo’s Brush Talks • grille codes • Mario Molina • autism • fossil hunter Mary Anning • the Baghdad battery • Titanoboa • Friendly Floatees • thorium energy • Lewis Latimer • the Tunguska event • bee queen Eva Crane • Hector the astro-rat — even quantum mechanics! (O.K., so that’s like half the topics.)
But, wait, there’s even more! Each article has a related puzzle that’s different and fun and cool.
For smart kids and curious adults (ages 7 and up); 96 pages; $12.95 list price, $9.32 on Amazon.
The difficulty increases and variations are introduced as you go, including illustrated anagrams.
Puzzles by Patrick Merrell • puzzle concept by Stephanie Spadaccini • published by Portable Press • 288 pages • 5 x 7″ • $9.95.
BLAST FROM THE PAST DEPT.: This recent talk of ambigrams dredged up memories of a crossword I put together for Scientific American in 2006. It was written before I dabbled in ambigrams, so I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but that’s what it is.
Sciam‘s website still has it up [CLICK HERE]. Since the crossword appeared on two pages, the grid (“blank puzzle” is how its described) and clues are on separate PDFs.
TIP: Download the PDFs (using the arrow icon in the upper right) rather than printing directly from the site. When I printed directly, the image didn’t rotate and ended up getting cropped.
Answer: [ T O M K I T E in 1986 & 1997]
• Click “first name” to see a visual hint.
• Click “last name” to see another visual hint.
• Highlight the bracketed space with your cursor to reveal the answer.
Ambigrams Revealed, a new book by Nikita Prokhorov, makes a great addition to your ambigram library … or a great start to your ambigram library.
What’s in it? Insightful discussions with top ambigram artists, including John Langdon and Scott Kim. In-depth analysis of selected designs with step-by-step sketches showing how they were created. Helpful advice on creating ambigrams. And a whopping 40-page section showcasing ambigrams from all over the world, over 170 in all.
A few of my favorites: A flowing-metal Ringworld ambigram by Bastian Pinnenberg [page 127], Labyrinth graphically spelled out within the path of a maze by Krysztof Sliwa [page 120], a highly readable Rock n Roll by Kai Hammond [page 138], and a clever variation by Scott Kim, the numbers 1-12 used to spell Schönberg, the composer who invented 12-tone composition [page 32].
1. Contestant sticker. 2. Marriott pen. 3. The contestants’ most-dreaded pen (used by the judges to mark incorrect answers). 4. No, wait, this is the contestants’ most-dreaded pen (used to mark correct answers when only a few letters have been entered in the grid). 5. Name tag. 6. Marriott room key. 7. Ophira Eisenberg, from NPR’s Ask Me Another, was in the house (and unofficial best-shod attendee). 8. Dr. Fill returned. 9. Freebie pencil from The New York Times. 10. Freebie pencil sharpener from crosswordtracker.com. 11. And wherever you turned, a circle of people were yelling out answers to Peter Gordon’s Celebrity: Get a Clue iPhone app. (Do you know who Uggie is?)