PUZZLE: Rice Milk #1


ONE (5 4) / TWO (3 6)

Can’t get IRS paperwork done?
Try their video game; it’s more fun!
Look for TWO (refund credits)
With three e-file edits.
Ten-thousand will earn you a ONE.

Comments may contain spoilers. For information on solving transposals and other “flat” (verse puzzle) types, visit the National Puzzlers’ League’s Online Guide to the Enigma.




Each player is randomly assigned a celebrity identity and a code name. Celebrity names are printed on nametags that  players wear for all others to see, but code names are kept secret. Each player also receives a “contract” for an assassination target. The contract includes the code name of the target player/celebrity and a trivia fact about the celebrity. Finally, each player also starts the game with a poker chip that can either be redeemed for information or used as a bullet in an assassination attempt. Players mingle in mixer fashion while noting the celebrity identities printed on the nametags. When a player thinks he had found the celebrity/player matching his contract he may attempt an assassination by confirming the target player’s code name while handing the player a poker chip. If the attempt is successful then the target is “dead” and must forfeit any poker chips, including the one just used, to the assassin. The dead player also gives his contract to the assassin, thus assigning the assassin a new target. If the assassination attempt is unsuccessful the target player keeps the poker chip and both players continue mingling. A player who needs more information on a target celebrity may trade a poker chip to the moderator for an additional trivia fact; there are three facts total per target. A player without a poker chip may receive one from the moderator, pending supply and with a time penalty. Dead players may continue mingling and collecting chips from unsuccessful assassination attempts but may not pursue any targets. The contracts player who outlives all opponents wins.

* * *

I attended my first National Puzzlers’ League convention in 1998 and became interested in hosting game parties modeled after the NPL convention program. Shooting Stars, a cocktail-hour variation on the live-action game Assassin, was the mixer at my first game party. Players reviewing the nametags noted a gallows humor in the choice of celebrities, which included John F. Kennedy, Phil Hartman, Sharon Tate, Marvin Gaye, and Selena. Additional trivia facts were intended to provide more helpful clues. This set was used for one of the celebrities.

1.  Your target was a celebrity presenter on “Hollywood Talent Scouts.”  The most famous “discovery” your target presented on that series was Marilyn McCoo.

 2.  Your target was one of the first disc jockeys to earn a six-figure salary.

 3.  Your target performed in several television movies, two Disney films, a variety show, and is probably best remembered for playing Colonel Hogan in “Hogan’s Heroes.”

The management of game materials was a bit clunky and the use of poker chips was probably unnecessary but players had fun, as my brother-in-law Don and friend Robin demonstrate.




I wanted to mention a few puzzle hunts coming up next month. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend either of them though I have friends who will be attending them.

BAPHL9: Forbidden Rhode Island is set for Saturday, April 5 in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The title suggests a theme influenced by a cooperative board game. The organizing team includes Dan Katz who is squeezing this event in among preparations for his upcoming wedding! There is concern among some BAPHL regulars about whether Providence fits the scope of “Boston Area,” but full confidence in this group’s ability to produce a satisfying puzzle event.

EPP14: Hatching A Devious Plan will be held in Auburn, Alabama on Saturday, April 12. Hunt coordinator Eric Harshbarger is planning an Easter-themed extravaganza with more egg puns than a Vincent Price guest appearance on Batman. The teams are all identified by pastel colors and I will be rooting for the Violet team made up of Amy Barker, Jeffrey Harris, Robert Hutchinson, Jeff Schwartz, and Ben Smith. Good luck, Violet! Watch out for that Wonka gum!



Default: 341578
Default with Spaces: 122824

NOTES: Congratulations to new EGOT member Robert Lopez (65) who won the Best Original Song Oscar, with his spouse Kristen Anderson-Lopez, for “Let It Go” from Frozen. A few days after the Oscars I reluctantly added Adele Nazeem (50), which is the popularly approved spelling of John Travolta’s introduction gaffe of “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel. The first episode of the Fox TV reboot of Cosmos was good, not great, but I jotted down Virgo Supercluster (80) and ship of the imagination (75). An AV Club recap of a recent Walking Dead episode referred to the classic drinking game as Never Have I Ever (75). I remember the game as I Never (70) — anyone else have a different name for this game? Neologisms added to the Notepad this week include mactor (70) (portmanteau of model and actor) that I picked up from Rob Cesternino’s Survivor podcast and the 21st-century tech malady text neck (80).

LISTS: I finished a segment of Mark Diehl’s 10-letter entries that contain the letter X. Some nice additions include paint mixer (75), popcorn box (80), tuxedo sofa (80), and X-Treme X-Men (75). This afternoon I worked a bit on a revision list containing some 39-score entries that are candidates for promotion into fill range. One slightly rescored entry, from the “There’s a Word for That?” Department, is hosel (40), the cavity in a gold club head that the shaft fits into.

PUZZLE: World Play


The names of two world nations, when their initial letters are exchanged, become the names of two items that are members of another category. What are the nations and items?

Comments may contain spoilers

GOINGS-ON: ACPT 2014 / P&A Magazine 48


The 2014 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament just concluded in Brooklyn, New York. Dan Feyer maintained his championship streak, taking home his fifth silver bowl, with Tyler Hinman and Howard Barkin finishing second and third respectively. Congratulations to all the finalists!

I’ll receive a packet of the tournament materials by mail in a few days, but I couldn’t resist checking out the scans of the completed puzzles as I cheered on the participants from home. The grids look pretty good this year, though some of the themes aren’t readily evident from the entries (I have an idea on Puzzle 5, but I need to how it was executed when I see the clues).

I feel some temptation of attending ACPT in 2015 with the prospect of the tournament returning to Stamford, Connecticut. While I don’t have a special need to put my flagging crossword-solving skills to the test, the Stamford Marriott always had an appealing, slumber-party atmosphere during tournament weekend. It may not be possible to replicate those good times of the past, but a return is worth considering.

* * *

Issue 48 of P&A Magazine is available. The regular e-newstand price of Foggy Brume’s bimonthly puzzle publication is hardly prohibitive, but this time the issue is FREE! There’s no reason not to check out this awesome magazine with word puzzles, logic challenges, and a multi-page extravaganza.

Speaking of Foggy extravaganzas, the Puzzle Boat II will set sail later this month. My crew from the Puzzle Boat’s maiden voyage plans to muster again for this maritime mega-extravaganza. If you like puzzle hunts, you should assemble a team and check it out!

Change is Good


Welcome to Life as a Puzzle — the latest retooling of my presence in the blogosphere.

For several years I wrote The Autofill Project, a blog about word lists used by crossword-constructing software. I started developing word lists when I acquired Crossword Compiler back in the ’90s. I figured that blog dedicated to this pastime could keep me motivated and facilitate a dialog with other word-list enthusiasts. The Autofill Project yielded some good work opportunities and helped me organize an active group of puzzle constructors who exchange word-list data off-site, but the actual discourse had gone stale. I wanted to write about broader topics in the puzzle world but felt that the blog wasn’t suited for discussion outside of database management. It was time for change.

This new blog will be an all-purpose sounding board on projects and events in the puzzle community. Some posts will feature discussions of my own puzzle work as I assemble a”Curriculum Vitae.” I will still report on the Autofill Project occasionally, in an abbreviated form, and I will continue to post original puzzles including Unthemely crosswords.

To life!