220. Number Six … and Not

March 30, 2015

6jerseyThe Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Almost Victory

The scene: the onstage battle at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament between five-times-in-a-row winners Dan Feyer and Tyler Hinman. Howard Barkin added a wild card to the mix, making his fifth trip to the big boards (once as a C finalist).

Tyler radiated a renewed hunger to take back the title, racing to fill in letters. In contrast, Dan solved with methodical speed. In the end, the result was the same. Within less than eight minutes, they both had just a few letters to go. And I honestly wondered if we’d see the first tie in tournament history.

Flashback: Earlier in the week, I’d been up in my attic and came across several bundles of soccer jerseys. I’d been in charge of distributing them years ago for a youth league my daughter took part in, and I’d thrown the bags of unused extras up there. I rummaged through the bags and pulled out two jerseys, both with a #6 on the back. There were just the two of them, one orange and one blue. I thought Dan might get a kick out getting one of them if he pulled off a sixth victory (even if it did say Eastchester Youth Soccer on the front). But then it struck me, Tyler would be going for a sixth as well. So I stuffed both in my suitcase.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like fate that I’d found two of them. Could there be a tie, with a jersey for both?

Flash forward: Dan’s and Tyler’s hands didn’t go up simultaneously. But it was pretty damn close — the second one shooting up just as the first was finishing. I was thrilled to see Dan earn his sixth title. He’s a great guy, a friend, and a fantastic solver.

But I also really felt for Tyler, who is all of those things as well. We’ve all had those moments in life when we really wanted something, and it didn’t happen. It seems even more painful when it’s so close you can feel it. I could say many complimentary things about Tyler, both as a person and as a competitor, and they’d all be 100 percent true. Unfortunately, there are times when saying those things can help a little … but not nearly enough.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

p.s. I did end up bringing one more jersey to the tournament, a red one with a #1 on the back. I gave it to Nancy Schuster, the very first winner of the tournament 38 years ago.


219. pAliDroMes (MAD in palindromes)

March 4, 2015

madcdYears ago, when MAD released all their issues on CD-ROM, I fashioned this palindrome: O.K., Alfred now on CD-ROM. Uh, he’s a gas, eh? Humor! DC: “No wonder, flako!”

Then another, apt for any skewered celebrity: Damn! I saw I was in MAD.

And finally, an anagram of Alfred E. Neuman: Mundane ear elf

MAD filed them away in the appropriate receptacle.


218. Charlie Hebdo

February 18, 2015

NCS-Newsletter-nov-dec-1Several days after the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people including four cartoonists, the National Cartoonist Society (NCS) put up a collection of over 130 cartoons dealing with the tragedy. They can be seen here.

The current issue of the NCS’s newsletter, just out this week (despite the Nov./Dec. dateline), used my cartoon to illustrate the event on its cover.


217. Westport Puzzlers

February 18, 2015

On Saturday, February 7, I hosted the 16th annual crossword tournament at the Westport Library. Over 100 competitors tackled four unpublished New York Times crosswords. When all the solving was complete, Andy Kravis stood victorious in defending his title, with Jan O’Sullivan close behind and Glen Ryan third with one blank square.

westportlibraryWill Shortz has hosted all the previous tournaments but was unable to attend this year. He was busy hosting a national table tennis tournament at his center in Pleasantville, New York.


216. Enigma Variations

January 7, 2015

enigmaGeorge Barany has put together a puzzle-suite contest titled “Enigma Variations.” And there are prizes, including two paid registrations for the upcoming American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, books by top puzzlemakers, even a copy of Zep. Check it all out HERE. Hurry, it ends January 11th.


215. 2015 Mouse Calendar

December 15, 2014

micespotThe annual mouse calendar is ready!

Download a PDF in two handy sizes:
LARGE: for human-sized eyes
SMALLER: for mouse-sized eyes (2 per page)

Click on the image for a full preview.


214. Zep!

November 12, 2014

An action-packed tale of adventure, intrigue, and gadgetry for kids; a baffling, multi-step puzzle for adults hidden in the art.

zep-bookIn a thud of inspiration about 25 years ago, I wrote and sketched up a book called Zep (in the Curse of the Evil Dr. Sumac Who Lives Next Door). The book’s 130 pages were held together using a single binder ring. When my daughter came along, I started reading Zep to her, and it soon became one of her favorite stories.

For years I’ve dreamed of turning Zep into a real book, and the time has finally come. But I’m looking to do something I’ve never done before — self-publish.

You can help in that effort by pre-ordering the book on Kickstarter (you’ll also get some insider extras). There are additional levels of involvement, such as buying yourself a piece of original art from the book, that will help in funding the project. EVERYTHING IS EXPLAINED HERE.


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