Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Planning Further Ahead

Will Shortz's Wonderful World Of Words will be in residence at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, the weekend of November 9-11, 2007. The Puzzle Brothers are already marking their calendars.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Puzzle Brothers Pre-Holiday Double Header

We've got twice the puzzles and twice the fun for you in the Los Angeles Times this week. Links will soon magically appear to the online applet version and the .PUZ files (for cruciverb.com members only) for...

Dave's Wednesday, December 20, 2006 puzzle Solve Online or Download Puzzle File

Robert's Saturday, December 23, 2006 puzzle Solve Online or Download Puzzle File

Happy Holidays to all our friends, and watch for some big news concerning our long overdue site expansion.... and remember... STAMFORD IS ONLY THREE MONTHS AWAY!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Stan's Stickler: Will It Stump You Today?

If you remember the exploits of the Brothers at the Paramus-based Community Blood Services tournament a few months ago, you will remember that the final puzzle, by Stanley Newman, was quite a bear for the competitors, notably the A clues. Stan has given Joe Solver a bit of a break today by supplying the B clues for this puzzle as it appears in today's Newsday. Good luck!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Crossword Creators Shine Again On "Twenty-One" Reruns

GSN has announced that they are taking the reruns of the short-lived NBC quiz show "Twenty-One" out of mothballs, beginning Wednesday, January 3 at 10:00 p.m. and rerunning the following Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m.

Crossword fans may remember New York Sun puzzle editor Peter Gordon's appearance on the show, as well as that of his "second chance" helper - Newsday puzzle editor (and all-time champion from "The Challengers") Stanley Newman.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If You're Not Shopping On Black Friday

Check out the Friday New York Times crossword puzzle (a themeless, of course), authored by Puzzle Brother Dave. Hope you enjoy it.

You must be a subscriber of NY Times Crosswords to do the puzzle online, on the timed applet or in Across Lite.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pleasantville Tournament

Dan Katz Wins Tenth Pleasantville Tournament

Dan Katz proved to be the best puzzler at Friday night's Tenth Annual Pleasantville Crossword Tournament, hosted by Will Shortz and benefitting the Pleasantville Fund For Learning. All three finalists (chosen from the best times on each of three upcoming New York Times puzzles) completed the puzzle for Thursday, November 2 - and I know you will all be talking about this puzzle on Friday, November 3 - in under seven minutes, and Katz had the fastest time.

The Puzzle Brothers also made a statement as team solvers, winning one of three pairs of trophies in the Team competition. (Dave and Bob actually had the best team time on all three puzzles, finishing the Tuesday, October 31 puzzle by Patrick Blindauer ahead of all other competitors.) The two other pairs of trophies were awarded to the runner up solvers on two of the other puzzles. All winning contestants also won their choice of puzzle books from St. Martin's Press, publishers of the New York Times crossword puzzle books.

Among the crossword luminaries acting as judges were former Stamford champions Nancy Schuster and Ellen Ripstein, and ace constructors Jim Page, Paula Gamache, Fred Piscop, Pat Merrell, Frank Longo, and Patrick Blindauer.

Dan Katz photo by Dave Mackey; Puzzle Brothers photo by Tracy Meyer

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Pleasantville Way To Spend An Evening

Pleasantville, New York is best known for being the headquarters of two things: Reader's Digest and Will Shortz.

This Friday, Mr. Shortz runs a puzzle tournament in his own backyard as the 10th Annual Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament is held at the St. John's Episcopal Church, 8 Sunnyside Avenue. The tournament puzzles will be advance copies of the New York Times puzzles for Monday, October 30 through Thursday, November 2. (This will effectively recuse The Puzzle Brothers from the timed applet for four days.)

The tournament, said to be friendly and informal, will benefit the Pleasantville Fund for Learning. It costs $30 to enter as a single competitor, or $45 to enter in the team competition. Your Puzzle Brothers will be in the team competition.

The festivities begin at 7:30 p.m. and for more information, call the Village Bookstore at (914) 769-8322$

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Welcome Back, Cruciverb

After what seemed like an eternity, Kevin McCann's indispensable cruciverb.com website is back online. He had been having some major connectivity problems that have just now been rectified.

I would encourage you to give Mr. McCann a little something for your troubles, if you're not already a member. Being a member gives you access to the incredible database of puzzles as well as access to Los Angeles Times puzzles as .puz files, among other niceties.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Robair's Weekend Thank-You's

Now that the dust has settled on the second Community Blood Services Crossword Tournament, it's time for me to publicly thank some people who make events like this the high points of my life.

BONNIE SIROWER: Our gracious, word loving presenter, whose tireless work organizing events like this for CBS is appreciated by not only the folks who help her but most importantly the folks who need the help with anything blood related.

WILL SHORTZ: His presence at these events ultimately give them weight and importance, and we couldn't have a more enthusiastic cheerleader for the formal and informal events he presides over.

NANCY SCHUSTER: One of the many examples of living crossword history we have, full of great stories of her battles with Farrar, her days at Dell, and the bad old days of the ACTP...and as we saw with the six puzzles this weekend, still one hell of a super editor.

HELENE HOVANEC: Though not as hands-on as she is at Stamford, we are comforted by her presence at Ridgewood as well.

ADAM COHEN, PAULA GAMACHE, LIZ GORSKI, PATRICK MERRELL and MICHAEL SHTEYMAN: For crafting a stellar set of first-round puzzles, each with their own winning personality and style.

STAN NEWMAN: For what turned out to be a particularly brain-busting finals -- so much so, in fact, that if you superimposed the three finals boards over each other there would still be letters missing.

HOWARD BARKIN: He was my odds-on favorite to take this thing, as his ascent in competitive solving has been particularly rapid...close to me minute by minute and just squeezed me out of the first-place spot in the finals by one minute. A job well done, Howard, and you will be one to watch in the future.

ELAINE LIPPMAN: Another fantastic solver and returnee to the finals, always brings it every finals. Congratulations on your second-place finish.

ERROL FLYNN: I needed you to unlock that top corner, still barren with two minutes left. Tally Ho, Robin.

THE FIELD: Too many to name by name, but a special huzzah to Barry Weprin for taking the B title.

BOOKENDS: I was not sure that this bookstore would be an apt place to hold this, but apparently it is a heavy hitter in the world of celebrity bookings and maybe one of the last great indie book sellers in the East. Thanks for giving us a nice place to solve.

And all the sponsors who supplied us with food, drink, wine, cheese, wraps.

Two special thank-yous end this thing. A big shout out to my fellow Puzzle Brother Dave, for notching his best-ever finish in a tournament, the first where he did not make an error on a puzzle.

And finally, big thanks to BLOODY, as we have called him, the omnipresent smiley-faced blood drop who pretty much symbolized the weekend and gave us plenty of opportunities for prop comedy. More importantly, he represented the real aim of this weekend: helping people who have had medical problems with their blood, which can often debilitate the entire body. We hope that Bonnie Sirower and her troops can stage this event again next late summer/early fall, because it's a good time for a good cause.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ridgewood Wrap-Up


Bob Mackey Repeats As CBS Tournament Champ

The partially-filled in grid was all that the Puzzle Brothers' own Bob Mackey needed to successfully defend the championship of the annual tournament benefitting the Community Blood Services Foundation in Bergen County, New Jersey.

After the first brace of puzzles, Howard Barkin was in first place, Bob just behind by a minute of solving time, and Elaine Lippman (last year's runner-up) was third. All three puzzlers struggled with the Stanley Newman-constructed puzzle. No one finished, so it came down to correct words, and Bob was declared the winner.

The other Puzzle Brother, Dave Mackey, finished tenth in his best tournament showing to date.

Barry Weprin Triumphant In CBSF B Finals

In the B division final, it was Barry Weprin's day as he cruised to a 10:05 completion time using an easier set of clues on the same grid. Rick Thompson, who had placed first going into the B finals, finished in 13:05, and Pat Whitehead, seeded second, came through with a 13:20 finishing time. Weprin is seen here accepting his trophy from New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz.

The official results will be posted Tuesday on the Community Blood Services Foundation website and will be linked to at that time. More photos will be forthcoming within the next few days.

Greetings from Ridgewood...

The second annual Community Blood Services Foundation crossword tournament is underway at the Bookends book shop in Ridgewood, about a couple of miles from last year's location, Care One at the Cupola.

We've had three pretty good puzzles so far from Adam Cohen, Patrick Merrell and Michael Shteyman. Two puzzles yet to go from Elizabeth C. Gorski and Paula Gamache, and the final puzzle will be by Stanley Newman.

We will have a much fuller report as well as unofficial results later on plus pictures sometime tonight.

Your Puzzle Brothers are doing quite well so far in the tournament.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Still Time To Join The Fun In Jersey!

Just a reminder this Friday and Saturday is the 2nd Annual Puzzle Tournament benefitting Community Blood Services Foundation. Still time to register online, but be aware that online credit card transactions aren't working so be sure to bring your cash or credit card and you can pay there.

The tournament will be held this year at Bookends, on 232 E. Ridgewood Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ. The Friday night Sudoku festivities get underway at 7:00 p.m., and registration for the Crossword tournament begins at 8:30 a.m. the next morning.

Your donation will help Community Blood Services save lives by enabling collection of blood products, processing of bone marrow donors, and collection of umbilical cord blood that can help save the lives of people with leukemia and lymphoma.

Look for both Puzzle Brothers to be on hand, and hopefully we will have our trademarked "almost live" reportage in words and pictures you all so enjoyed at Stamford.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday Morning Confusion served up by Robert

Here, then, is the September 16 offering from the Los Angeles Times, authored by Robert.

LA Times Puzzle for today

Of course, if you click on the link after September 16, it won't be there. However, members of the Cruciverb website are entitled to a copy of the .PUZ file. Either way, enjoy it.

I test solved this puppy when Robert submitted it, and even with Rich Norris' enhanced clueset it still took me a tick over eight minutes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Double Dave

Now out on the newsstands are the November 2006 issues of Games and Games World of Puzzles. Dave Mackey contributes a puzzle in each magazine: Games features "Child of Mine" and GWOP contains "The AP Wire".

In addition, GWOP features its annual Puzzle Book Roundup, as it compiles a sampler of puzzles from the season's new puzzle books. Featured are puzzles from Trip Payne's new effort for Sterling, "Pop Culture Crosswords", which I picked up a week ago and have found hugely entertaining, as well as entries from Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon (a cryptic) and Frank Longo (a themeless).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Wordplay" DVD Release Set For November 7

Genius Products, Inc. has announced the DVD release of "Wordplay". It will be in stores on Tuesday, November 7. The DVD, retailing for $24.95, will feature a commentary track with Will Shortz, interview footage, and "The Five Greatest Puzzles Ever Made" featurette.

Friday, August 25, 2006

How much wrong stuff can fit in one movie review?

Thirty some odd years ago, when Joe Adamson wrote one of the seminal texts of animation history, "Tex Avery: King of Cartoons", Mr. Adamson coined a phrase that just about summed up the sloppiness of documenting animation history up to that point: he said the writer might as well have been writing about the Myrna Loy Westerns of Alfred Hitchcock.

Reading this very funny compilation of "Wordplay" review errors gave me that same Myrna Loy Western vibe.

Thanks to Trip Payne for compiling it.... and gee, you didn't even include our favorite from the Star-Ledger review about Shortz hosting the Stamford tournament every weekend.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sajak's Puzzle Empire Grows Thanks To Atari

Pat Sajak Games, the "Wheel of Fortune" host's thriving puzzle and game enterprise, will seek out new territory this holiday season. The company has partnered with Atari to begin publishing PC and console versions of its winning online word and puzzle games.

First up this fall will be "Pat Sajak's Lucky Letters", the exceptional crossword/game-show crossover which will feature Sajak's voice offering encouragement to players. There will be three play variants and game enhancements not available online. Sajak said in a press statement that he is proud to be affiliated with Atari due to their high level of quality over the years.

Sajak's company now produces many online games (such as "Blackjack Bowling"), as well as three distinct Penny Press titles: "Get-A-Letter Crosswords", "Get-A-Letter Variety Puzzles", and the new "Get-A-Clue Sudoku".

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gridbusters: Humans vs. Computers!

The Slate has reprinted one of the best parts of Matt Gaffney's new book, "Gridlock". He basically teams up with Byron Walden to see if their team or the team of Peter Gordon and Frank Longo can do a better and more imaginative fill of a grid. Judges include some fair-to-middling X-worders like Tyler Hinman, Trip Payne, yada yada. Interesting stuff and required reading for those who construct, or someday want to.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sign O' The Times

Dave Mackey is now in the bigs with his first published New York Times puzzle, which is now online and will appear in the Wednesday, July 26 print edition of the newspaper. Congratulations!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jersey Tournament Adds Sudoku, Is Earlier This Year

The annual crossword tournament mounted by Community Blood Services Foundation in northern New Jersey is being pushed ahead on the schedule a few weeks from when it was held last year. The now two-day affair is set for Friday, September 29, and Saturday, September 30, at Bookends in Ridgewood.

The festivities kick off Friday night with a Sudoku competition with a $100 first prize and trophies for the top three finishers in Junior (12-17) and Senior (18+) divisions. The puzzles will be prepared by Will Shortz, who has a number of Sudoku books on the market.

Saturday's crossword competition features puzzles edited by Nancy Schuster and designed by some of the top constructors featured in The New York Times, Penny Press/Dell and Newsday. Competitors will include last year's champion, Robert Mackey. (The other Puzzle Brother, a sidelines observer last year, will be joining the fray this year too.)

There is competition in A and B divisions, with A division comprised of anyone who has placed in the 30th percentile or higher in any puzzle tournament, and B for everyone else. Winners will share $500 in prize money, and will each receive a trophy. Trophies and books will also be awarded to the top contestants in the Rookie division, top contestants from several geographic regions, age groups (including juniors under 21, 50’s, 60’s, and Senior Citizens 70+), plus "the coveted Handwriting Award." Starbuck's (remember them?) is providing continental breakfast. Lunch is "on your own" this year, a change from last year's buffet. A wine and cheese reception will follow the competition.

If you want to come to Ridgewood for a day of crossword fun, visit http://www.communitybloodservices.com/php/puzzle_PHP.php and fill out the form. Of course we hope to see you there - who are the Puzzle Brothers to miss a good time when crosswords are involved?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"Something Smells" In My Mailbox

September 2006 Games Magazine arrived at my home today, and among the puzzles in there is a 2-star 15x called "Something Smells" by one of the Puzzle Brothers. The other Puzzle Brother will be in the September World of Puzzles with a puzzle called "Happy N-Dings".

Other puzzle highlights include a cryptic from Bob Stigger, Pencil Pointers by Frank Longo, crosswords from Annemarie Brethauer and Alan Olschwang, a 23x by Randall Hartman, and an Ornery from Mike Selinker.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Here's Another Wordplay Review

This time from MAXIM Magazine. (I haven't actually gotten the issue with the review in print yet, but I'll be otherwise distracted when that issue comes to my house.)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Constructor Kendall Twigg dies

Sad news to pass along this morning: constructor Kendall Twigg, who took up the craft of puzzlemaking just a few years ago in his mid-80's, has passed away three weeks after being hospitalized after a fall.

Like so many nascent constructors, Mr. Twigg received much guidance and inspiration from Nancy Salomon, and then eventually branched out from under her tutelage and produced a number of puzzles on his own. Most recently, Mr. Twigg was producing later-week difficulty pizzles.

A quick guide to when Kendall Twigg was published in the LA Times and NY Times, based on Barry Haldiman's databases...

NYT Mon 07/19/04 (with Nancy S.)
NYT Mon 11/01/04 (with Nancy S.)
LAT Fri 11/19/04 (with Nancy S.)
NYT Mon 11/29/04 (with Nancy S.)
LAT Tue 12/28/04
LAT Fri 03/11/05 (with Nancy S.)
LAT Fri 06/03/05
NYT Mon 08/01/05
LAT Sat 08/27/05
LAT Sat 01/07/06

Thank you, and rest in peace, Kendall.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another Modest Proposal...

Today's Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle by the always reliable Nancy Salomon is - you guessed it - another marriage proposal puzzle.

As in a puzzle that appeared several years ago in the New York Times (January 7, 1998, by Bob Klahn - here's the background info and here's the puzzle, if you're a registered user), one of the bottom theme clues is WILLYOUMARRYME, and one of the crossers is YES, clued appropriately (with the same exact clue from the Klahn puzzle, in fact).

E-mails to puzzle editor Rich Norris asking for more information were not returned, but I would assume the intended result was achieved.

If you want to do today's puzzle, either download the .PUZ file at Cruciverb or do it at the LA Times website.

Quote Of The Day #2

From the "Wordplay" review in the Newark Star Ledger (a fine newspaper that carries the Los Angeles Times puzzle):
And then, finally, it concentrates on a crossword-puzzle tournament which Shortz hosts every weekend in Stamford, Conn.

This Just In: Tyler Hinman has won Stamford for the 36th week in a row, eclipsing Trip Payne's old record of 35.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Quote Of The Day

Scanning a lot of the coverage of the "Wordplay" movie, opening today in NYC, I found this interesting quote from Patrick Creadon.... obviously he's spent a lot of time in our world, but how he can fit this answer into 12 squares is a little beyond my ken...
Will mentioned a really great clue the other day, which was, "It turns into a different story." It was a like a 12-letter word, and the answer was, "Spiral Staircase." Isn't that great?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Crosswords 101

Thou Shalt Not Repeat Theme Answer Words Elsewhere In The Diagram, Particularly In The Same Section Of The Puzzle.

Will at Borders: a brief report

Well, thanks to the Lincoln Tunnel being clogged (forgot you only have one tube going into New York at that hour), Bob and I pulled into NYC just a tad late to hear Will's opening remarks at Borders on Tuesday night. For about thirty minutes Will fielded questions from the crowd, the usual sort of questions Will gets about his job.

Then, a contest! (Oooh!) Will distributed copies of the New York Times puzzle for June 14, 2006 and offered prizes for the fastest solvers, and two bonus drawings for passes for the "Wordplay" movie when it starts its run in NYC.

Suffice it to say that one Puzzle Brother won his passes to the film legitimately, finishing first in just over 4 minutes to the gasps of the crowd, and the other (who wasn't quite so fast) lucked out in the drawing. (So now you know why we're not on the NYT applet today.)

Will then signed copies of the companion book to the "Wordplay" movie (published by St. Martin's Press), a neat little paperback that actually includes crosswords you can solve from the NYT and the entire brace of puzzles from both the 2001 (Ellen Ripstein's year) and 2005 ACPT's. The book pretty much follows the contour of the movie and even includes information on how you can make your own crosswords.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Will Shortz at Borders Next Tuesday

In conjunction with a tie-in book to the movie "Wordplay", Will Shortz will be doing an in-store at Borders, 10 Columbus Circle, on Tuesday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m. The Puzzle Brothers, both somehow omitted from the movie, will also be in attendance.

UPDATE: As part of the promotion of the film, Will Shortz will be appearing on "Late Show with David Letterman", Monday, June 12, at 11:37 p.m. EDT on CBS. Paris Hilton will also be on the show... wonder how long it would take her to do a NYT themeless? (Speaking of, congrats to Robair for finishing in an utterly blazing 4:46 on this past Saturday's NYT puzzle, making my 15:02 look absolutely sick by comparison!)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Don't Count The Crossword Out Yet

Op-ed piece from The Kansas City Star (that's what I are) from someone who thinks there's still a place for crosswords in a Sudoku world. (Thanks to Van Vandiver for the link.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Stella Daily Lost on "Jeopardy!"

Stella defends some of her wrong responses on her blog, but that Final Jeopardy! practically screamed out "Harper Lee". Oh well, we enjoyed watching Stella on TV for a half hour.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stella Daily on "Jeopardy!"

Stella Daily has been playing a game of "I've Got a Secret" with us for the past several months. Now the secret's out (and we've been sitting on this news, at Stella's behest, since Stamford): the talented constructor and speedy solver is a contestant on Friday night on "Jeopardy!". If you want to see a video clip of Stella, please go to the "Jeopardy!" Hometown Howdies" page. GOOD LUCK STELLA!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Nipple" Clue Hits The USA Today Puzzle

Say it ain't so, Timothy Parker! At about 5:30 this morning I was really shocked to see a really suggestive clue in the usually milquetoast USA Today crossword.

Weeks after constructor Lynn Lempel and editor Will Shortz opened up a major can of worms with the presence of the word SCUMBAG in a New York Times grid, the USA Today puzzle by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke yielded the clue "Nipple ring (var.)" for the word AREOLE.

AREOLE (a variant of AREOLA) is usually clued in terms of botany or general biology/anatomy, but never to my knowledge in terms of being the dark area surrounding the nipples in humans. Yes, we all have nipples (most of us, anyway), but there's a part of me that thinks this subject is still not fair game for crosswords.

My two cents.... discuss.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Our First S.A.Q. (Seldom Asked Question)

Most websites have F.A.Q.'s. Here, we have S.A.Q.'s, Seldom Asked Questions. Our first question was sent in by.... gee, this question is so seldom asked, I don't think anyone's ever asked it.
Are you guys related to Walter Mackey?
Gee, that's a good question, whoever you are that didn't ask it. For the uninitiated, Walter Mackey is the name of the gentleman who concocts those "Super Sudoku" puzzles for Dell's Sudoku magazines. They're the devils where you have a 16x16 grid and need to not repeat a number in any row, column, 4x4 box or (and this is the killer) long diagonal.

As far as we know, Walter Mackey is not related to the Puzzle Brothers. Nor is there a Walter Mackey in our family who gets confused for the creator of those s.o.b. Super Sudokus.

Thank you for not writing! More soon, so keep it here, dear!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not Just A Job...A Career

My initial appearance in Games World of Puzzles is now out, in the July 2006 issue. It's a 21x called "Career Day". Run out and buy some copies and give 'em to orphan kids or shut-ins. You'll be glad you did.

The Biggest Joke In Crosswords Today

"Look how fast I did the Times Puzzle today! 57 seconds!"

So probably says the kook known as fwongstaal on the New York Times Crossword Puzzles timed applet. Every single damn day.

Guess what? It isn't funny anymore.

And we're going to do something about it.

We made a proposition to the New York Times online contingent at the Stamford tournament two months ago that anyone with what is regarded as a "superhuman" time on the New York Times timed crossword applet should be thrown out of the forums. We'd still like to see that happen, but we have something more intriguing to propose, and we're not so sure how the progress on this is going.

We believe there can be some sort of "cookie" on the site itself or on the user's computer that if a solver opens up the non-times Across Lite version of the puzzle, the solver can not compete on that day's timed applet. We think it's possible to do. And we think, at this point, with the ten or fifteen jerks who think it's a riot to cheat on the applet, it's necessary.

We also think every one of the other good solvers on the applet -- Barry Haldiman, Tyler Hinman, Susan Hoffman, Amy Reynaldo, Byron Walden, and a few others we're too modest to mention -- is appalled that this should keep going on with nothing in place to stop it. We've got to start putting some serious pressure to stop this cheating. Take a look at it this way: the SudokuFun website, which features a new Sudoku game nearly every ten minutes, almost never has cheaters. There is a healthy honor system in place over there, with their moderator James Pitts promising from the start that anyone who cheats by using solving applets would be banned for life from the site. Why can't it be that way at the Times?

This little board of "Today's Best Times" means absolutely nothing when you take into account the dozen or so scurvy little cheaters. So the last part of this is a challenge. Those of you who "do" this puzzle on the timed applet in under two minutes...how about starting tomorrow, you do the puzzle on the timed applet at 10PM sharp, once it goes up, before you have even seen the puzzle? Then you'll be one of two things: hailed as a superfast solver, or totally humiliated. Better yet, why don't you go to Stamford next year? If you can solve a puzzle in 57 seconds as you claim, fwongstaal, surely you can beat Tyler Hinman. There's an easy $4000 for you right there. And if Tyler wins, it's $4000 of your money he wins. That oughta make it damn interesting.

So the screws are on, you cheaters...and the joke is over. Don't insult the real solvers anymore by cheating.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mark Your Calendars

The 30th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is scheduled for March 23-25, 2007. Our calendar is already marked in ink.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Wordplay" Set To Rock Tribeca

Patrick Creadon's incredible documentary "Wordplay" is a selection for this year's Tribeca Film Festival, set to begin next week in New York City. The film will be screened on Wednesday, May 3 at 5:30 and Thursday, May 4 at 1:30 at AMC Loews Lincoln Square, and on Saturday, May 6 at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 7 at 1:30 p.m. at AMC Loews Village VII. All tickets are $12.00.

There is a great poster out for the film. It has a crossword grid in the background, random letters morphing into a Benday rendition of Will Shortz's giant head, and a group of puzzlers standing with New York Times puzzles - namely, Al Sanders, Ellen Ripstein, Tyler Hinman, Merl Reagle, Trip Payne and Jon Delfin.

On a related subject, Nancy Shack has completed the DVD of the goings-on at Stamford this year. You can watch the Friday night Sudoku and Ken Jennings Quiz Bowl games, as well as all three finals and the awards ceremony. Plus, letters to Will Shortz. The video runs 2 hours, 22 minutes, and costs $3.50 for a DVD and $5 for a VHS. I've already got mine on order, and the price makes it a great bargain. You may order if you've got a PayPal account by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Word Of The Day: SURI

We start a new feature here after a week or so off for vacation, and that's the "Add of the Day", where we take a word that isn't in Crossword Compiler yet and recommend you add it, because in a few weeks the word will be everywhere.

Today's word is SURI. Why should you add this word? Because it's the name that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes gave their illegitimate hellspawn -- err, new baby daughter, born just yesterday. And if you've read the news, it was supposedly a "quiet birth", performed without painkilling drugs, and with barely any conversation in the room.

We had hoped Tom would more fully subscribe to this, as far as boasting of eating the mom's placenta. Which makes him no better than a cat. How's that cord tasting right about now, Tom?

Anyway, the new word for the day is SURI...learn it, live it, love it!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Other Starbucks Griping....

Amy Reynaldo and Trip Payne didn't win this thing, either. And they're as hacked off as we are.

Starbucks Contest: It's Over

Don't even bother. They have their winner, and I am guessing that the winner probably figured out what would be the most cutesy-pie correct answer possibility and called in at 5:00 p.m. with the correct answer WITHOUT benefit of solving the crossword.

Playing "Games" In July

The Puzzle Brothers will be represented in the July Games after a bit of while off, with my first appearance in the magazine. The puzzle will be a 21x21 offering called "Career Day". Still to come in Games (or World of Puzzles) will be a smaller puzzle called "Something Smells". We'll keep you posted on that one.

Coffee Clash: Starbucks Contest To Continue

It appears that there is no clear winner yet in the Starbucks Coffehouse Crossword Challenge, with reports from several bloggers and their teams noting good numbers of entrants who were able to get in under the wire. According to one report, Starbucks and contest runner Marden-Kane had their 750 "tied" first-responsers within fifteen minutes of the phones being open.

It will continue today for myself, and the many others in the x-wording blogosphere, with a phone call slated to come sometime after 11AM EDT with the location of the tiebreaking puzzle #1, edited by Will Shortz.

As is our policy here, we will not be the clearinghouse for any information regarding the puzzle unless it is clear that there are final winners announced (or they step forward and basically crow). But we must thank one of our favorite puzzlesmiths, Patrick Berry, for putting together a dazzling array of puzzles within puzzles for this contest.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday 4/3 NYT (spoiler if you haven't done it yet)

The most salient feature in the Monday Times puzzle is the use of the word SCUMBAG as one of the longer Down entries. There's been a lot of talk about it on several blogs, including a posting to the NYT forum by puzzle editor Will Shortz that reads in part:
...When I accepted [Lynn Lempel's] puzzle, the thought never crossed my mind this word could be controversial.

Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate and the American Heritage Dictionary both define "scumbag" only in the "scoundrel" sense. Random House does give both meanings, labeling the [used condom] one "vulgar" but the second one merely "slang."

In light of the above dictionary citations, I still think the word is acceptable for crossword purposes. Given the reaction to it, tho, I doubt I'll use it again.

Lynn Lempel also authored today's USA Today puzzle; the word SCUMBAG is nowhere to be found there.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fresh Reagle Ink

Here's a little article about Merl Reagle, from whom I still have a fresh, undone AARP puzzle sitting on my desk to do. I doubt I would have finished as well as I did in Stamford if that Sunday puzzle were not a Reagle.

Read about Merl

(Thanks to Ennie for pointing out the link)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New York Times, Wednesday, 3/29

If you are registered at the NYT and have a subscription to the puzzles, please be sure and do today's puzzle, which was constructed by the late, great Frances Hansen.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Congratulations To The Winners


Puzzle Brothers Both Take Home Trophies; Ken Jennings Wins C and Rookie Crowns

It's over in Stamford, where the 29th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has ended. There are going to be more pictures, but here's a few shots of Will Shortz congratulating now two-time defending champion Tyler Hinman, and right below, both of the Puzzle Brothers who won trophies - Dave won the D Division (placing 106th overall), and Bob won for top score among people from New Jersey (18th place overall).

The big news from the tournament was the success of Ken Jennings, who won C Division and top rookie. We have some other pictures and they'll be coming up soon.

(Will Shortz and Tyler Hinman picture by Dave Mackey; Puzzle Brothers picture by Barrie Fein)

Sunday, A Division Finals

And here we go with the A Division. Ellen starts first, then Tyler and Kiran start together three seconds later. This should be an exciting one!

They have now begun. These are the toughest clues for the best solvers. "This is like 'Gilligan's Island': The movie star, the professor, and .... THE KID."

Kiran already has a mistake in his grid.

Tyler has filled in the bottom right, while Ellen is attacking the bottom left. Tyler is now migrating to the top left. Ellen has begun doing the top of the puzzle. Ellen has now pretty much finished the upper right. There is now one word in the puzzle that all three competitors have wrong!

Some of the very clever clues are eliciting laughs, oohs and aahs from the audience. Ellen's now working the bottom right. Meanwhile Kiran pretty mich has the right side nailed but has few entries to the left side. Tyler and Ellen haven't gotten a lot on the top yet. Kiran's now working the center. "Did we mention this (puzzle) is a bastard?" asked Merl.

Tyler has fixed everyone's mistake; Ellen and Kiran haven't caught it yet. Tyler's just finished 1-Across and may now take this home. Ellen's now corrected her error. Tyler has two letters left. He is done.

Kiran and Ellen are still plugging away. Will they finish? There's now about 3:30 left. Kiran fixed his previous mistake but has now made a new one. Kiran's pretty much got the center and has now fixed his mistake.

Less than 2 minutes to go! Kiran and Ellen are about equally far away from finishing. It may come down to missed letters. Ten, nine, eight, seven.. time's up!

3rd place, 15:00, 7 letters wrong - Ellen Ripstein
2nd place, 15:03, 3 letters wrong - Kiran Kedlaya
1st place - Tyler Hinman

We will have coverage of the luncheon and more pictures later. For now, we're signing off from Stamford.

Sunday, B Division Finals

The room is still abuzz with Ken's C Division win. "Let's see him win 75 of these in a row," quipped Will Shortz. Ken is also assured of the top rookie prize, previously won by the likes of Bob.

Beginning with the B finals, "our old pal" Merl Reagle and NPR's Neal Conan are at the mike giving their patented play-by-play.

Will tells us the sounds in the headphones are actually old tapes of U.N. proceedings in many different languages. "Sounds like you're going into a party, very nice feeling."

Adam starts 9 seconds ahead, Thomas starts 5 seconds ahead. Brian starts at 15:00. Neal and Merl open with their soon-to-be-famous lines from "Wordplay" - "It's a beautiful day for a crossword tournament!" "LET'S PLAY TWO!"

Bob has just finished the finals puzzle. It looks like it was a toughie. As I've been blogging, I haven't done the puzzle yet, and it's too far away to see the words.

Merl's discussing a "two-pun corner" in the puzzle. What they're saying is very funny; to give their gags away would give the puzzle away (although there is some talk of a "bacon freeway"). You really had to be there.

Adam's finished the bottom of the puzzle first and is making great progress. But he's got some things up top to fix. Adam has just one corner left but still has a mistake, and Thomas has only finished the bottom left.

Adam is finished and is declaring himself done.

Thomas has the bottom left, and Brian hasn't even scratched the upper part of the puzzle. Thomas finishes, then Brian.

3rd place, 8:49 - Brian Olewnick
2nd place, 8:33 - Thomas Weisswange
1st place, 7:27 - Adam Cohen

Sunday, C Division Final

Ken Jennings already has a quarter of the puzzle filled in after about a minute. Some dip left a cell phone on; fortunately our competitiors cannot hear that. They're all wearing headsets with old Yma Sumac tapes of her singing the Voice of the Itxapay. Ken is really ripping through this puzzle. He has just the upper right to go. From where I'm sitting, it's really hard to see the two side grids. Don't leave any squares blank, guys. Bob is alongside me working the printed copy of the puzzle with the A clues and hasn't gotten very far yet. Ken has finished first. But is it correct?

Unofficial C Standings:
3rd place, 1 letter blank 8:56 - Steven Katton
2nd place, 1 letter wrong 5:19 - Howard Barkan
1st place, 4:09 - Ken Jennings

BTW, for the benefit of those who will be solving by mail, we are not divulging any details of the puzzle, which is a Saturday-style themeless 15x by Mike Shenk.

Sunday, 11:00 a.m.

Here we go at the finals! The grids are up and the room is filled with anticipation. In case you don't know how it works, the same grid is used for all competitors, but different clues are used at each level.

C Division: 10,600 Steven Katten
10,725 Howard Barkin
10,785 Ken Jennings

B Division: 11075 Brian Olewnick
11130 Thomas Weisswange
11220 Adam Cohen

A Division: 11750 Tyler Hinman
11750 Kiran Kedlaya
11775 Ellen Ripstein

Good Luck!

Sunday, 9:42 p.m.

What defines a Sunday in Stamford during Tournament Week? The buffet breakfast? Seeing how many sleep-deprived zombies (Vic Fleming, Stan Newman) pervade the hotel lobby at 7 a.m.? Or the twinge you feel when you see your ranking at 8:30?

Could be all of those for me. I started the morning in 21st place, with 130 points separating me and the all-important 11th place for a shot at the B title. I finished the Merl Reagle 21x at the same time 11th place Stella Daily did, so she looks to be playing the big board. Myself, I have them crossed.

And the usual suspects are lined up 1-2-3, all good pals now: Tyler Hinman, Ellen Ripstein, and Trip Payne.

A more-or-less recap of the finals will follow around 12:30ish from Dave.

Sunday, 9:38 a.m.

I am STOKED! I just finished the seventh puzzle, a very clever 21 by one of my favorite constructors (and one of the stars of the movie "Wordplay"), Merl Reagle. I had one crossing that was a little suspect, but I confirmed with Bob that those answers were CORRECT!

I am almost assured finishing better than last year.

And one other thing: when I scanned the results after I finished Puzzle #7, I discovered something that I didn't know beforehand (and may have hampered my results on this puzzle): through six puzzles, I am LEADING D Division! I certainly didn't find anyone higher than 122nd, my current ranking, in the D class, and most of the others were in the high 200's to the 400's.

More later... this is getting exciting.

(EDITED LATER: It turns out that I was actually second in D Division, trailing by about 200 points. I more than made those up on the 7th puzzle to overtake Mike Nothnagel by less than 100 points. That puzzle and good scores on 1, 3 and 4 really made a difference.)

Sunday, 7:05 a.m.

After another interesting night of hilarious late night game playing, I dragged into bed at a little after 3:07 a.m. last evening. Bob has already showered and left for downstairs, while I'm still up here. In less than two hours, we're handed our final mass puzzle challenge, then the room will be reset for the finals at 11:00 a.m., during which time we'll gather up our things and check out.

It's going to be very interesting to see who is going to be on stage for the finals, as there are a lot of fine competitors who posted some blistering times. But did they have the accuracy?

Our final dispatches from here are going to be during the finals. Pictures from the luncheon will appear later tonight. But now, before it gets too crazy later this morning, some thank yous...

...to the staff of the Marriott here in Stamford... excellent job with getting our conference room set up and ready to go...

...to the judges, thank you for getting to us as quickly as you could in the puzzle room...

...to Patrick Creadon and the folks at his production company and IFC Films for making the wonderful screening of "Wordplay" a reality...

...to friends old and new, as well as our special guest this weekend, Ken Jennings... it was a hell of a lot of fun, you all...

...and lastly, to Mr. Will Shortz for continuing to realize his dream of a national crossword tournament, and to all of the tournament staff for another fantastic weekend.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday, 10:17 p.m.

What a night for a Saturday movie! "Wordplay", the documentary filmed in part at last year's tournament, was the centerpiece. Filmmaker Patrick Creadon was originally going to have the tournament be a little sidebar to the movie, but the story that unfolded that cold March weekend was too good to pass up.

We meet the dramatis personae up front: Will Shortz, the tournament founder; Merl Reagle, the constructor, and solvers from all walks of life: the Indigo Girls, Jon Stewart (hilarious), even Bill Clinton, who said he solved more puzzles after he became President. And some special solvers in it for the speed challenge: Al Sanders (the tragic hero of the film), Trip Payne, eventual winner Tyler Hinman, and tournament veteran Ellen Ripstein (very charming in her scenes walking the New York streets with her broken umbrella).

Creadon mixes marvelous historical footage (some of the first tournament in 1978, lorded over by the then-25-year-old Shortz) with interesting graphics that give the clues and answers being solved.

Much like in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket", the first half shows the basic training of the solvers, and in the second half, they're "in the s--t" - or, more properly, Salon D here at the Marriott.

We see some of the fun sidelights: the talent competition from last year (featuring the singing voice of Stella Daily), contestants kibbitzing in the lobby, the late night games. We see many of our friends and fellow solvers on screen. But when it comes to watching the competitions - especially the finals - Creadon excels with his excellent camera work and tight editing.

I've got to agree... this is a fine film and you should all go see it when it hits the theatres this summer.

Saturday, 10:05 p.m.

I have just returned from the screening of "Wordplay", Patrick Creadon's chronicle of the 2005 Stamford tournament. Creadon tells the story in two parts, by introducing us to the main players (Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Tyler Hinman, Trip Payne, Al Sanders) and then chronicling the Stamford experience.

Creadon does a generally good job setting up the alternate dramas in the film, down to the little-seen "war room" where puzzles are scored and errors are winnowed out, such as the SDS/SSS slip-up which knocked Patrick Jordan out of a sure shot in the finals. And of course, the finals where Al Sanders made his famous _OL_ESQUE gaffe is played to the hilt. Cameo appearances range from the thoughtful insights of Indigo Girls to the "Bring it, Shortz!" ballsiness of Jon Stewart.

The film will quite possibly be a sleeper hit, as were the docs "March of the Penguins" and "Super Size Me", and should have quite a run off the DVD shelves. And the film did indeed resonate deeply with its core audience...hopefully more general audiences will tak to it as well.

Saturday, 5:47 p.m.

Amidst all the madness that's gone on so far this weekend, just a reminder to any of the Stamfordites who may be reading this: tomorrow sees the last Starbuck's puzzle and the publication of further clues. As Mr. Shortz has made copious amounts of the first five puzzles available to tournament participants, I see no different treatment for the sixth puzzle. It sure beats delivering 500 copies of the Sunday New York Times here.

Saturday, 4:53 p.m.

Just went upstairs to change my shirt. That soaked me.

Puzzle 5 was tough as billed; guess I'll be riding the E-train next year.

That's what makes Maura Jacobson's puzzles so special; they come at the end, like they do in New York Magazine. No matter how tough what's come before has been, she always knows how to put a nice bow on it.

Incidentally, that 500 contestants R.W. mentioned in the last post is a Stamford record. The tournament is growing, not by World Series of Poker leaps and bounds (they're expecting 8000 there this year, up from 5600), but it's growing just the same.

I am looking forward to a fun evening of seeing the film, and connecting with some of the new friends I've made this year. Perhaps some more late night games are in order tonight!

Saturday, 4:35 p.m.

Puzzles five and six today were as polar as you can get in the tournament. Will Shortz had his 29-year competitor tell him that the fifth Byron Walden puzzle was the hardest puzzle ever in the tournament, trumping even Jack Luzzatto's Year One Opus and Henry Hook's tribute to klabberjaas. More details later on why this puzzle left nearly 470 of the year's 500 competitors still pumping their pencils at the end of the time.

Puzzle six was the traditional Maura moment, a cute 19x19 in her inimitable comic style.

Now comes some serious downtime, before a 7PM reception hosted by "Wordplay" distributor IFC films. Hot dogs and beer will be consumed copiously. Then comes a screening of "Wordplay"...but wouldn't it have made more sense for them to hijack the Loews theaters across the street and cancel one of their 18 daily showing of "Aquamarine" to put it on a big screen?

Next post: more on the movie from both of us, Ebert and Roeper-style.

Saturday, 3:08 p.m.

Robert here, for the first time from Stamford...

This is an incredibly mind-blowing experience for me every year since I meet so many new people...I am truly among friends here.

Puzzle-wise, after four I believe I am in the thick of it...nothing iffy or half-hearted has been put in any grid. I have been sure of absolutely everything. But #5 is the one Will says will be the big equalizer...we shall see. I'll check back for more after Puzzle #6.

Saturday, 2:07 p.m.

Back from lunch; PM session begins in about 20 minutes.

Feel really good about that third puzzle again. There were some oohs and aahs when people glommed onto Patrick Merrell's theme. I also learned that there were quite a few folks who fell into the trap on the second puzzle. We shall see what develops there.

There are some new pictures up from today, including the inevitable "Puzzle Brothers with A Very Rich Man" shot.

Saturday, 12:46 p.m.

I am now officially toast.

I found out that that bad crosser in puzzle #2 was indeed wrong, so that's my bonehead mistake this year. If I keep going at the rate I am, I figure by the year 2012, I will be perfect.

Bob is doing well. He compared notes with Amy Reynaldo and is keeping pace with her.

Saturday, 12:06 p.m.

Two puzzles down, four to go. I won't give any details on the puzzles but the first one was pretty easy; the other one a little tougher but at least I finished. There is one word I wasn't too sure on (a crosser that didn't make a lot of sense) that may prove to rival this year's PRADA/PRADO fiasco. By tomorrow morning we'll know. I used one more minute than I wanted to working on checking over the puzzle.

I am competing in the D division, so no stage appearance for me. Bob, however, is firmly enmeshed in the A division, so it's him vs. the big shots.

Saturday Morning....

Saturday, 7:50 a.m.: It IS entirely possible to have a hangover on only half a glass of wine.

The wee hours were filled with some interesting games. A few people had packed suitcases full of board games and came equipped with Quizzard lock-out devices for game show style fun. Trip Payne and Adam Cohen were each hosting self-written, six-player "Jeopardy!" games, and I played in Adam's. Leading heading into the Final, I (along with everyone else) blew it. I bet all but $100 and I think that may have been good enough for second place.

Todd McClary was hosting a game called "Coordination" which was very clever - the players were divided into two halves, the X team and the Y team. The players were shown visual clues with coordinates along the side, and you had to guess ONLY your coordinate (X or Y, depending on which side you're sitting) based on the question asked. Then you pick someone who you think has a good enough answer from the other group of players. The scoring is based on the difference between your team's coordinates and the actual answer; low score wins. There is more than a little measure of strategy involved.

A special shout out to Howard and Debbie, the father-daughter team who were our partners in last night's KenJen trivia throwdown.

Time to grab a shower and get downstairs.. the puzzles are in the air at 11:00.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Greetings From Stamford!

This is as close as a postcard as you're gonna get. Right now everyone else is doing the wine and cheese thing downstairs, and I'm up here typing away. Hopefully we'll have some pictures posted.

We've already had our Quiz Bowl game with Ken Jennings (who, by the way, will be competing in the crossword competition) and also completed the Sudoku. Tomorrow, we get our first crack at the crosswords.

Here is the first album of images from tonight's competitions!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Just about 24 hours from the time I am writing these words, Dave and I will be at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut.

Ever since I was doing puzzles in the first couple of years of Games magazine as a high-schooler, I thought that having a national competition was a dandy idea. How cool would it be, I thought back then, to actually participate in this against other kings and queens of the black-and-white?

This weekend I will be in the hunt for the fourth time as I go against the titans of the 15x15 interlocks, Trip, Al, Tyler, Ennie, Amy, and all the greats of this yearly dance. Someone told me that this was the true March Madness, not those guys dribbling that orange ball. And in an e-mail to a family member, I mentioned that this is the one weekend all year where I mingle the most with like-minded souls.

The best part about being at Stamford this year is that this is the first year I can tell everyone that I am a professional crossword constructor, with one puzzle under my belt, and three more to be published. Hopefully this year I will be able to get a lot of tips from the constructors to better my craft.

Plus, Friday night will mean more than wine and cheese as there will be a Sudoku competition hosted by Wayne Gould, the man who revived this puzzle form and made it a multi-million-dollar industry, and a trivia game featuring "Jeopardy!" monolith Ken Jennings, who will hopefully stay the heck out of the tourney itself...all kidding aside, it will be nice to meet a guy who's got a lot in the old noggin.

Those of you who have read our blog, we will see you there, and of course have a great time. If you can't get to Stamford, Dave will be filing reports all weekend.

As Will Shortz would say, "Ready? Begin..."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Crosswords Take Center Stage of CBS' Early Show

Will Shortz will host a mini-crossword tournament today on CBS' "The Early Show", airing now on a CBS affiliate near you. The little tournament will consist of one puzzle created by the estimable Frank Longo and edited by Mr. Shortz, who this weekend will step into his 29-year role as director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Robair is on-site at The Early Show and will file his impressions later.


The tournament failed to materialize (I'm sure we'll get the 411 from Will before long), but you can get a copy of the puzzle that Will showed on-air by clicking on this link.

We were also treated to a brief (albeit soundless) clip from "Wordplay" which features a hand writing the words WORD and PLAY into a crossword grid, and then spotting some blacks. The camera pulls back and reveals the hand as that of master puzzle constructor - and Sunday-puzzle commentator at Stamford - Merl Reagle.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More Themeless Chicanery To Come

Those of you still smarting over last weekend's L.A. Times Saturday themeless had better get some more bedrest because very soon it is happening again! I will again be making an appearance on the Saturday tip over at the L.A. Times. No idea yet just when, but we'll let you kn--err, warn you in plenty of time.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nineteen Days And Counting...

As the annual tournament we affectionately call Stamford draws near, I am looking forward to the cameraderie and the competition. I have been intensely training, doing puzzles online and on paper at an alarmingly increasing rate of speed, and with accuracy not seen before. I hope for better than last year and as long as I get that I'll be happy.

This year, The Puzzle Brothers will be on-site at Stamford for the entire weekend and will be participating in all events, including the Friday night trivia games (with the help of Ken Jennings, the all time "Jeopardy!" champion), the Saturday night screening of "Wordplay", and the Sunday awards luncheon. (Robair is extremely looking forward to the Sudoku competition. Yes, he does those too, and quite fast.) We will also be filing reports with exclusive photos of some of the competitors and puzzle celebrities. If you can't make it to Stamford, then make The Puzzle Brothers your destination for the really very truly latest (like they say in TV news)!

Monday, February 27, 2006

A bit of nostalgia for Monday

The man you see in this picture, appropriately holding a Dell Crossword Dictionary, is the father of the Puzzle Brothers, Richard Mackey (1921-1991). Oddly, it was Mom who had the crossword smarts in our family, doing all sorts of puzzles, but it was the ridiculously easy TV Guide 13's she excelled at.

As for that Dell Crossword Dictionary, you have to remember that at one time, Dell Crosswords were really very tough and unfair, particularly under the editorship of Kathleen Rafferty (and whose contributors included Eugene Maleska). You needed a book like the Dell Dictionary. It helped some that Dell was also in the hardcover business under the Delacorte Press imprint. Voila! Another way for Dell to make some money.

The Dell Crossword Dictionary survives as a "21st Century Reference" (though it really hasn't been updated since 1994) under the stewardship of Wayne Robert Williams, who was the editor of Dell Champion Puzzles. Most of the Champion puzzles are perpetually being recycled in the pages of Dell Crosswords Crosswords.

Thanks for letting us reminisce, and thanks to Debbee for unearthing this family relic. I believe I took the picture.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Robair's Saturday LA Times Puzzle

How often does someone's first puzzle land on a Saturday? Most constructors go through their themed 15 phase, but not Robair - he debuts tomorrow (Saturday) with his first published puzzle - yes, it's a themeless - for the LA Times, edited by Rich Norris.

This, of course, will take you to the puzzle using the LA Times applet. If you are a member of cruciverb.com, just look over on the right to find the link to the LA Times puzzle or archive, whichever the case may be. Or, do it the hard way - get your local newspaper and see if it is in there. The LA Times puzzle is carried in fine newspapers, like, oh, the LA Times (duh), and in the New York area in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger. Have fun!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Stamford, Here We Come

The Puzzle Brothers will be in full effect at Stamford.

After several weeks of agonizing over whether to compete or not, I have chosen to compete again this year. My singular goal this year will be to finish better than last year - 184th place, mostly the result of a crash-and-burn on Puzzle #5 (which seemed to be a lot of people's problem) and a stupid mistake on Puzzle #1.

I did a bunch of puzzles this morning and was mostly pleased with my times. More intense training will begin shortly.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dave's turn to puzzle you

It's Dave Mackey's day! He's the constructor on today's Los Angeles Times crossword. Cruciverb members can access the pussle through this link. Otherwise, you can solve it here.

Also check out our good buddy Trip Payne's Friday New York Times as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Starbucks Crossword Contest

A partnership between Starbucks Coffee and The New York Times has resulted in this contest where the top prize is free coffee for life - one cup per day for 50 years, retail value about $73,000. The special puzzles, edited by Will Shortz, will be inserted into the Sunday New York Times sold at Starbucks locations nationwide beginning this Sunday and for the next six weeks.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Crossword Puzzles Are Like Radio Stations...

I think of the puzzle editor as program director, the constructors as deejays, and their words and themes the hits they play.

Obviously the "progressive rock" of crosswords is the New York Sun. There is always something creative going on, and I can tell you there are some real doozies coming up this week, particularly Thursdays, the work of Lee Glickstein and Vic Fleming.

While we do have a Weekend Warrior this week (which I had a reasonably good time on), I've heard from Trip Payne that there is soon one of his Wacky Weekend Warriors coming up. It's a real freewheeling puzzle in which anything goes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hook Reels In Friday's Sun

I feel I best put in an advance kudo for this Friday's New York Sun puzzle by the master, Henry Hook. I won't give anything away about it except it's danged clever. Hook's byline has become a rarity in anything other than his biweekly Boston Globe efforts and Dell Crosswords Crosswords reprints, and it's nice to see him in the 15x15 format. Beware: this one's not a pushover. If there were days after Friday in the week Peter Gordon would have scheduled it then.

Peter Gordon. What a cool name. I'm thinking of changing mine if I get more prosperous to Chad Jeremy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Thanks, Will

Will Shortz has sent back a whole bunch of my puzzle submissions, most of them not fitting the New York Times' strict criteria. He did, however, say yes to one puzzle that was sent to him way back in the summertime of last year. (Oddly, this same exact puzzle was first sent to Tim Parker over at USA Today and promptly rejected within a matter of days.) We will advise you when this, or the other puzzle Will bought last spring, are going to be on the schedule.

So, fellow puzzle constructors, don't give up hope. Your day will come!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Puzzle - WSJ Friday, February 3

"Bank On It" by Randolph Ross (Here Be Spoilers!)
Mr. Ross is one of my puzzle-creating soulmates, because both of us have day jobs in education. Ross is the principal at Great Neck South High School on Long Island in New York.

Sometimes (although this doesn't seem to be a rigid requirement) the Wall Street Journal puzzles speak to the newspaper's core readership of finance experts and money handlers, and today's theme is no exception. He has collected a bunch of everyday phrases like MINERALDEPOSIT and CHECKPLEASE and has clued them in the financial vein. My favorite was "Money in the bank from a Grand Ole Opry singer?" (JUNECARTERCASH)

The tight theme is supplemented by lots of good fill, including the new 3-letter perennial WIE, signifying golfer Michelle, the lovely teen who wants to play from the men's tees but isn't having any success*. Heretofore unseen entries include EYEHAND, for "Type of coordination". In all, a great way to start the weekend puzzling. Thanks Randy!

(Also this weekend: Merl Reagle 10:11, Washington Post 10:42, HEX 11:11 (see below), Newsday 10:12, LA Times 12:16, LA Times Calendar 10:30, NY Times 22:59 (don't give me "see notepad" on the timed applet when there is NO NOTEPAD, guys))

*Please note that I mentioned that Michelle Wie is a golfer. She is NOT, however, a member of the LPGA yet, as hinted at in a clue in this week's Hex puzzle. She has stated that she will not join the LPGA until her 18th birthday.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Wordplay" To Be Released June 16

IFC Films, who made one of the first film purchases during the recent Sundance Film Festival, has announced that the documentary film "Wordplay" will enter limited theater release on Friday, June 16.

The film is an upbeat look at the life and career of Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times and organizer of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Much of the footage for the film was shot at the 2005 tourney, and they couldn't have picked a better year to be there. Much of the drama in the film will come from the most heartbreaking finals performace ever, when Al Sanders was about to totally leave foes Trip Payne and Tyler Hinman in the dust, finishing well before them -- but neglecting to complete the puzzle grid, leaving out two letters in the puzzle's first Across word, ZOLAESQUE.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Welcome To "The Puzzle Brothers"

Every day millions of Americans -- and folks all over the world -- do battle with their brains on a 15 x 15 grid, filled with black boxes and numbers. They have to know all sorts of things to tame this beast, such as Shakespeare, anatomy, pop culture, botany...just about any field of world lore is fair game.

The Puzzle Brothers are proud to officially add to the challenge with our witty, brain-teasing puzzles that have appeared in publications like USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Games, and soon The New York Times.

The Puzzle Brothers are actually twin brothers, and they comprise what is thought to be a first in the field of crosswords -- a pair of sibling constructors, and twins at that. Dave Mackey has been a published contributor to various magazines for about a year now, and has a paying job as a music teacher. The March 2006 issue of Games magazine features his quip puzzle "Double Depression". He will next be seen in the February 17, 2006 L.A. Times. Robert Mackey will have his first published puzzle (a themeless) appear in The Los Angeles Times on Saturday, February 25, 2006. Additionally, Robert was the Rookie, B Division, and New Jersey winner in the 1998 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, placed in the Top 50 in 1999 and 2005, and won the inaugural 2005 Community Blood Services Tournament in Paramus, NJ. Both brothers will make their first joint Sunday appearance in a future installment of the L.A. Times.

The fun has just begun. Soon The Puzzle Brothers will be offering web-exclusive puzzles with the same dash and flair as those placed in print. In March 2006 Robert will attend and compete in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut, and will file onsite reports all weekend. And we are planning to still be in the game for the biggest crossword event ever -- the Crossword Centennial, in 2012, which is just six short years away.

We'll be working in the next weeks on our user interface, web-exclusive content, and much much more. So stay tuned for the further adventures of The Puzzle Brothers: all for words, and words for all!