January 15, 2014
Last 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 »
December 28, 2013
Dates, holidays, mice.
Download a PDF in
two convenient sizes:
• Click here for LARGE
• Click here for NOT SO LARGE (2/sheet)
Click on the image at right for a preview of the large calendar.
December 9, 2013
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.
December 5, 2013
Here’s a “fun” puzzle, adapted from one that appears in iFlush: Hurtling thru History. Click on the image to download a PDF.
November 11, 2013
Last Tuesday morning, I met up with Chaeli Mycroft (2011 winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize) and her mother Zelda in New York City.
These two women (Chaeli is now 19) are the core of the Chaeli Campaign, an organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, that works to help children with disabilities. Chaeli was born with cerebral palsy but has turned that into an asset, raising money and awareness and speaking up for those who can’t.
I came to know Chaeli while writing about her for an upcoming book, iFlush: Hunting for Heroes. She certainly qualifies as a hero (here’s a four-minute video that tells her story) and, after our meeting, I now know her mother qualifies as well! She’s a strong force and voice for the cause … and someone who won’t let anyone depart without a big bear hug.
Chaeli is a magnet for important awards, and she was in town to receive the 2013 World of Children Award. But she had a few extra days, so I arranged a change of pace from the hoity-toity world of important awards and fund-raising charities — a visit to MAD magazine.
We met up just south of Grand Central Station to grab a round of coffees at Starbucks, then hopped in a cab — NYC has a fleet of 233 cabs with wheelchair lifts — and made our way over to MAD headquarters at 1700 Broadway.
I think the MAD crew got as much a kick out of it as Chaeli and Zelda did.
Click on any of the photos to enlarge. TOP: Editor Dave Croatto, Art Director Sam Viviano, Chaeli, me, and Associate Art Director Ryan Flanders. MIDDLE: Chaeli and Zelda in the DC Comics reception area. BOTTOM: Chaeli’s photo now graces MAD‘s “Celebrity Board.” (The two MAD photos by Lana Limón.)
October 29, 2013
Available today: Inside MAD, a behind-the-scenes look at MAD magazine,
$29.95 cheap $19.97 cheaper.
MAD’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” chimes in, as do celebrities and MAD editor John Ficarra, who has this to say in his foreword: “Inside MAD offers a rare look into the twisted minds of the writers and artists who have produced the magazine for the past 61 years. I would like to say it’s illuminating and insightful, but unfortunately I can’t — I’ve read it.”
October 9, 2013
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.
October 8, 2013
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.
September 26, 2013
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.
August 16, 2013
An old, never-used sketch, circa 1995 (click to enlarge at your own risk):
July 11, 2013
GEICO TV AD: Old MacDonald is asked to spell COW in a spelling bee.
Old MacDonald: Cow. C-O-W-E-I-E-I-O. [buzz]
BETTER?: Old MacDonald is asked to spell GEICO.
Old MacDonald: Geico. G-C-E-I-O. [buzz]
May 25, 2013
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.
April 28, 2013
125 Brand-New Anagram Puzzles is now available for your solving pleasure.
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.
• Read more about it on Amazon.com
April 11, 2013
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.