Default: 348201
Default with Spaces: 131245

NOTES: I finished season 4 of Game of Thrones last week and decided to put together re-add the show’s names and terms as a theme list for scoring adjustments and inclusion in the DWS database. The series offers some handy vocabulary for puzzles. Character names include Arya (50), Sansa (50), Shae (50), and  Theon (50). Actor names include Iain Glen (50), Iwan Rheon (50), and, of course, Oona Chaplin whose name currently appears to be the most common crossword entry to be clued with a GoT reference. Other crossword friendly terms include the continent of Essos (55) and the knight title Ser (45). I clued EYRIE as the Westeros locale in a puzzle earlier this year, but Francis Heaney scooped me by a few days with an almost identical clue for the entry in his fantastic “Flight Path” contest puzzle.

LISTS: I finished the Mark Diehl list of tens that contain at least one K. Some nice additions from that list include recipe book (80), think piece (80), and vodka tonic (85). The word skeuomorph (70) was new to me. It means a design ornamentation that imitates or references an older style or technology, such as faux wood paneling on a station wagon or the floppy disc icon used for the “save” command in some computer programs. Women’s work (10) is tricky. The singular form — woman’s work — could squeak by with a reference to the proverb: {It’s never done, per an old saying}. The plural is an archaism that would require an apologetic clue if it ever appeared as a crossword entry. Is there an approach that I’m missing?





Teams receive a series of four crossword puzzles — labeled “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Dinner,” and “Dessert” — over a span of 25 minutes. Each crossword has a loosely interlocked grid of 6-8 entries and cryptic clues in random order. Teams score points for solving puzzle entries and earn bonus points for perfect solutions and for discovering themes that connect the entries in a puzzle. Teams may get help by asking for grid entries that correspond to certain clues or the letters that go in certain squares; each instance of help incurs a deduction in the solving score. When 25 minutes elapse teams stop solving and calculate scores.

Cryptic Cafe was an adaptions of The Cross-Wits, a game show I watched in my youth. I planned to present it at a minicon in LA and decided to collaborate with Ron Sweet and use cryptic clues rather than the Merl Reagle-style pun clues associated with the television series. I devised the themes and Ron wrote the clues. During the game Ron did most of the talking while I handed out puzzles; he was the maître d’ and I was head chef. We devised the scores and time limit to encourage players to ask for hints and complete the puzzles perfectly. Most teams were averse to the optimization mechanic and preferred to solve without hints even if they only achieved a partial solution.

Fireball Newsflash Crosswords / Crosswords LA 2014 Contributors


Peter Gordon has launched a new Kickstarter campaign for his current events crossword puzzles, now branded as Fireball Newsflash Crosswords. The series will resemble his previous Fireball News Crosswords with puzzles distributed every two or three weeks rather than weekly. The campaign is only running for ten days so make sure you stop by his Kickstarter Page to get in on this great set of puzzles with clues from the news!

* * *

Elissa Grossman posted the contributor list for Crosswords LA. The puzzles and games at the 2014 Southern California tournament will be created by: Todd McClary, Andrea Carla Michaels, Melanie Miller, Trip Payne, David Quarfoot, Merl Reagle, John Schiff, Dave Shukan, Marc Spraragen, David Steinberg, Patti Varol, and Byron Walden. With the exception of yours truly, the puzzlemakers all have a connection with California as their current or former home — I believe this is a theme that tournament puzzle wrangler Amy Reynaldo is going for. The specific contribution of each puzzler will remain unknown until tournament day per tradition. I haven’t been told what anyone else on the list is doing but I’ve already begun speculating.

PUZZLE: Rice Milk #7


PHRASE (*6 4) / WORD  (10)

That new chatbot Eugene, I’ve just heard,
Passed the PHRASE, fooling nearly a third!
By computer conversin’
He’s seen as a person:
Max Headroom with no W-W-WORD.

Comments contain the answer to Rice Milk #6 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.



Default: 348183
Default with Spaces: 1301249

I have today’s Post Puzzler in the Washington Post (No. 219). Check it out!

NOTES: Last week I watched a clip of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for the first time. I knew from watercooler conversations with coworkers that one of the running gags of the show (gag in the revulsion sense) is the pasta dish topped with a sauce of margarine and ketchup — the dish is known as sketti (60). A&E latest reality offering Big Smo (60) about a country-hiphop (or hick-hop (70)) performer, has handy partial. An article about the World Cup mentioned the diabolica (72) as the obnoxiously loud noisemaker to succeed the vuvuzela at the games in Rio.

LISTS: I went through a few lists last week from sharedoc contributors. Dave Shukan’s entries included a fun trio of kitchen device brands: Chop-O-Matic (65)Dial-O-Matic (55), and Bass-O-Matic (65). I’ll bet he added the Dan Aykroyd fish-blender first and then added the Ronco gadgets that were the source of the parody. I recently asked Peter Broda to do some test-solving for me and, when he claimed that he was a poor puzzler, I made a comment in which I called bullshit. on his claim that he was a poor puzzler. Peter’s subsequent sharedoc additions included inflections of call bullshit and call bullshit on; great phrases but in the “25” category for language.


PUZZLE: Unthemely #53



I didn’t think about it until I was writing clues, but this Unthemely uses a grid pattern that is a mirror-reverse of my Crosswords LA playoff puzzle from 2012. The solved version of that puzzle is currently in 2012 champ Jordan Chodorow’s Facebook photo. I chose that pattern for the 2012 puzzle based on the openness of the middle section. Many tournament playoff grids have long diagonal walls of black squares and I wanted to try a contrasting design. Given my habits of collecting contemporary slang terms for my word list, the seed entry shouldn’t be hard to spot. Enjoy!

Lollapuzzoola 7 and Crosswords LA 2014


Some information on crosswords tournaments in the second half of the year has been posted.

Lollapuzzoola 7 is scheduled for Saturday, August 9 (that’s a Saturday in August) at the All Souls Church in Manhattan. Preregistration is available on the website — $25 per person; add $5 for admission to the post-tournament pizza party. More information, including the constructor list, will be revealed in the next few weeks. Tournament directors Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer work hard to make Lollapuzzoola a fun and irreverent twist on the traditional crossword tournament format. I’m excited to attend and see what they have in store for this year!

Tournament director Elissa Grossman has posted some preliminary information on Crosswords LA 2014. The sixth edition of the tournament, which benefits the nonprofit organization Reading to Kids, will be held in October though the exact date and location are yet to be determined. Elissa did announce that Amy Reynaldo has been appointed the “Puzzle Wrangler” for the event with Doug Peterson as “Factotum.” Amy and Doug are tournament pros and the event is sure to have a great selection of puzzles and activities.




Default: 347515
Default with Spaces: 130483

NOTES: I added btdubs (45) after hearing it in a few podcasts. The phrase it tricky to verify since it’s a vocal stylization of BTW. Google hits define the phrase, but few web pages use it in context where the shorter BTW would make more sense. Tyler Hinman told me that B-Dubs (55) is a slang term for Buffalo Wind Wings restaurants using the same “W = dubs” rationale. I saw Swedish pop star Tove Lo (60) debut on the Billboard charts this week. She could yield a clue alternative to the slithy Carrollian creature if she has staying power.

LISTS: More Mark Diehl tens this week, including conjugations of “make” verbal phrases. I added make a sale, make a fist, make a stop, and make a wish all at 65. The phrase make a go of (65) could have been added as make a goof, a point featured in an old Eugene Maleska solver correspondence anecdote. I gave a lower score to the old-fashioned make a funny (55), but I would enjoy referencing Foghorn Leghorn if I ever clued that phrase for a puzzle.



Eric Berlin posted on Facebook earlier this week that he had heard through the grapevine about the imminent folding of Games Magazine. The post prompted several responses about Games Magazine: fond nostalgia of its glory days and disappointment over its decline in recent years. Several puzzle fans of my generation described the discovery of Games Magazine as life-changing, and that seemingly hyperbolic assessment has a certain validity. In the pre-Internet 1980s Games Magazine was the only way for a puzzler outside the primary distribution area of the New York Times to get a glimpse of the puzzle community. There were other puzzle magazines on newsstands but Games was the only one reporting on National Puzzlers’ League, American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, MIT Mystery Hunt and other big gatherings that an agile-minded youngster in flyover country could dream about participating in one day. And the puzzles in Games were better.

I was introduced to Games Magazine by a science teacher in 1983. She photocopied puzzles from the magazine and distributed them as amusements for students who finished classwork early. The initial draws were the logic puzzles and picture puzzles. I had always been interested in cartooning and graphic layout, and the visual puzzles created by masters like Robert Leighton and Don Rubin were eye-opening in their ingenuity. The grid puzzles in the Pencilwise section were a bit intimidating but I eventually decided to test the waters with a 5×5 crossword grid — I figured that a puzzle small in size should be easy to solve. The puzzle turned out to be a warmup cryptic, and once I became acclimated to the wordplay and indicators I became a huge fan of cryptic crosswords without having an established foundation in regular crosswords. The contests in Games were intriguing, not just because of the varied subject matter and unusual prizes (a contest inspired by a puzzle presented at an international competition in Hungary offered as first prize a several pounds of paprika) but because of the implication that the magazine wanted to hear from its readers. Games published an “It’s Your Move” column with reader-submitted puzzles, generally little wordplay and logic baubles. I decided to try submitting cryptic crosswords. My first efforts were lame but the cryptics editor, Fraser Simpson, took a shine to me and helped me refine my grids and clues. Eventually, Fraser introduced me to the National Puzzlers’ League and coaxed me to attend a convention. Another life was changed.

My first published puzzle in Games was not a cryptic but a picture puzzle, inspired by crowded luau I attended on a high-school trip to Hawaii. I submitted a sketch…


…and Games cleaned it up and made a puzzle.


The cryptics printed in Games during the early 1980s were almost all themeless. Even though variety cryptics were running in Atlantic Monthly and Harpers the puzzle type didn’t hit my radar until they started appearing regualry in Games World of Puzzles. I made a few successful efforts in the variety cryptic style.


Aside from picture puzzles and cryptics I also constructed a handful of standard and variety crosswords. Letter Drops is based on a crossword that Will Shortz published in Games. Hopscotch is a grid form that I came up with in the 1990s; a new Hopscotch puzzle appeared in the premiere issue of Will Shortz Presents Wordplay.



Spoil Sports

In an old Autofill Project post I mentioned that I added to Default the entry SUPERBOWLL (Super Bowl L),  presumed to be the name the 2016 NFL championship. According to news released this week, the NFL is not going to use that name, rather it will brand the 2016 game as “Super Bowl 50” and then resume with Roman numerals the following year. The article also reports that Roman numerals were not used until Super Bowl V, though the first four Super Bowls are popularly referred to as I, II, III, and IV in historical reference. It’s possible that “Super Bowl L” will eventually receive the same treatment when archivists decide that it looks better listed between Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI. I’ll check back in a few decades.