This page is still under construction. Watch for additions and updates.
Monday, May 05, 2003
News (WPC - Qualifier): This year's World Puzzle Championship Qualifier is being held this year on May 31st, 2003. If you want to try your hand at making the US or Canadian teams, you should surf over and take a look.
There are a couple changes this year worth noting. The first change worth noting is that the competition is now the US Puzzle Championship (and accordingly even previously preselected members of the US WPC team will be competing). The other change is that Google is the lead sponsor of the championships - in fact it's the name sponsor, so from here on the championship is now the Google US Puzzle Championship. (ck/Google US Puzzle Championship official site)
News (Crosswords - Availability): The New York Times interactive unit has made some controversial moves with respect to its Premium Diversions pay-puzzle service recently. The first move was a 75% price increase on a week's notice or less for many subscribers (although solvers who read the forums could get one more year at the old rate). This increase came after a 100% increase the year before. This move - and particularly the way it was handled - gets a two thumbs down from me. (I was going to subcribe before the increase, but now I'm going to wait until next year (if I subscribe then).)
The other somewhat controversial move is the introduction of two Java applet solving options, one for collaborative solving, one for competitive solving. The competitive solving applet has been subject to people downloading the Across Lite version of the puzzle, completing it, then using their completed answers to get an unusually fast time. (One enterprising soul programmed his computer to do the typing and thus completed the Sunday puzzle in a blistering 12 seconds!) However, the Dutch company responsible for the applets has been quite responsive and helpful, so despite the issues and the growing pains, I am optimistic. This move gets a provisional two thumbs up from me. (ck/NYT Forums)
News (Crosswords - Editors): Charles Preston has retired as the editor of the USA Today crossword puzzle. His successor will be Timothy Parker, who will continue editing the Universal Crossword at the same time. Rates at the two markets (which differed considerably) will converge at the average of the two old rates. (ck/cruciverb)
Answer (NPR Puzzler - Substitute): The answer to the puzzle below is here. Jeffrey Harris was the only solver; I will award the prize as soon as I can figure out how to make a truly random drawing from only one entrant. (ck)
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Sports (NPR Puzzler - Substitute)Given that the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday puzzler was pre-empted this week, and given that yours truly is a somewhat wimpy National Puzzler's League member with something to contribute, I am proud to present, until the return of the NPR Puzzler, the NPL Weakened Addition Sunday Puzzler. One unlucky winner will be drawn from all entries received at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive some sort of puzzle-related tribute next week.
Here is today's puzzler.
The words in the list below are actually partially disguised members of the same category. What are the undisguised words?
(By the way, while you're here, the puzzle pages have been getting updated more frequently than my main page has. Do check them out while you're here (they're in the sidebar)).
Monday, January 13, 2003
News (Books - Apr./May./Jun.): Amazon.com often contains listings for books well ahead of their piublication dates. My research has come up with the following release dates for puzzle-related books in the second quarter of 2003:
World-Class Puzzles from the World Puzzle Championships, hardcover edition (I'm not sure which volume(s) this is referring to), edited by Will Shortz and Nick Baxter - Apr 8
Edited by Stan Newman: RH Spring Training Crosswords - Apr 11
Simon & Schuster Crossword Puzzle Book #231, edited by John Samson - Apr
Indiana Crosswords: Crosswords, Wordfinds and Games, by H. W. Kondras - Apr
The New York Times Crossword All-stars - Apr
Sit & Solve IQ Tests by Fraser Simpson - Apr
More Psychometric Testing: 1000 New Ways to Assess Your Personality, Creativity, Intelligence and Lateral Thinking - Apr
The Giant Book of Pencil Puzzles by Peter Gordon, Mike Shenk, the Diagram Group, Mayme Allen, Janine Kelsch, Mark Danna, Jim Sukach (et al?) - May
Mensa Ninety-Second Brainteasers by Alan Stillson - May
Stanley Newman's Sitcom Crosswords - May
The NYT Book of Beach Bag Crosswords - May
Random House Crosswords, Vol. 3 edited by Mel Rosen - May
NYT Sunday Crossword Puzzles (Will Weng, ed.) - May
The Crosswords Club Collection (Will Weng, ed.), Vol. 9 - May
The Original Pencil Pastimes Book of Crosswords - May
The Original Pencil Pastimes Book of Fun & Games - May
The Original Pencil Pastimes Book of Seek-A-Word - May
The Original Pencil Pastimes Book of Word Games - May
I Spy Funny Teeth: Riddles, by Jean Marzollo with photographs by Walter Wick - May
I Spy Ultimate Challenger: A Book Of Picture Riddles, by Jean Marzollo with photographs by Walter Wick - May
RH Summer Vacation Crosswords, edited by Stan Newman - Jun
The NYT Large Print Daily crossword puzzles - Jun
The New York Times Tough Crossword Puzzles Volume 11 - Jun
New York Times Daily Puzzles (Eugene Maleska, ed.) - Jun
Universal Crossword Puzzle Dictionary by Random House - Jun
Brain Busters: Mind Stretching Puzzles in Math and Logic, by Barry R. Clarke - Jun
The Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords, by Cox and Rathvon - Jun
RH Guide to Cryptic Crosswords, by Cox and Rathvon (reissue) - Jun
Super Strategies for Puzzles and Games: How to Find Solutions that Work and Plan Tactics that win (Saul X Levmore and Elizabeth Early Cook, published by Gramercy (reissue) - Jun
This and the posting below cover most of my list, and I'll clean up the remaining entires on my list in my next posting. (ck/amazon.com)
News (Books - Jan./Feb./Mar.): Amazon.com often contains listings for books well ahead of their piublication dates. My research has come up with the following release dates for puzzle-related books in 2003:
All Squared Up - Tic-tac-toe for Geniuses by Walter Joris - Jan
Dissections, Plain and Fancy by Greg Frederickson (possible reissue) - Jan
Mensa How to Excel at IQ Tests by Robert Allen - Jan
More Hocus-Pocus: Intriguing Bridge and Logic Puzzles, by Erwin Brecher & Julian Pottage - Jan
Crossword Names to Know, by Shirley Kading - Jan
Clue Mysteries, by Vicki Cameron and Nigel Tappin - published by Running Press - Feb
The 3rd New Grab a Pencil Book of Crosswords - Feb
The 3rd New Grab a Pencil Book of Seek-A-Word - Feb
New York Times Sunday Omnibus (Maleska-edited puzzles) volume 6 - Feb
Mensa Secret codes for Kids by Robert Allen - Mar
Mensa Mind Mazes for Kids by Robert Allen - Mar
Los Mejores Problemas Logicos by Rosalind Moore (published in Spanish) - Mar
(The Boston Globe Sunday Crossword Puzzles - Mar 11
Mensa Super Crosswords for Kids by Trip Payne - Mar
Funtime Family Puzzles by Helene Hovanec - Mar
Stanley Newman's Literary Crosswords: Something Novel (note that the Amazon date differs from Patrick Jordan's date on his list at cruciverb.com) - Mar
The NYT Acrostic Puzzles volume 9 - Mar
Charles Preston: Crosswords In Large Type #27 - Mar
The American Sign Language Puzzle Book: The Fun Way to Learn to Sign by Justin Segal et al, published by McGraw-Hill - Mar
The Original Big Book of Pencil Pastimes by James F. Minter, published by Bristol Park Books - Mar
Wedding Trivia by Courtney Cook and Bruce Lansky - Mar
The Baby Trivia [sic] by Courtney Cook and Bruce Lansky - Mar
(Side notes on those last two: The Amazon pages for both "Wedding Trivia" and "The Baby Trivia" as of this writing says that "This title will be released on December 31, 1969. You may order it now and we will ship it to you when it arrives." (!) The publication date further down the page in both cases is the one used here. Also, judging by the other books by this team, these books may or may not be true trivia quiz books but may instead be intended for showers and the like. (ck/Amazon.com)
Sunday, January 05, 2003
News (Books): Those of you who have picked up the brilliant book of tough puzzles by Frank Longo entitled Cranium Crushing Crsswords (by Sterling) might be curious about how Frank is going to follow it up. Well, here is your answer: Frank's next book will probably be out late in 2003 (in time for the holiday gift-giving season, perhaps), and will contain the free-form crosswords which GAMES calls "Pencil Pointers". This style of crossword (popular in Germany and, as I recall, elsewhere in Europe also) has the clues contained in the non-answer grid areas within the diagram, and does not follow the rules about symmetry or unchecked letters that typical North American crosswords follow. These puzzles will be slightly smaller than the pencil pointers in GAMES (15x21, as opposed to 19x23), but will be of the roughly the same difficulty level (that is, well within the ken mere mortals) and will also feature the multiple interlocking long entries and open areas commonly seen in this more relaxed style of gridding. (ck/Frank Longo via the NYT Crossword forums)
Saturday, October 05, 2002
News (International): This year's World Puzzle Championships in Oulu, Finland have been completed. In a bit of an upset, Japan placed first in the team competition, Germany placed second, and the normally-dominant US team placed a relatively surprising third. Niels Roest won the individual title, with Roland Voigt edging his brother Ulrich in the playoff. (Also, for any fans I might have out there (Hi, Mom!), yours truly had 5 puzzles used in this year's WPC's.) There is a statistical overview plus links to reports from several sources at Cihan Altay's WPC 2002 page. (ck/several)
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Link (Article - ACPT Contestant): If I were the subject of this article, I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. See if you can spot the out-and-out factual error and be prepared to take a few things with a grain of salt. (ck/NYT Forums)
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
News (Misc. - Cruise): There will once again be a puzzle cruise this year, sponsored by the American Crossword Federation, from August 18th to the 25th, hosted by Creators' Syndicate and Random House puzzle Editor Stan Newman. For more information, follow this link. (ck/cruciverb)
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
News (NY Sun - Update): The New York Sun's debut was today, and as promised contained a crossword (by one Ogden Porter). It also contained (in the "usual" spot) the solution to the previous New York Sun crossword - from January 4th, 1950 (the last issue of the previous newspaper named the New York Sun) - with the note "At last, you can check your solution!" (ck/NYTimes forums)
Report (Catchup - ACPT): Over the past several months, one of the things I did while not updating this page was to attend the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut (it was my very first time there), and it was quite an adventure. Even getting there was an adventure - a flight delay and missed connection in Toronto (fortunately Air Canada put me on the next flight to LaGuardia an hour later), then a circuitous route to Grand Central station thanks to a bus driver that should've known better. At least from grand Central to Stamford everything was clear sailing (whew!).
When making my plans I consciously planned to arrive a day before the tournament actually started. This would accomplish several things: it would allow me to get my bearings and determine whether my mild allergies and such were going to be problematic; it would allow me to book a cheaper flight; it would allow me to meet up with a not insignificant number of fellow National Puzzlers' League members who I knew were also arriving early; and it helped me extend the parameters of the weekend so to make it less hectic in the context of my work schedule. I was able to meet many NPL Members I had known only by Internet or print over the course of the weekend; I was also able to play games with many of these people Thursday night until the wee hours of the morning, including "Pyramid" (like the final round of the game show, except categories to exemplify ranged from the mundane to "Paintings by Salvador Dali Parton") and a new one to me, "Pass the chicken." I don't think I did too much worth noting except "meet and greet" Friday until things finally got underway. One notable thing I remember from Friday was being introduced to Stan Newman (Random House and Creator's Syndicate editor) who had published one of my puzzles a number of years ago. When he heard my name, he instantly recalled where I had been living when I sent him the puzzle, with no prompting whatsoever from me. I can't always remember what I had for breakfast the previous morning, so I was definitely suitably impressed.
Friday's festivities began with a general "icebreaker" session of sorts, including an audio crosswordese quiz by Martin Eiger (well done, but not well done by me), and the traditional "Pick your poison" contest where participants pick two puzzles out of six (well, six this year; 3 in the first set, 3 in the second), and the two people who finish their two puzzles the fastest for that particular combnation get a prize. I was one of those two for the cryptic crossword/spiral combination, and picked up a word game called "Syzygy" for my prize. It felt good to have won something before the tournament even "officially" started. After the "icebreaker session was the wine and cheese reception. I was interviewed by a reporter during the wine and cheese, but did not prove interesting enough to make it into the final article. I was also interviewed during the afternoon by a NPR reporter who looked strangely like a college sophomore originally from somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Woebegon. There were journalists and such everywhere during the course of the weekend.
Saturday brought three puzzles in the morning and three in the afternoon. I solved these (and Sunday morning's seventh) at what I felt was a brisk yet comfortable pace, yet apparently made errors on at least 3 of the puzzles. Fortunately for me, one of these puzzles was puzzle five, which I was able to finish at least 5 minutes ahead of 90% of the field on, which more or less offset the effect of the error. If I had made it through one more puzzle error-free, I would have made it to the C finals. Oh, well.
For some reason - perhaps because I enjoyed the thrill of competing more than I realized - the Saturday evening activities seemed a little dull to me, so I won't really comment on them here. Sunday's playoffs (after puzzle 7 and about an hour for scoring it) were all exciting, although the battle for second during the A final was probably the best part of them for the spectators, pitting Al Sanders (of the slow and steady ilk) against Zack Butler who was highly animated and expressive. Zack got an early lead on Al but then got stuck with an error in his diagram which he found and fixed just in time to edge Al Sanders out. (Incidentally, Zack is a top ten puzzler in the World Puzzle Championships (math/logic/observation-style puzzles) as well as placing high in the crossword tournament, which flabbergasts me just a little.
Despite my inability to finish puzzles cleanly (although this was a difficult year to do so in, with errors common in puzzles 2, 3, and 5 at the least), I was able to finish quite respectably. Throughout the course of the weekend, a number of longstanding ACPT participants (most of whom were NPL members) had been encouraging me to provide Fraser Simpson, the perpetual winner in my geographic category, with some stiff competition. I am happy to report that I placed first in my geographic category ("Foreign" - that is, Non-US), third in the "Rookies" category, and 55th overall (which places me in the top 15 percent of competitors. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the whoop the erupted when I went up to receive my 1st Foreign trophy.
On the return train from Stamford to New York, I was fortunate to be in a group which included a number of puzzle people including Mike Shenk (author of the very nice finals puzzle) and Ellen Ripstein (last year's champion). I was also able to explore a goodly portion of Central Park the morning of the following Monday. All in all, it was a great experience, and I'd love to be able to do it again next year. (ck)
Monday, April 15, 2002
News (More Catchup - Puzzles): A new daily paper in NYC, the New York Sun starts publication on April 16th. It will carry a daily puzzle Monday through Friday (from the very first issue on) that will be edited by Peter Gordon, who has recently been an editor at Sterling Publishing, and prior to that, a staffer at GAMES Magazine. There are no plans currently that yours truly is aware of to syndicate the puzzle and it will not be available online as of the paper's launch or shortly thereafter, but another good market for quality puzzles - and not only that, this one's rates are quite decent - is good news for constructors and therefore solvers also.
Stylesheet details are available at cruciverb for potential contributors. (ck/several)
Link (Catchup - Article): Shortly before the crossword tournament in March, the New Yorker published a puzzle-related article largely about Henry Hook, but also mentioning other notable puzzle people. (CK/cruciverb)
News (More Catchup - Editors): Despite what the webpages for them say, Editorship of the Crosswords Club will apparently be taken over By Stan Newman as Mel Rosen's term concludes (as noted in an earlier report here). Likewise, apparently Leslie Billig will be taking over Stan's editorship with the Uptown Puzzle Club at the roughly the same time. More news as there is more. (CK/C-WOW (Crosswords and other words, a regular e-mail feature by Barry Tunick which now is no more.))
Sunday, April 14, 2002
News (Catchup - Puzzles): The best puzzles of 2001 according to NYT forumites, both nominees and winners in seven categories, may be found here. (CK/NYT Forums)
News (Catch-up - Puzzle - Noteworthy): Frank Longo tied his own record of 54 words (a low word count, which means more longer words are involved in the construction, meaning the construction is more difficult) in a standard daily-sized crossword puzzle in the Dec. 15, 2001 New York Times puzzle. What made this feat even more amazing was that the puzzle was composed entirely of entries 6 letters or longer - which makes it even more amazing! (ck/NYTimes Forums)
News (Catchup - Misc): The 3000th Will Shortz-edited New York Times puzzle was published this past December. Barry Haldiman composed a tribute puzzle at the time; I will attempt to dig it up for you. (CK/NYT Forums)
First Update Since November (ouch!): Yes, it's true - I'm finally updating the site. Regular life is still crazy for me (I've been spending half my time since Jan. 1 out of town on work-related stuff) but I'm visiting my parents now and I'm finally managing some catch-up. (ck)