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, 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!