235. The Enduring Crossword

April 27, 2020

Read/download a four-page PDF of an article I wrote and photographed for the May issue of Vero Beach Magazine: [CLICK HERE]


225. MEmoRiaL

October 4, 2015

merlmemorialA memorial for crossword-constructing legend Merl Reagle took place on September 27th in Tampa, Florida. About 125 people attended.

It was a beautiful setting in a large room on the top floor of the Vaughn Center at the University of Tampa. Twenty-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows along two walls provided sweeping views of the surrounding area … as much as you could see given the rainy weather, which was torrential at times.

People mingled from 5:00 to 6:00, munching on hors d’oeuvres while Liz Hollister and John Minor played guitar and sang songs in the background. A slide show of Merl tidbits played in a continuous loop on a large screen at the front of the hall. From 7:00 until 9:00, a fittingly eclectic mix of friends shared reminiscences about Merl. There were many laughs and a few tears.

roomRobert Miles, an international keynote speaker, served as master of ceremonies. Six others followed: Al Scudieri, a former FBI special agent; Jeffrey Walters, whose wife Merl had made a special puzzle for; Vic Fleming, a district judge and crossword constructor; Patrick Creadon, the director of Wordplay; myself, with a notebook filled with 400 writings collected from the crossword community; and Bill Duryea, an editor at politico.com. Marie Haley finished things up with some poignant thoughts.

About a dozen of us, including Marie, had dinner together afterwards at a nearby hotel, Le Méridien, telling more stories. Toward the end, Judge Vic pulled out his guitar and serenaded us into the night with a rendition of “If You Don’t Come Across.”

A video of the speeches, taken by Nancy Shack, can be seen HERE.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

213. Eighties Ladies

November 12, 2014

Compliments of Time Home Entertainment, here’s a free “Jumbo” crossword from their latest People Puzzler book, Holiday Funfest!

80sLadiesCLICK HERE to download a PDF

The crossword’s theme is female singers of the ’80s, with an added quirk — it’s 100 percent man-free!

More about the book in an earlier post, on Amazon, or take a look inside at Barnes & Noble.

Theme idea & puzzle edit: Lisa Russell • puzzle & art direction: Patrick Merrell • photo editor: Linda Pacheco • book editor: Cutler Durkee

Answer PDF


212. Puzzlers x 3

November 5, 2014

Space Puzzlefest: The multi-talented Patrick Blindauer has another one of his super-entertaining puzzlefests available for purchase. This time around the theme is outer space, with an interconnected set of crosswords leading to a final answer. I’ve already signed up! Just go HERE to join the fun.

Twice a Week Puzzles: The only thing better than a Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword is two of them! And that’s just what you’ll find every week (Monday and Thursday) on his site, HERE. Brendan possesses one of the great crossword minds on the planet, crafting sparkling grids, unique themes, and clever clues with seeming ease. He’s also known for putting things in his puzzles you won’t find anywhere else. Brendan’s puzzles vary from easy to medium to hard (always labeled) in both themed and unthemed varieties.

Weekly Crossword Contest: Crossword great Matt Gaffney has been running a weekly crossword contest since 2008, to rave reviews. That’s 336 contest puzzles! (How’s that even possible?) Each involves not only a top-flight crossword, but an ingenious meta puzzle that awaits once the grid is filled in. Check it out HERE every Friday.

208. Dead Tree Version

February 2, 2014

The work of Randall Rosenthal is pretty darn amazing. The photo shown below (click to enlarge) isn’t a stack of real newspapers. It’s a sculpture carved from a single piece of wood, then painted in exacting detail.

I got an added surprise when I realized the crossword lying atop the pile is one of mine, appearing in The New York Times on December, 18, 2011. CLICK HERE for an article showing how Rosenthal works, and to see more of his sculptures.

And CLICK HERE to see another Rosenthal sculpture that features Randy Ross’s October 2, 2005 NYT crossword (thanks to Jeff Chen for identifying the puzzle).

193. Ambigram Crossword

April 11, 2013

settheoryBLAST 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.

190. Crossword Clue of the Day: April 1

March 31, 2013

Female buffoon? (6 letters): [ A S S E S S ]

• Click the clue to see a (completely unhelpful) visual hint.
• Highlight the bracketed space with your cursor to reveal the answer.

189. Crossword Clue of the Day: March 31

March 31, 2013

Nor’s partner (6 letters): [ E A S T E R ]

Click the clue to see a visual hint.
Highlight the bracketed space with your cursor to reveal the answer.

185. The ACPT in 11 Objects

March 13, 2013

11objects1. 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?)

182. pArtiCiPaTe

February 19, 2013

The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) is fast approaching and promises to be another epic event with games, guest speakers, wine and cheese, a talent competition, puzzling camaraderie, stuff to buy, and some of the year’s best puzzles. It takes place March 8-10 in beautiful downtown Brooklyn. ALL THE INFO IS HERE.

puzzle2The tournament crosswords vary from easy, breezy puzzles (#1, 4, and usually 6) to the infamous puzzle #5 that ferrets out the top contenders.

If you’d like to try a sample, here’s puzzle #2 I wrote for last year’s tournament. It’s tricky, but not a real killer. One thing to remember is that all of the tournament puzzles have titles and subtitles, which can sometimes be very helpful. This one is called “Boustrophedon.”

Download a pdf: PUZZLE #2
Download the answer pdf: ANSWER

172. Old Times

November 8, 2012

1. David Steinberg had his first crossword puzzle published in The New York Times at the age of 14. Now almost 16 years old, one of his hobbies is directing The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, digging up decades of old Times puzzles and converting them into electronic files. The growing collection of completed files can be found on xwordinfo.com (solve using Across Lite).

2. Anydate.com, an outfit that packages vintage New York Times stuff, offered to send me a free copy of their crossword collection in exchange for a link to their site. But I already owned that package, so they sent me their front-page presidential inaugurations historic collection instead.

I did my duty by including a link to their site, but I’m going a bit above and beyond here since I really love these old papers. Beyond the articles, it’s kinda fascinating to see how the design and price of the paper has changed through the years, as well as all the quirky ads and graphics.

169. P.S.

October 25, 2012

If you’re not familiar with PuzzleSocial on Facebook, you might want to check it out. Four top-quality crosswords by America’s best constructors are offered there every day — at no charge!

Three of my puzzles have run there in recent weeks (of the fun and easy variety). But, as an added challenge, I’m not going to tell you how to find them once you’re there. Perhaps it will help you discover all the other good crosswords to be had.

134. Puzzle Number FIVE

March 23, 2011

Like to experience the dastardliness of puzzle No. 5 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament? Here’s the one I wrote in 2009, resulting in a “crash and burn” for the vast majority of the field (within the 30-minute time limit). Puzzle No. 5 is not a way to make friends.

Click here to download a PDF
Answer PDF

An interesting tidbit behind this puzzle is that Will Shortz called me the week before the tournament, saying he needed a replacement for the No. 5 he had in hand (not one I’d written). Luckily, I had some ideas around that I could fashion into a 17×17 and picked out a solid one, erring on the side of surefire rather than taking a chance on something wild.

When I e-mailed Will the finished puzzle two days later, one of the theme entries wasn’t working for him. I replaced it, reconstructed and reclued half the puzzle and sent the revision over the next day. After a bit of clue editing and some test solving over the weekend, a nasty No. 5 was ready to foist on the suspecting masses.

If you’d like to try all of this year’s puzzles, there are two ways available. And the price is a bargain at only $20, either way:

Solve by MAIL (previous years are also available)

The cool part is that your puzzles will be scored so you can see how you stack up against the actual competitors.

Also, if you’d like to submit your contact info to get updates on next year’s tournament, CLICK HERE.

Don Christensen photo

129. S•pellet

October 22, 2010

Spellet is now available.