Default: 344805
Default with Spaces: 127400

NOTES: Rapper Pitbull’s We Are One (72) crept into the Billboard 100 charts last week. The 2014 FIFA World Cup anthem could be a favorite of crossword constructors due to its Ole Ola (72) subtitle chanted throughout the song. We’ll see if it gets more airplay closer to the summer. I just learned the term vaguebooking (72) this week. I gave it the probationary fill score though I like that the concept of posting under-explained social media status messages has inspired a word.

LISTS: I finished adding the Eugene Sheffer crossword entries that Alex supplied to the sharedoc. June Foray (65) was a entry not already in Default. I know I have 25-year-old graph paper in my filing cabinet with crossword grid theme attempt with the symmetric pairing JUNEFORAY and BILLSCOTT along with BULLWINKLEMOOSE/ROCKETJSQUIRREL. I also finished a Peter Broad segment that included barbecuer (60), gym membership (70), and launch sequence (75).

PUZZLE: Rice Milk #4


WORD (11) / PHRASE (5 6)

Growing WORD can explore moral ways
As they wrangle with Little League plays.
A young runner on first
With this thought may be cursed:
“Is it I morally wrong if I PHRASE?”

Comments contain the answer to Rice Milk #3 and may contain other spoilers. For information on solving transposals and other “flat” (verse puzzle) types, visit the National Puzzlers’ League’s Online Guide to the Enigma.



The sixth installment of DASH (Different Area, Same Hunt) takes place this Saturday in twelve different cities in the United States, as well as in London, England. I will be in Kansas City this weekend, which, unfortunately, is not one of the DASH host cities. I have participated in two previous DASHes, both times in Southern California, and had a great time solving puzzles while getting some pedestrian exercise around scenic areas. If that’s your kind of Saturday activity then check out the website to find a DASH location near you!




Six players each have two counters that are moved around a game board featuring a star-shaped pattern of hexagonal cells. The goal is to move the counters from the starting cells to home cells on the opposite side of the board. Counters may move to adjacent cells or make jumps in the style of Chinese checkers. Each cell in the board’s center contain a letter. On each turn a player chooses a central cell and receives a toss-up trivia question whose answer starts with the given letter. A correct answer earns a player the opportunity to move a counter though the chosen cell may dictate the move: if the player can move a counter to the cell he must, otherwise he may make any legal move.


Blockbusters was a favorite television game show from my childhood, and I made a homemade version for after-hours play at one of my first NPL conventions. The “rectangular” array of hexagons in the game give an advantage to one opponent. The television show offset this advantage by pitting a solo player against a family pair, but I used a triangular board and a “game of Y” winning requirement. Years later I considered a revision using a star-shaped board and entertained the idea of using the movement mechanic of Chinese checkers, which would add elements of strategy. I teamed up with Jeffrey Harris and came up with an after-hours game set for the 2008 convention in Denver. Jeffrey and I split the burden of writing questions. The pyramidal writing style is fun but Blockbusters games require a lot of content. Favorite questions from the 2008 session include:

  • What C is something that might lead to a pin, either as a move in professional wrestling or as a rope strung across the yard of a person who air-dries laundry?
  • What E was the cause of death for both King Minrekyawswa of Burma and sitcom character Chuckles the Clown, though only one was dressed like a peanut when crushed by the animal?
  • What G is traditionally used to herald the entrance of characters in a Chinese opera, and herald the exit of untalented performers on a 1970s Chuck Barris variety show?
  • What I is a place where a person who asks for a FARTFUL receives a child’s desk, which is because the children’s furnishings at this place often have adjective names and “fartful” means “speedy” in Swedish?
  • What J vanished on February 27, 2006, along with his red necktie, pinstriped pants, and trademark smirk, when his search engine website shortened its name to Ask-dot-com?
  • What M is a situation in contract bridge when a player has two 5-card majors with doubletons in clubs and diamonds, or the situation in any card game when a player initially receives the wrong number of cards?

Jeffrey moderated all of the games as I was the Denver convention host and was busy with other matters in the after hours. I only saw a few rounds of play, never a full game, but Jeffrey reported that games lasted about half an hour, which is what I expected. Some players noted a crucial difference between Kul-Len and homemade “Jeopardy!” games: often a player would know a trivia answer but not want to ring in because the chosen letter cell would force a disadvantageous movement of a counter. This was a deliberate game design partly intended to thwart trivia juggernauts, but for some the frustration of not being able to answer was more of a negative than a novelty.

Fireball Fortnightly News Crosswords


Peter Gordon is launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new season of his Fireball News Crosswords. The yearlong series will feature a new puzzle every two weeks rather than the weekly puzzles of previous campaigns. If you’re a fan of crosswords constructed by the top guy in the business and full of fresh entries culled from current events then go to the Kickstarter page and make a pledge.



This game contains ten categories representing different areas of knowledge. Choose one answer for each category and submit those answers to me. Your goal for each category is to choose a correct answer that is chosen by as few other players as possible. A correct answer scores 1 point plus 1 point for every other player who chooses the same answer. An incorrect answer receives a penalty score: the highest correct-answer score for the given category plus 1. The player with the lowest total score wins.


The categories in this game are named for cities mentioned in the 1946 Bobby Troub song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” though in most cases a category’s subject matter is only tangentially related to the city. The notation “11C” refers to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Research is not allowed. Reasonably close spelling is acceptable unless otherwise indicated. Email answers to me at tmcay [at] before 11:59 p.m. (MT) Wednesday, April 30.

1) Now you go through St. Louis…

Catholic Saint Medals is a mail-order retailer of medals and jewelry depicting patron saints of the Catholic Church. Choose one of the top twenty male patron saints, according to medal sales as reported by the company’s website (

2) …Joplin, Missouri…

The Ahrens-Flaherty musical Ragtime won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Original Score. Choose a Broadway musical that won the Best Original Score Tony in a subsequent year. As a selection aid, the initials of the winning musicals appear below, in alphabetical order.

A / AQ / H / ITH / KB / M / N / NTN / P / SA / TBOM / TDC / TLITP / TP / U:TM

3) …And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty…

Besides Oklahoma City, choose a U.S. state capital that is also the state’s most populous city according to 2012 U.S. Census estimates.

4) …You see Amarillo…

Choose an 11C word that comes from Spanish and contains a double L pronounced as a Y. The word must appear as a single-word, uncapitalized, boldface entry — no plurals or inflections. The pronunciation must be confirmed by 11C, either indicated by a “y” symbol or implicitly suggested by the omission of an “l” symbol.

5) …Gallup, New Mexico…

The Gallup organization conducts annual polls to determine the most admired man and woman “living today in any part of the world.” U.S. Presidents and First Ladies are popular responses to the polls. The 17 individuals pictured below, none of whom have ever held the position of President or First Lady of the United States, were named by at least one percent of respondents in the 2013 Gallup polls. Identify one of these individuals.



What was the length of Route 66, in miles, according to the sum of the two numbers obscured on this sign outside the Midpoint Cafe.


Tie scores will be broken by the answer closer to the correct distance.

6) …Flagstaff, Arizona…

Listed below are situations in auto racing (Indy and/or NASCAR) that are signaled by flags. Choose one of the situations and identify the color(s) of the associated flag. Your answer must include a letter followed by the flag color(s); the number of colors on the flag is indicated in parentheses. For multicolor flags you do not need to indicate patterns, just the colors.

a – Ambulance on course (2)
b – Caution; slow down (1)
c – Driver must return to pit to consult with race authorities (1)
d – Lead driver beginning final lap (1)
e – Oil, water, or debris on course (2)
f – Passing flag; slower drivers should yield to faster traffic (2)
g – Race is stopped (1)
h – Start of race/safe to proceed (1)
i – Winner has crossed finish line (2)

7) …Don’t forget Winona…

The following words and phrases are mnemonic devices culled from Wikipedia and related to various mathematical and scientific concepts:

  • FOIL

Identify the concept represented by one of these mnemonics. Your answer may either be a short explanation of the concept or a list of the elements corresponding to the letters/words of the mnemonic.

8) …Kingman…

Identify one of the chess pieces in the illustration below. The illustration includes both standard and nonstandard “fairy” pieces. The pieces are arranged in alphabetical order; verifiable alternate names are acceptable.


9) …Barstow…

Choose a seven-letter word that contains five different consonants that are in alphabetical order within the word. For purposes of this category, Y is a vowel. The word must appear in 11C as a single-word, uncapitalized, boldface entry or as an explicit or implicit plural or inflection of such an entry.

10) …San Bernardino

The illustration below features an early menu for the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant, which debuted in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1948. Identify one of the nine 1- or 2-word items partly obscured on the menu.





Default: 343659
Default with Spaces: 125055

NOTES: I watched Gravity this week (four down, five to go on last year’s Best Picture nominees) and added some space-related terms to the Notepad: deorbit (65), space debris (75), Kessler effect (65), and MMU (40). Hannibal Buress was a guest star on Ask Me Another this week and mentioned working on a goat farm (75). My sister has told me numerous times about her dream of starting a goat farm but I never thought of adding the phrase to Default until I heard it on a webcast. I finally got around to looking up the spelling of Maltesers (55), a candy brand occasionally referenced on the BBC program QI. I guess it’s just a British Isles variation on Whoppers malted milk ball chocolates.

LISTS: Alex Boisvert mined some Eugene Sheffer and Thomas Joseph published crosswords and added the new entries to the sharedoc. I remember the Sheffer crosswords from my college days — they ran in the local newspaper of the small Kansas town where I attended school. I pulled just over 500 non-matches from the list Alex posted. The new entries include some dry book and film titles (The Sea Lions (60), The Rite (60)) and long partials (your eyes (35)) but also many good words and phrases: beach blanket (80), bungee jumper (75), and tin roof sundae (80). I’m about halfway through the list and am very happy with the additions. Thanks, Alex!

Letter Go!


Last year I had the opportunity to encounter a set of five things. I learned that the names of these things are A, B, C, D, and E. In fact, these names were made verbally clear to me: “A as in Alpha, B as in Bravo, C as in Charlie, D as in David, and E as in Echo.” What are these things?

I read about these things in a Wikipedia article this week, which reminded me of my encounter from last year. Some of you might be familiar with these things. Others might need some more information than is offered in the previous paragraph. Feel free to ask yes-no questions, a la lateral thinking puzzles, in the comments.




(Visual Puzzle)

Players form two teams. In each round teams try to solve a picture rebus puzzle that is divided into pieces. Teams reveal pieces and earn a chance to guess the rebus by choosing cards in the style of the memory card game Concentration. Cards contain words, and if the chosen cards’ words match as members of a particular category then a rebus puzzle piece is revealed. Each round features 12 word cards and twelve matches, which means that each word is part of two matches: SHELL is a “brand of gasoline” but also a “pasta shape”; BOW TIE is a “pasta shape” but also an “item worn around the neck”; etc.

concentration puzzle

* * *

The picture rebus part of the game is a taken directly from the NBC game show of the same name, but the word matching is based on a category overlap mechanism I’ve used in other puzzles and games, e.g. Triple Bonds in Crowd-Pleasing Puzzles. The game debuted at a LA miniconvention. Andrew Bradburn was one of the players and he volunteered to help write subsequent iterations and also present the game at NPL conventions. In LA, the word cards were letter-size and distributed among the teams so that a player looking for match would choose two people to hold up their cards. At con, teams were smaller and the word cards were index cards arranged on a table. An amusing situation occurred in the debut game which featured the category “types of jelly.” The card words were PETROLEUM (also “things that come from a well”) and KY (also “state postal abbreviations”). The match was discovered, but one of the older players halted the proceedings so that someone could explain to her what KY Jelly was.