Are you a regular solver of Matt Gaffney's contest but wish you had more metas in your life? You'll want to check out the Muller Monthly Music Meta, a new contest from constructor Pete Muller. Between May 1st and the end of the year, you'll get nine music-themed crosswords, with increasingly difficult metas to solve. If you're successful, you'll have a chance to win free entry to next year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! Pete now has a warm-up puzzle for you to try, so go see what you're in for.
Meanwhile, I made this week's Onion crossword. I rather like this theme; hopefully you find it worth the effort. Have fun.
I was on vacation last week, cruising around the western Caribbean. Sorry I didn't have an April Fool's joke for you; maybe next year. For now, here's a roundup catching up on the puzzle world.
I neglected to mention my participation in the Real Escape Game, a Japanese diversion that has made its way to San Francisco. I played with a few friends (sadly, one of us got pushed to another team) and a couple strangers. I'm pleased to report that our efforts were successful and we were one of just two teams in our session to win! It wasn't without a little stress; a few times, we had what seemed like a final answer, but there was still more to do. Also, at one point we had correct information that didn't really make sense because we were ahead of the game and hadn't yet learned what it meant. It made us think something was wrong. Another quibble is that the majority of the gameplay involved just sitting at the table and solving; I would have liked more moving around the room as well as an actual physical escape. Overall, though, I quite enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the next incarnation.
In crossword and crossword-like news, Les Foeldessy has alerted me that his newest Gryptics contest is up. Enjoy the puzzle and try to win his book! Also, have you made plans to be at Crosswords LA yet? You should. We've added Brendan Emmett Quigley to the constructing roster, and, as the puzzle wrangler, I can assure you that the puzzles are of high quality.
The world of puzzle hunts is revving up too. DASH 4 is coming up later this month, the Shinteki Decathlon is in mid-May, and BANG 33, which benefits Elevate Tutoring, comes on June 2. I'm slated to play in all three! Should be fun.
As for the ongoing Black Letter Game, participants have received the second parcel. I'm getting together with my team tonight to solve it; here's hoping we meet with the success we enjoyed the first time around.
That's all I got. Have fun!
In news broken on this website, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was held this past weekend in Brooklyn. After a suspenseful series of ups and downs in the first seven puzzles, followed by a not-so-suspenseful final showdown, I captured second place. Full breakdown of the affair after the jump, and you best believe there are spoilers.
It's that time of year again... on Friday, I'm flying to New York for the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Hundreds of crossword addicts will descend upon the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott to race through seven (or eight, for a lucky and skilled few) puzzles by some of the country's best constructors, as well as to enjoy each other's company in the non-competitive hours.
On Monday, Will Shortz gave this year's lineup in an interview with Brendan Emmett Quigley. It looks extremely solid, with one big surprise: For the first time ever, Maura Jacobson will not contribute a puzzle to the tournament. It's truly the end of an era, and disappointing news for those who enjoyed finishing Saturday's slate with her light-hearted humor. Nonetheless, this year's puzzles promise to be very clever and well-crafted.
Who can best negotiate this gantlet of top puzzlemakers? As has been the case for the last few years, Dan Feyer is the prohibitive favorite. His run to the last two titles has been borderline-untouchable, and there's no reason to think his skills will be any less fearsome this time around. The big change in the pool this year is that three-time champion Trip Payne has decided to retire from competition. While that takes away one prime contender for the trophy, there's still no shortage of excellent solvers vying for the three spots in the final. Any tiny slip could put a championship hopeful on the outside looking in, so the pressure will be high.
As if that weren't enough, it's up to all of us to defend humanity against the onslaught of intelligent technology. I refer to Dr. Fill, a computer that will be contending this year. Matt Ginsberg has taken great strides in enhancing this solving program, to the point where beating it could be a daunting task. The reward for conquering the challenge: an "I Beat Dr. Fill" button!
Of course, most solvers are there just to test themselves and to have fun, an experience enhanced by the non-tournament program. While I again made the decision to forgo the Friday night events, attendees will witness a palindrome-creation competition featuring luminaries from the world of palindromes (yes, apparently there are some). There will also be a mini-competition featuring a cryptic and other crossword variants. I myself am really looking forward to Saturday, when Ginsberg reveals Dr. Fill's secrets to the possibly frightened and torch-wielding mob. We'll also have an extravaganza from Eric Berlin and Jeffrey Harris; it promises to be excellent. Then, of course, there's the now-traditional Sunday morning talent show, which is always full of surprises.
Oh, what do I think of my chances? Well, I feel about the same as I did last year. Then, I finished second after getting in virtually no practice, and I'm repeating that "strategy" this year. I still might do a little paper practice with some Maura Jacobson puzzles (still useful even though she's not a contributor this year), as well as a thick book of themeless challenges, on which I still feel I need to improve my skills. But, as I've said, my primary goal is to enjoy myself and some too-rare time with my puzzling family. I don't want to travel all that way just to let the pressure get to me!
Let's do this thing. See you at the Marriott!
Many puzzle addicts sing the praises of Puzzlewright Press, and with good reason. They turn out excellent puzzle books year after year, and they've recently resurrected that Twitter feed. Currently, they have a contest running to win Francis Heaney's Brain Games for Word Nerds. Just solve this word puzzle and mail in your entry! It's a good one and I think you should do it, even though I hurt my chances to win by telling you about it. Enjoy!
(Anybody remember this phrase from the instructions for standardized tests? No? OK, let's just move on.)
I'll take this opportunity to tell you about two puzzle events this weekend. One is Iron Puzzler, which I've previously mentioned here. As I type this, teams are squeezing their creative juices into puzzles that make use of this year's secret ingredients. I decided to bow out, as I find the event quite tiring and I had other plans this weekend. Sometimes, the best puzzles get put into a sort of BANG-ified remix (such an event was actually my first team-puzzling experience in the Bay Area), so hopefully I'll get to solve some of the results soon.
Kicking off, but not finishing, yesterday was the Black Letter Game, in which solvers receive five puzzles, one per month, through -- gasp! -- the mail. A few friends and I tackled the first one last night, and while I arrived too late to be able to contribute much, I'm looking forward to diving into the story as well as some tougher puzzles.
That's what's going on right now... stay tuned for my preview of a rather important puzzle tournament coming up in two weeks.
Another Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest is in the books! Thanks to everyone who came out to the talks and/or participated in the competitions, and congratulations to the winners! In particular, Jordan Chodorow and Eric Maddy continued their fierce rivalry in west coast puzzle contests, as they were two of the three finalists in both the sudoku and crossword tournaments. This time, it was a draw, as Jordan pulled away for the sudoku title while Eric squeaked out the crossword trophy.
Another recent development on the western puzzle scene is the announcement of the next installment of Iron Puzzler, in which teams have twenty-four hours to make two puzzles with the secret ingredients, then present their creations to everyone else. This year, our friends in Seattle will join the Bay Area fun; this will nicely expand the selection of paper puzzles to be shared. Get your teams together!
And lastly... LET'S GO GIANTS!!!
This is my hundredth post since the relaunch of tylerhinman.com! Only took me a friggin' year and a half.
But never mind that arbitrary milestone. You need to know about this weekend's Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest! Our annual gathering in Morgan Hill will feature the usual one-two punch of talks on Saturday and competitions on Sunday, featuring both crosswords and logic puzzles. I'll be wrapping up the Saturday session with a talk on current trends in the world of puzzling, and there's lots of other interesting stuff to see. Sunday's contests will have future New York Times crosswords and hand-crafted logic puzzles from Thomas Snyder, so the quality will be high. What's more, my company is sponsoring the event, and it's all for the good of the Morgan Hill Library Foundation. Hope to see you there!
First, a quick reminder that Patrick Blindauer's Musical Puzzlefest has been released! I'm looking forward to solving these when I go on vacation next week. If you're not already in on this, get to it! The puzzles look fun and prizes are at stake.
Now, as I completely failed to blog about here, about a week ago I took part in the Berkeley Mystery Hunt. This was a twelve-hour event, perfect to whet the appetite before next month's always-epic MIT Mystery Hunt. I again solved with the League of Extraordinarily Puzzlemen. This time, we were joined by Diana and Amy (the girlfriends of Solverine and myself, Kid Crossword), along with Denis, a math professor at Berkeley. Our hardy band sought to help the regents of the university, who were desperate to stabilize their financial situation while still attracting students. This was accomplished, obviously, through solving puzzles. You can read up on the Hunt yourself if you want to know how things proceeded, but after the jump are some of my (spoilery) thoughts from my own solving experience. Before the cut, I want to thank Game Control for a great event! Good show!
The World Puzzle Championship is over, and it brought more triumphs for Team USA! The team title went to the Americans as they just staved off a stiff challenge from Germany, and young Palmer Mebane captured the first of what promises to be several individual championships. Americans Thomas Snyder and Wei-Hwa Huang also made the top four. Fantastic job, guys! Maybe someday I'll get to join you, though I must admit that my prospects look bleaker each year.
Moving to word puzzles, Andrew Ries has now been posting free Rows Garden puzzles for one year. To mark the occasion, Andrew is giving some of his tip jar income this week to charities. These puzzles are worthy of donations in any event, so do consider contributing to encourage Andrew's craft and to help worthy causes to boot.