Default: 360989
Default with Spaces: 144845

NOTES: I sometimes put VH1’s Video Countdown on in the background when I’m working on weekends. On a recent episode I saw an interview with Walk the Moon lead singer Nicholas Petricca (65). I noticed that his last name is an anagram of “practice” and I wonder if he’s ever played Carnegie Hall. The entry CUER came up in editing work last week. I had assumed that this “one who cues” noun form appeared in unabridged dictionaries but I couldn’t find an example in my library. I changed my fill score from 45 to 30. Is there a dictionary reference that I’m missing?

LISTS: I’m getting behind on the sharedoc but added a handful of new entries last week including museum tour (70), music stands (78), and NBC Studios (75). The full name of Star Trek character Nyota Uhura (55) could possibly get some traction as it has been adopted by the J. J. Abrams reboot film series. As I added the entry to Default I though of this trivia clue possibility for UHURA: {Fictional character whose first name, Nyota, means “star” in Swahili}.

PUZZLE: Unthemely #66



There is, of course, a minitheme in the seed entries of this crossword puzzle, but I’ve deiced to keep the puzzle in the Unthemely series.

At the time of posting the final results of the 38th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament have been posted. Dan Feyer, edging out Tyler Hinman by a half-second on the playoff puzzle, takes home his sixth consecutive A-Division title. Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project leader David Steinberg won the C Division. Congratulations to all the top finishers at the tournament!

Also, congratulations to Caleb Madison, who was selected as the editor of the new crossword puzzle for BuzzFeed. Puzzles will begin appearing this summer, and I’m interested to see the spec sheet.

Ian’s Labyrinth (Part 5)


This Post contains SPOILERS of puzzles that appear the book The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker, specifically ones in Chapter 2: Joining the Clubs. 

My nephew Ian is on spring break. He and his dad brainstormed some road trip ideas but they all fell through for one reason or another. They decided to hang out in Denver for the weekend. Ian tried his first puzzle room — he enjoyed the concept quite a bit — and then he spent the night at my place where we ate junk food, watched movies, and solved puzzles.

Our Maze of Games cosolve was The Chairman of the Board in chapter two. It’s basically a grid puzzle so I offered clues to Ian to see what he could solve, and tried rephrasing the clues if he was having trouble. In many cases, Ian simply struggled with crosswordese that puzzle fans learn from experience.

“The clue is ‘Gold, in Madrid.’ Do you know the Spanish word for gold?”
“Okay, it’s ORO. Probably no reason you would know that other than puzzles. Or, maybe some of your Spanish-speaking schoolmates would have reason to mention it.”
“Not so far.”

Because the puzzles in the book are written using the sensibility of the 19th century, I could help Ian by translating to the modern era.

“13-Across is ‘Nipponese victuals’. Do you know what either of those words mean?”
“Uh. No.”
“Nipponese is an old-fashioned word for Japanese and victuals means food.”
“So think of the clue as ‘Japanese food’.”

Ian did get a handful of answers using the original clues and no help from me. He solved {Where a sailor might head to: 2wds.} with just OP????? and {Fable: 2wds. with F?????ALE. For the clue {Part of the eye} he noted that he had recently dissected an cow’s eye in biology class. He named the structures he could remember — iris, pupil, cornea, retina — but not the answer UVEA. Also, for the clue {Work of Horace} he asked, “Wasn’t Horace the guy who carried the sun in Egyptian mythology?”, which was an impressive bit of knowledge despite being off the mark. When we completed the grid I coaxed him toward the final answer of HORSE (the five-letter word found in both grids). While it took him a moment to register this shared word, he did note that the answer was appropriate given the chess knight theme of the puzzle. We plan to work on some more puzzles together via text message.


Marching Bands by Brendan Emmett Quigley


Brendan Emmett Quigley has launched a Kickstarter for a series of original Marching Bands puzzles. For a $10 pledge you will receive one puzzle every other week for a year. Higher pledge levels feature bonus puzzles and other premiums. This is a great opportunity to support an expert puzzlemaker and get access to puzzles that represent an ingenious variation on the crossword form so check it out!

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And for those traveling to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this weekend: happy solving, safe travels, and give my regards to Stamford!




Each player receives five index cards containing informal survey questions with eight possible responses (Example: Which of the following television shows has the strongest resemblance to your family life when you were a child? The Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, Little House on the Prairie, Married…With Children, The Munsters, The Simpsons, The Wonder Years, or The Twilight Zone). Each survey response is associated with a playing card rank from seven to ace. Players mingle and choose five other players to ask the questions. After asking five questions, a player will have a five-card poker hand based on the ranks associated with the survey question responses. Players may trade cards with other players to improve their hands before recording final hands to the moderator. The player with the best final poker hand wins.

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This mixer debuted at a Denver game party. The poker element added a minor game element to the activity in which the bulk of the entertainment was provided by the survey questions. I proposed the idea, unsuccessfully, as a mixer for an NPL convention.

PUZZLE: Rice Milk #17


LEFT (4’1 5) / RIGHT (6 4)

Little Jack mutters, “LEFT,” and, “How strange,”
As his beanstalk grows high out of range.
“When a cow-toting lad
RIGHT a crook, he gets had,
But I’ve won big in this stock exchange.”

Comments contain the answer to Rice Milk #16 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.

PUZZLE: Unthemely #65



I generated this grid rather quickly and wanted to post it on the blog several days ago, but juggling other puzzle work and an Internet outage postponed its debut. Ah, well; better late than never. Enjoy!

Fireball Newsflash Crosswords 2015-16


The Kickstarter for a new season of Fireball Newsflash Crosswords can be found here. A pledge of $6 will give you access twenty current events crosswords that will be sent out over the course of a year. Larger pledges include additional bonuses. If you like well-crafted crosswords with topical entries then check out this great deal!

Also a reminder that Patrick Berry’s Crossword Constructor’s Handbook and the Vicious Circle extravaganza with cash prizes are on sale at the A-Frame Games Store.

PUZZLE: Unthemely #64



In addition to the crossword puzzle I’ve posted a few new quizzes to Sporcle in the last few days. I have a couple of “Synanagryme” quizzes based on a Will Shortz Presents Wordplay puzzle I wrote with synonym, anagram, and rhyming word clues. Also, I posted a quiz based on the “word skeletons” game that I used to play in chat rooms. The quiz, called Internal ORGANs, contains clues for words and phrases containing the letters O, R, G, A, and N.

Synanagrymes: Missing Fourth
Synanagrymes: Next in Series
Internal ORGANs


PUZZLE: Rice Milk #16


FIVE FOUR (5 4) / NINE (9)

Multiplexes now draw the elites.
One FIVE FOUR in recliner-like seats.
While the movie may flop,
One can still nosh on pop-
Corn and Milk Duds and other NINE treats.

NINE is an inferable coinage.

Comments contain the answer to Rice Milk #15 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.