82. Puzzling Thoughts…

March 3, 2008

marriott.jpgabout the 2008 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I’ll have this week’s cartoon up at some point, but it’s much easier to string together a few random (spoiler-free) thoughts than think up a cartoon:
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52. Clue Rules, updated

November 16, 2007

Post #17, the list of Crossword Clue Rules, has gotten a bit of massaging since it was first posted about two months ago. Part of this is thanks to a few behind the scene suggestions passed my way. One somewhat new way of looking at slang usage (for me anyway) is now included in rule #5: “there are three basic categories of words — standard, informal, and slang — and a clue can often move one category without further hint.”

34. Puzzling Thoughts…

October 10, 2007

wink.jpgabout Wink Martindale. I noticed answers.com has him listed as a spoken word artist. And it got me to thinking that crossword constructors could have a highfalutin title like that too. Word arrangement artist is nice, except that it leaves out the clue-writing part. How about word manipulation artist? Or am I overlooking something that’s even more magniloquent?

If you’d like to learn more about Wink, such as the fact that his real name is Winston C. Martindale, click on the photo above to go to Wink’s World

29. Puzzling Thoughts…

September 26, 2007

about my first MAD magazine submission, which I made at the age of 14 (see below). It included a cover letter with a snappy “sell” line that my father suggested (top right). As you can see, it inspired an even snappier response from the MAD Editors.

My next submission came 20 years later. Unfortunately I had it delivered by messenger on the same day that someone tried to break into their offices. I got a phone call from the art director the next day (on speaker phone, with others listening) to question me as a suspect in the case!

I managed to elude capture and finally made my first sale six years later — a page of celebrity anagrams. I’ve included six of them below, which you can try your luck at deciphering (keep in mind they’re from the year 2000). Answers in the comments.


1. TRASH WONDER _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _
2. HAD ANTICS IN BRA _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
3. THE GLORIFIED FAKE _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _
4. ODD IN MANNERS _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _
5. LO-FAT CHICK/L.A. STAR _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
6. ERROR MADE—PLANS HALT [it’s not a person]
_ _ _ . _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _

25. Puzzling Thoughts…

September 13, 2007

about The Partridge Family. It turns out I’m not the first person in my family to have a published crossword puzzle. My wife, Mary Dee, beat me out by about 25 years with this creation.


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21. Puzzling Thoughts…

September 5, 2007

about favorite clues. A couple of recent posts here got me thinking about my favorite crossword clue that I’ve written. Not the best or funniest or cleverest, just my favorite. This is the clue: Extinct Namibian shrub genus: Var.

Pretty bad, isn’t it? But there’s a reason for that. There are also a few interesting incidents surrounding the puzzle in which it appeared (NYT, January 15, 2004). You can try the puzzle if you’d like [CLICK HERE for a PDF] or just read on. Sorry, Across Lite won’t work for it. Read the rest of this entry »

19. Puzzling Thoughts…

August 30, 2007

about coffee. Coffee is the world’s second favorite drink (after water) and the beverage of choice for many puzzle solvers. So what could be better than a palm-size, 320-page puzzle and trivia book about coffee?

COFFEE TIME debuts Friday, August 31st ($8.95), and I challenge you to read the book and not find 100 interesting things about coffee that you didn’t know before. Even better, the book is filled with an entertaining and amusing array of original crosswords, sudoku, word puzzles, brainteasers, word searches, acrostics, mazes, quizzes, and cryptograms. Here’s a sneak peek inside… Read the rest of this entry »

17. Puzzling Thoughts…

August 26, 2007

about crossword clues. The subject of crossword clue rules, and the lack of a written list of them, recently came up on The New York Times crossword forum. There are a few places I know of that address the topic. Patrick Berry’s Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies and Matt Gaffney’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crossword Puzzles & Word Games have lots of information on writing clues. Also, there’s Sage Advice on cruciverb.com (some cluing discussion); The NYT Crosswords to Boost Your Brainpower (with solving and cluing tips from Will Shortz and Frank Longo); and Amy Reynaldo’s How to Conquer the NYT Crossword Puzzle (although it’s more about solving than cluing).

In an attempt to remedy this situation a bit, I wrote down the first 20 rules [updated to 23] of crossword cluing that came to mind. It’s certainly not the complete or final word on the topic, but I think it addresses most of the main issues. Read the rest of this entry »

11. Puzzling Thoughts…

August 10, 2007

about crossword constructors’ other lives. Puzzlemakers are a motley hodgepodge of humanity. Or an impressive cross-section of talent, depending on your style of cluing. Either way, they certainly account for a lot of different occupations. Read the rest of this entry »

9. Puzzling Thoughts…

August 3, 2007

…about middle initials. I got an official piece of correspondence from Will Shortz one day. Printed on it was the name William F. Shortz. My first thought was that Will Shortz seems much more fitting. My second thought was, “I wonder what the F stands for?” It seems to me I actually asked him once, but if I did I’m not remembering the answer. I’m betting Frederick. He’s definitely not a Farnsworth or Ferdinand. Read the rest of this entry »