221. Uh…Oh!

April 16, 2015

uhohI’ve wanted to tackle the subject of creativity for a long time, and now I have. On April 15, I launched a new blog called Uh…Oh!

Creativity isn’t a magical skill bestowed upon a select few at birth. It’s an ability everyone possesses.

Uh…Oh! will explore how creativity works and how to tap into it. It will delve into topics such as the importance of perseverance, the myth of brainstorming, the unconscious, mood, the days of yore when muses ruled the creative universe, the androgynous outlook, brain research, psychology, art, science, and who knows what else. It’s a fascinating field with many intriguing avenues to explore.

In addition, you’ll find interviews, profiles, videos, guest columns, brainteasers to strengthen your creative wiring, and lots of original and vintage images.

The quick address for getting there: http://uhoh.xyz


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 »


219. pAlinDroMes (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.


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.


211. It’s a Celebrity Funfest!

October 9, 2014

funfestcoverNow available: People Celebrity Puzzler: Holiday Funfest!

Note: Although the title is Holiday Funfest, all of the puzzle themes are apt for any time of the year.

Our extra-snazzy Bonus Section, titled “The 12 Days of Puzzler,” presents themes such as the “A Partridge Family Tree” (the 1st day), “Calling All Birds” (4th day), “Made a Milk Ad” (8th day), “Lords: A Heaping!” (10th) and, of course, “Drummers Drumming” (12th), featuring Ringo Starr and his paradiddling brethren.

funfestoffice The rest of the book includes George (the recently married one and the future English king), theater concession-stand goodies (with photo clues!), Nyong’o, Colbert, Aniston (of course), Strahan, Upton, celebrity-couple portmanteaus, and a crossword tribute to your favorite board games. Over 75 puzzles in all!

Photo, left: my People art directing home-away-from-home.


210. Heroes & Mystery

June 23, 2014

heroesAvailable now:
Hunting for Heroes
Includes 40 unique puzzles, plus full-page articles on the Poison Squad; Sgt. Reckless, the Korean War’s bravest horse; women spies of The Civil War; the Star Trek star Martin Luther King Jr. looked up to; Brooklyn’s unlikely chess whizzes; five amazing super-rodents; a 100-year-old marathoner; hero kids around the world; and tons more! [CLICK for more info]

mysteryPlunging into Mystery
Includes 40 unique puzzles, plus full-page articles on Clever Hans, the four-legged adding machine; Strasbourg’s dancing plague, what do dreams mean?; the White House’s secret defenses; the pea-headed children of Woolpit, England; did a U.S. vice president’s daughter really walk the plank?; a Pacific city built of huge lava logs; and tons more! [CLICK for more info]


209. Final Impressions

March 10, 2014

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.

Click on the titles to enlarge: 1. Easels, 2. Winners, 3. Invisible Man

acpt-easels3acpt-winnersacpt-don


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).
sculpture


207. If You Build It

January 15, 2014

builditLast Thursday I caught a showing of If You Build It, a new documentary by director Patrick Creadon.

In it, a pair of designer-activists sets up shop in North Carolina’s poorest county. They teach a group of high school students with no previous architectural skills how to design and build a structure for the town. The program is called Studio H. Read the rest of this entry »