Sunday, 12/30/12

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Hopefully, by now I'll have taken some time to spruce up the sidebar (a little) and FAQ (a lot). (Nope! --ed.) I'm expecting extra traffic next weekend, because my first Sunday puzzle (co-written with Andrea Carla Michaels) runs on January 6.

Sunday, 12/2/12

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Well, if the Boston Globe puzzle isn't going to be available anymore, I'll take it off the spreadsheet. Bummer - Hook's grids were usually the most fun 21x of the week. I will leave the space for Merl's puzzle, since some of us seem to be using his website applet.
(UPDATE two weeks later: Hex and Hook's Sunday puzzles have been restored to the internet, and to the spreadsheet.)

Sunday, 11/11/12

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I should be just about caught up from last week. Last Monday was easy enough to allow for a NYT personal best (1:40).

Wednesday, 11/7/12

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As I mentioned the other day, I'm super busy this week (and this month)... solving will be sporadic, but I'll catch up eventually.

Saturday, 11/3/12

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I've got a brand-new laptop, and I'm still getting used to it...

On Tuesday I'm starting rehearsals, and I don't know how well I'll be keeping up with the puzzles... but the spreadsheets will keep coming!

Friday, 10/12/12

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Follow-up: I can definitely recommend the Vowelless from Cross Nerd - hard but solvable.

Tuesday, 10/9/12

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[Personal note removed!]
Hey, Peter Broda has a vowelless crossword today - I can't vouch for it, but it should be worth solving...

Wednesday, 9/26/12

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Thanks David for the heads-up: CHE puzzles have been posted.

Tuesday, 9/25/12

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Who wants some site news?
    Tomorrow will be the 1400th not-post here.
    I've successfully upgraded to Google Drive (the home for Google Docs) without breaking anything.
    Posters are encouraged to use Google's new Comments feature and leave notes directly on the spreadsheet. Just right-click on a cell and select "Insert comment". View existing comments by hovering over the cells with markings in the corner. It's a quicker, easier way to say "missed the crossing of 69a/42d", or to add a meta solving time! Traditional Blogger comments are of course still welcome. [[UPDATE: There are "comments" -- not visible on the embedded spreadsheet -- and "notes", which are like footnotes and which you can see above. I think I prefer "comments"...?]]
    Still no revamped FAQ.

Monday, 9/24/12

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I solved this week's NYT puzzles (Mon-Thu) at the Westchester tournament.

Saturday, 9/22/12

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Last night I attended the Pleasantville Crossword Tournament at the Westchester Table Tennis Center, featuring next Monday-Thursday's NYT puzzles (which I solved on the judges' table before helping to judge). Our own Glen Ryan was the fastest on all three qualifying puzzles, beating out usual suspects Jeffrey Schwartz, Elaine Lippman, Ken Stern, et al. Glen was fastest on the playoff puzzle, but couldn't untangle a wrong letter, which allowed Tom Weisswange to take the title by finishing cleanly. (Jeffrey finished third with a different wrong letter.) As usual, it's great fun to see fellow puzzlers, and to hang out at Will Shortz's house afterwards.

Friday, 9/7/12

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I'm heading out of town for the weekend. See you on Monday!

Wednesday, 8/29/12

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Just got back to NYC! I'll catch up over the next couple days.

And if you didn't see this when I posted it on Facebook, check out my newly unearthed early attempt at crossword construction: Link that should work for everyone

Tuesday, 8/21/12

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I'm in California for the next week, so my daily solving will be sporadic.

Lollapuzzoola 5, 8/4/12

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Congrats to 2012 champion Joon Pahk! He handily defeated Francis Heaney and Kiran Kedlaya to take the prize. (Part of the prize was theater tickets that he can't use, so Francis got a little prize as well.) The Local Division champion, Glen Ryan of Connecticut, dominated his division and his final even more. Glen is "Express" fast -- you can see his times in my spreadsheet under the mysterious nom de puzzle "VT" -- but hadn't been to a major tournament before. Look for him to win the C Division this March...

Share your times on the Lollapuzzoola puzzles, whether you were in the room or solving at home. My times are from late-stage test-solving, so it's 99% the same as the final version.

Sunday, 8/5/12

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For the Second Sunday "Twice Removed", post the number of answers you come up with. I'm not done trying, but I'm not doing very well...

Saturday, 8/4/12

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Lollapuzzoola 5 is today! Once again, I'm helping out as a judge. With two-time champion Jeffrey Harris also joining the judges' ranks, it's a wide-open field. [EDIT: Scuttlebutt from the night before indicates that the favorites are Joon Pahk, Francis Heaney, Jon Delfin, Al Sanders, and possibly young Erik Agard...]

I've scheduled a LP5 spreadsheet post to go up when the tournament is over. Share your times and comments there!

Wednesday, 7/18/12

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I updated my sidebar/blogroll. Who and what have I forgotten?

Next stop: new FAQ. Then: Redesign? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I kid. Anyway, happy birthday to me.

Thursday, 7/5/12

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As this posts, I'm about to get on a flight back to New York...

Today's NYT puzzle was the championship puzzle at the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge last weekend. Below is a short write-up about the exciting final round and the tournament in general.

SPOILERS for today's Times puzzle below!




Will Shortz was good enough to provide this week's Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday puzzles for the tournament, and we commissioned an original, appropriately themed puzzle from Andrea Carla Michaels and her friend Gregory Cameron. (I can send that to you if you'd like to solve it.) We had about 25 competitors, which could have been better, but it was the first time and if (when) the Napa Library decides to do it again next year, people will know about it, both inside and outside our puzzle world.

Because the Monday puzzle was pretty hard, we essentially ended up with three Tuesday puzzles as the qualifying rounds. Eric Maddy was the first to finish each round, in around 3:15-3:30. The most incorrect papers were on the Monday puzzle, with that HEC/AMORES crossing.

When he sent me the puzzles, Will warned that the Thursday final was on the very hard side, and offered to prepare next Thursday's instead -- but we had to get the grid enlarged and copied onto foamcore, so we didn't have time to wait. (He figured the Wednesday puzzle wasn't appropriate because of its specialized movie theme.) Will was kind enough to ease up a handful of clues for our final, so that it wouldn't be too crazy hard.

We needn't have worried, because all three finalists finished in 12 minutes or so, well under the 20 I'd allotted. But it was exciting nonetheless. Finishing in third place, 22-year-old Google employee Jeff Davidson only wrote numbers in the rebus squares.  He said he had the gimmick in his head, but obviously we couldn't give him credit.

First place was yet another photo finish -- after last year's ACPT B finals and this year's Crosswords LA -- with Jon Berman raising his hand less than a second before Eric Maddy.  But they both had one half-wrong rebus square!  Jon had HDTV instead of 3DTV in the top-right, because that was the first corner he finished, when he didn't have the theme totally grasped.  Eric Maddy didn't remember his computer keyboard well enough, and put down SAND * (star) instead of SAND $ along with the "4".  Eric had actually called me over during the final (they weren't wearing iPods or headphones) and whispered, "Do we need to have both elements in the square?"  I had to tell him that I couldn't answer.  Specifying such a thing beforehand would have given too much away, we all agreed, and none of the finalists were annoyed afterwards.  (And it's not like there was a lot of cash at stake.)

For first place, Jon won a dinner package on the Napa Valley Wine Train, a bottle of wine, the alphabet in cookies from ABC Bakery, and a cute little trophy. About half the contestants came away with prizes, because we had a lot of donations from local businesses. Overall the day was a success, and the Napa Valley Library Foundation was thrilled. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and especially Evy Warshawski and Gretchen Margaroli for making it happen.

P.S. I don't think I'm going to post the NPR-Puzzlemaster-style quiz I wrote, because a certain collaborative constructor suggested we try to make it into a Sunday theme. So why not, we're going to see if that works. Sorry!

Monday, 7/2/12

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Saturday's Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge was a big success! Congratulations to Jon Berman, Eric Maddy, and Jeff Davidson for taking the top three spots. We used this week's Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday NYT puzzles, as well as an original puzzle by Andrea Carla Michaels and Gregory Cameron. Thank yous to Andrea and Gregory, Tyler Hinman, and Jeremy Horwitz for coming up from SF to help out, and Will Shortz for the puzzles.

I'll write a bit more about the tournament with the Thursday post, because the finals were exciting. Before that, I'll probably post the NPR Puzzlemaster-style game I wrote for the event, so look for that this week too.

Meanwhile, would anybody mind sending me the .puz files for Saturday and Sunday, CS and ND? I don't have my laptop but I can print out Across Lite... don't want to get too far behind with the solving... (got 'em)

Friday, 6/29/12

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I'm flying to San Francisco tonight for this weekend's Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge. Because I have this iPad now, I don't need to take my laptop, which means I won't be doing much speed-solving before I return on Thursday.

Monday, 6/18/12

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Flying home to New York today, and going straight to rehearsal for my next show. May not return to puzzles for a couple days.

I should give a shout-out to Amy, who not only assembled a few crossworders to have lunch when I was in Chicago last week, but also sent me home with a dozen GAMES and World of Puzzles magazines, *plus* a huge stack of crosswords (and cryptic and variety and puzzle suites) torn out from other issues. I've never been a GAMES subscriber, so I'm glad to give a good home to these puzzles that Amy didn't have time for.

Monday, 6/11/12

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I'm taking a break until Wednesday. One week until I get back to NYC!

Thursday, 5/31/12

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I'm back! My longest ever crossword hiatus lasted from Thursday morning to Wednesday afternoon, with the exception of the MGWCC on Friday afternoon and a few puzzles in a book Tuesday night while watching TV. I caught up on about half the puzzles I missed, and will get to the rest tomorrow. Maybe.

Friday, 5/25/12

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I'm taking a few days off from puzzles - opening night is tomorrow, and several visitors are in town. Auto-posts are all scheduled, and I'll see you on Tuesday or Wednesday!

Tuesday, 5/22/12

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I finally got a chance to do the Crosswords LA puzzles. Good stuff!

Sunday, 5/20/12

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Crosswords LA 2012

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Crosswords LA was held Saturday, May 12, 2012, at Loyola Marymount University. Elissa Grossman, director; Tyler Hinman, puzzle editor. Buy the puzzles here; all proceeds benefit Reading to Kids.

Share your times, and discuss the puzzles (and the tournament action, if you were there) in the comments!

Friday, 5/18/12

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As I'm sure you know by now, the Crosswords LA puzzles are now available. You may have even solved them already! I'll put up a post on Saturday to share times, though I probably won't have a chance to solve before then.

Tuesday, 5/15/12

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Some exciting puzzle packets are coming our way this week. Trip Payne has delivered the three bonus crosswords for backers of his upcoming extravanganza. In tribute to Trip - and in order to get a little more enjoyment for my money - I won't be speed-solving those.

I will be speed-solving the puzzles from last weekend's Crosswords LA, which I expect will be available, like last year, for a small donation on Alex's site. I'm planning to put up a special post to share times and discuss the LA puzzles. Once they're available, I'll let you know when the post will go up, and we can try to get the puzzles done by then. Probably not before this weekend.

Friday, 5/4/12

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Guest puzzle by Brad Wilber at - I test-solved it, so I won't chime in with a time.

Tuesday, 5/1/12

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Just finished the MGWCC crossword! (See Friday comments for details.)

Wednesday, 4/25/12

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Not sure what happened tonight - I may have forgotten how to use Blogger.

Tuesday, 4/24/12

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Took me almost six months, but I finally missed an auto-post! This is back-dated for symmetry, but it actually went up two hours late. Usually I set up a week of posts at a time, but I did the last batch more than two weeks ago, because my show opened last weekend and I knew I'd be busy. Ironically, I spent a lot of the last two days... making a crossword! (gasp)

Friday, 4/20/12

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Two links this morning. I haven't been keeping up with Nathan Curtis's output, but he's been posting several different types of variety puzzles on a semi-regular basis. I'll print the lot when I get a chance. If anybody's been solving them, feel free to comment on their quality and difficulty.

And Tyler just posted an essay/rant on decreasing fill standards, which is interesting and I hope sparks some discussion. Go discuss.