The Crossword Graveyard, Laid To Rest

Welcome to the third and final installment of The Crossword Graveyard, wherein I write a little about the crossword books I've solved over the years before relegating them to the recycling bin. (Also see Part 1 and Part 2.)

These two books are reissues from a four-volume series called Masterpiece Crosswords, published in the mid-1990s and curated by Random House editor Stanley Newman. Each book of 50 puzzles features two or three contributions each from all the top names in crosswords. The original volumes also included biographical sketches of the constructors. I can imagine that 25 years ago, these were the absolute favorite books of crossword aficionados. These puzzles still hold up pretty well, and the reissues from Puzzlewright under the Crossword Superstars title are very much worth a look.

Couple of unrelated titles, linked by their smaller physical sizes. David J. Kahn's Baseball Crosswords is an early entry in the Peter Gordon era at Sterling, and one of the first books I bought, crammed with baseball content. These puzzles have since been reissued in combination with Kahn's other baseball-themed crossword book. The Penguin Classics volume of literature-themed crosswords is a one-off from 2011, edited by Ben Tausig, with a wide variety of contributors. The puzzles are excellent, and the book is memorable to me because I solved it all during a run of the musical Company. I was playing piano in the orchestra, and had enough downtime during dialogue scenes to complete 75 puzzles in the space of two dress rehearsals and six performances.

Mr. Kahn is known for his tribute/obituary crosswords in the Times, so he went ahead and wrote a whole book of them for Puzzlewright! Francis Heaney's Trivial Pursuit-branded book uses actual questions and answers from the game as theme answers, so each puzzle is built around 3 to 6 trivia questions from the same category. If you're reading this, you probably already know that anything Francis writes is worth solving.

I put these together just because of the similar titles. Martin Ashwood-Smith's puzzles are the wide-open themeless grids that he's known for, but the clues are at a Tuesday/Wednesday level. (His Triple-Stack Crosswords, which is still unsolved on my shelf, works the same way.) Martin is a contributor to the Challenging volume, alongside a dozen other CrosSynergy authors. This is a collection of "Sunday Challenge" themelesses from the early 2000s, which tend to play around a Friday NYT level.

Finishing up with an olio of old-school Sterling offerings. These four are all comprised of original puzzles, with a few exceptions. Cathy Allis's book was reissued in 2014 as Humorous Coffee Shop Crosswords, and the puzzles are typically clever and fun. Trip Payne's fun volume cycles among three different styles: themed, themeless, and Siamese Twins. Rich Norris's gimmick, as advertised, is that every puzzle is a pangram. The first 26 puzzles are themed, each inspired by a different letter, and the rest themeless. Harvey Estes's book is a straightforward collection of themed puzzles, some larger than 15x15. It's a prime example of the silliness of the Mensa logo deal, mentioned in my previous roundup.

Matt Jones's and Ben Tausig's books are collections of their syndicated indie puzzles (Jonesin' and Ink Well, respectively). Trip's Pop Culture has original themed puzzles on various pop culture topics. Wrath of Klahn is one of the few crossword books I couldn't put down. Usually I stretch out a particularly special puzzle book as long as possible (I spent about five years working through Berry's Puzzle Masterpieces, and I'm over ten years and counting with Cox & Rathvon's Atlantic cryptic collection). Even though I'd already solved many of the previously published "Sunday Challenge" themelesses in the book, Bob Klahn's gorgeous grids and nonpareil cluing were addictive, and I finished it in a matter of weeks. Klahn has apparently retired from constructing, but deserves more credit as one of the all-time greats.

"Something Different" Puzzle Pack

I am pleased to share this collection of "Something Different" crosswords, originally published between 1985 and 1994 in Crossworder's OWN Newsletter and Tough Puzzles, edited by Stanley Newman. Years ago I digitized these puzzles for my personal use, and with Stan's permission, offer the files for everyone to enjoy.

Both links lead to the same .zip folder containing 26 .puz files. Download the folder to your computer, and "extract" or "unzip" it to access the individual files. Look to the top-right for the "download" icon on both sites. You do not need a Google or Dropbox account.

The .puz files can be opened in Across Lite and other solving programs. If you prefer solving on paper, open the puzzle in your program of choice and print from there. File names include the publication date (year/month) and author's initials.

UPDATE, 4pm PT: Puzzle "88-08" was missing a handful of clues. Fixed and re-posted the entire bundle. To download just that puzzle, click here.

CONTACT ME with any questions or problems!

(from the experts)

"In this puzzle, most of the answers are made-up words and phrases. For example, the clue "Stupid plane" would lead to the answer DUMBJET, and "Similar to cartoon character Fudd" to ELMERIC. Normal answers are clued in the regular way."
--Peter Gordon, Fireball Crosswords

"This is an unusual crossword type that allows any phrase that makes some sort of sense and can be fairly clued. A few examples: "Seafood transportation" is LOBSTER BUS and "The Crow State" is  CAWIFORNIA. All wacky answers are clued in a very straightforward manner. Those few answers that might actually be found in a normal crossword are clued normally."
--Stanley Newman, Masterpiece Crosswords

"Something Different crosswords allow made-up entries that can be clued in any way. For example, the clue "Flowery poem about one 1980s fad" might lead to ODE ON A RUBIK'S CUBE; the clue "Like margarine" might lead to OLEOESQUE. Most Something Differents will include some real words as well, particularly among the shorter entries; these will be clued normally and are good places to start. Expect anything and keep your mind open!"
--Trip Payne, Triple Play Puzzles

(from me)
  • Look for the "normal" short answers that are clued regularly. Start there to gain a foothold.
  • Fill-in-the-blank answers work as in normal crosswords, though the "partial" phrases are longer and more outlandish. 
    • ___ is a curved line = AN ARC
    • "Listen when I'm ___!" (bell's annoyed remark) = TOLLING TO YOU
  • Long answers can often be solved one component at a time.
    • Impartial flightless bird = FAIR EMU
    • Frame the star of "Home Improvement" = SET UP TIM ALLEN
  • The most fun answers are straight-up jokes clued as a whole, like "City near Cantataburg" = ORATORIOVILLE
  • There might be unnecessary articles (A, THE) in a phrase, or awkward syntax, or other weirdness. Just remember that the usual crossword rules don't apply!
  • If you're new to Something Different, I recommend starting with the later puzzles, because the first ones made are less smooth and more difficult.
Michael "Rex Parker" Sharp posted a video about Trip Payne's recent Cuckoo Crossword for Fireball Crosswords. Check it out for some more fun clue/answer examples! (SPOILERS if you haven't solved Fireball Year 11, Puzzle 14, published 4/1/20)

Evan Birnholz wrote a Something Different for the Washington Post Sunday crossword, and posted a detailed write-up about constructing the puzzle, including solving tips (and SPOILERS for the Post Magazine puzzle of 9/16/18).


Because they were written 25 to 35 years ago, these puzzles may contain:
  • Old-school crosswordese like UNAU, ANOA, AI, etc.
  • References to entertainers, politicians, and celebrities who aren't very famous anymore
  • Language that's culturally insensitive in 2020, like "Indian" meaning Native American (UPDATE: to avoid the most uncomfortable material, skip puzzles "85-10" and "86-12")
  • Stray typos, which are entirely my fault


Crossworder's OWN Newsletter was the first "indie" crossword publication, founded by Stan Newman as an alternative to the not-so-fun New York Times puzzle under Eugene Maleska's editorship. Along with GAMES Magazine, the Newsletter represented the "New Wave" of crosswords, emphasizing creativity and wordplay, and providing outlets for brilliant young puzzlers named Shortz, Hook, Reagle, Shenk, Cox & Rathvon, to name a few.

Something Different was invented by two of the all-time greatest cruciverbalists, who both sadly passed away in 2015. This "editorial" by Henry Hook appears with Merl's puzzle in the October 1985 Newsletter:

I recently, half-jokingly, suggested to Merl Reagle the idea of a "something different" puzzle, wherein any conjured phrase that is grammatically sensible and fairly-and-squarely clueable may appear, allowing for a puzzle that can be best described as "goofy." For example, "Milestone in an actor's life" might be WALLACE BEERY'S FIRST SHAVE. Or "Philharmonic transportation" might be ORCHESTRA BOAT. [. . .]
[This] is the first crossword of its kind ever to be published.

Stan recalls that Henry was the first to create such a puzzle, but that grid wasn't published until 1989 (it's the only one by HH in this collection). Several different authors wrote Something Differents in the early years, before Trip Payne took over as the regular constructor, with a puzzle in almost every issue. After the Newsletter (later renamed Tough Puzzles) shut down, Trip remembers making a few more for GAMES or World of Puzzles, under the title "Anything Goes." It wasn't until the mid-2000s that Peter Gordon revived the idea for regular publication, running Trip's annual April Fool's Day puzzles in the New York Sun and Fireball Crosswords.


Four additional Something Different crosswords from Tough Puzzles are available on Triple Play Puzzles, along with many other free puzzles by the master of the Something Different form, Trip Payne. (Those four are not included in this collection.)

Fireball Crosswords (edited by Peter Gordon) publishes a Cuckoo Crossword by Trip Payne every April Fool's Day. Previous years of puzzles are available at the website and in collections from Puzzlewright Press.

Evan Birnholz posted three free Something Different puzzles at his indie site, Devil Cross: Puzzle #12Puzzle #40; Puzzle #69

In the coming weeks and months, I'll be posting more digitized puzzle collections from the Newsletter, including standard crosswords, diagramlesses, and (non-ACPT) tournament sets. Have fun and stay safe!