That Puzzle Guy's Blog Waiting for an endorsement deal from Pentel


Plugs are alive and well!

I might not blog like I used to, but I'll never miss out on the chance to point out when it's my turn in the American Values Club rotation. It's a relatively light offering; hope you like it. And if you're not a subscriber... come on; we've been over this. Or you can buy just this one puzzle for an even buck.

I'll also take this opportunity to point out a few Kickstarter campaigns that are winding down. You have about a day left to back Matt Jones's crossword project. You can get the main set for just twenty cents a puzzle, but I recommend throwing in a little more to get the bonus pack as well. And when you're done with that, join more than 14,000 people excited for a new immersive game from Cyan. If you don't remember who they are, perhaps this next sentence will help: I'm honestly Myst-ified that this project didn't reach the goal in no time flat. I really want to see this one get to the finish line!

Lastly, congratulations to Eric LeVasseur on taking top honors at this year's Crosswords LA event. Hope everyone had fun at our new setting in Santa Monica. Did you miss the tournament? No worries; you can buy this year's puzzles to support charity.


Back to BACFill

The Bay Area's very own crossword tournament comes back on Saturday! You can enter right at the door for a mere $35, benefiting Families of SMA. Join us in Oakland!

It's been a while since I've mentioned a new puzzle-related Kickstarter... oh, look, here's one from Matt Jones of Jonesin' Crosswords! For a mere pittance, Matt is offering a hefty pack of barred crosswords, a grid type that's very rare outside the realm of variety cryptics. I've chipped in to see Matt's good work and you should too!

To finish this entry, I'm wondering where I should go with this blog. I post only the puzzle news that lands on my radar, and often I do so quite tardily. I doubt anyone's hearing about these matters for the first time from this site. Blogs like Puzzle Pile do a much better job of casting a wider net in a more prompt fashion. Perhaps I and you would be better served by writing less frequently, but putting up nice meaty posts when I do write. These could be deep recaps of events like tournaments and hunts, or opinionated essays like The War on Fill. Based on comment count, these certainly seem to be the popular posts anyway. Plus, if I post less, perhaps I could work on putting up the occasional original puzzle here. (Don't expect weekly!) Thoughts?


Brain bucks

We just keep innovating over at the American Values Club Crossword. Now you can buy a single puzzle for just one dollar! So if you want to solve just that one particularly brilliant puzzle that has Twitbook and Facespace abuzz, or perhaps target the work of one specific gifted constructor who has red hair and writes a puzzle blog, you can do it! I can't think of a single better use for a dollar, except for applying it towards a full subscription, of course.

I don't plug my employer often here, but I feel I'd be remiss not to mention that our updated iOS app is now live! This is a big overhaul, with major improvements throughout, so give it a look. And yes, we're working on Android; I'm just as anxious for that as you are!


Shining moment

Last weekend was a very successful puzzle-hunting one! The biggest thrill came on Saturday, when the League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen achieved an unlikely victory in the Berkeley Mystery Hunt! We were certain triumph would elude us when we took an unsettlingly long time on a meta, but we arrived at the final challenge with just one team leading us by mere minutes. Even then, it seemed to be a long shot. Fortunately, that puzzle was a meatball right down the heart of the plate. Yup, it was a crossword. There was a twist, of course, but with the whole team shouting out answers, it was quickly defeated; I barely ever stopped writing! We raced down to CAL 9000, a robot that wasn't willing to let Berkeley puzzler Ankur Mehta graduate and leave it behind. Using information our grid, we set up a series of mirrors, then aimed a laser through all of them to activate an interface, which accepted the puzzle's final answer. A very cool final puzzle, and a most exciting win for our team. My compatriots were kind enough to let me keep the big awesome coin and it's made a nice addition to the wall just outside my door.

The next day, I also enjoyed Lumber Party at the Octothorpean website. My teammates were unavailable, but I was able to take down the whole thing, including one backsolve, in about an hour on my own. Looking forward to more on this site!

Looking over to Kickstarter, Roger Wolff's cryptic crossword project is in its final days, and he's thrown in a hell of an enticement to help get it over the finish line. For just a $10 addition to your pledge, you can get a giant block cryptic for your wall! That's way better than some other giant crossword snoozefest. Do it!

In exciting, mysterious, creepy, possible-ARG news, something strange is going on at the Pronunciation Book channel on YouTube. After years of short, innocuous guides to American pronunciation of various words and names, the series has begun an unnerving 77-day countdown, giving us only opaque sentences and telling us that "something is going to happen." Theories abound as to what we're facing here; popular ideas involve promotions for Half-Life 3 and Halo 5 and a new Battlestar Galactica. I'll refrain from speculation, but I'll be watching with great interest, hoping for a cool ARG!


Hungry for puzzles

Less than two weeks until the arrival of Trip Payne's 2013 extravaganza! Have you signed up yet? I'm looking forward to seeing what he's cooked up for this year after 2012's fun set.

In newer news, Eric Berlin has announced the upcoming launch of an exciting puzzle magazine called Will Shortz's WordPlay. I know that this project has a lot of highly regarded puzzlers behind it, and I'm very eager to give them my money and see the first issue in January. You should be too!

Oh, hey, AV Club subscribers! It's my turn again to bring you a puzzle! The thematic density forced me to a 78-word grid, but I'm quite pleased with how the fill turned out. Hope you agree! Non-subscribers, fools that you are, can rectify this situation through that link there. We have a special 23x23 bonus puzzle coming up; don't miss it!

Lastly, I'm very pleased to have learned that Team Apetitius Giganticus is headed to our nation's capital to be tributes in The Famine Game! We have three months to prepare to enter the arena...


By the numbers

In ascending order.

2: That was the League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen's global rank in the DASH 5 results! I'm thrilled, considering we were but a three-man team, as evidenced by our loss of some time on the very parallelizable Find puzzle. It was a fun day in Half Moon Bay; thanks to the DASH crew!

6: Continuing with the rankings, this was Cluefenshmirtz Evil Inc.'s finish at the Shinteki Decathlon this past Saturday. We got through all the main puzzles and several of the bonus challenges at the end location, so I think we did great. Thanks to the Shinteki gang for another fantastic event! (I hope to have big recaps of both DASH 5 and Decathlon 8 soon, but you know how long that typically takes on this blog.)

9: I'm also very happy with my US Sudoku Test ranking; top ten in the USA is always a good result for me. There's still a very intimidating barrier between me and the top American solvers, but I consider performances like this one encouraging.

45: That's the number of puzzles in a planned book of cryptic crosswords contributed by luminaries of the art. They're spearheaded by Roger Wolff, who has experience with this kind of thing. As so many puzzlemakers have, Roger has turned to Kickstarter to get this venture going. You can sign up for an electronic or a physical copy of the eventual book, and there are cool color-changing pencils and coffee mugs to be had as well. Let's get more cryptics into the world!


Viva variety

Quite a few things to post about today from several areas of the puzzle world.

First off, an item from Sunday that I'd forgotten about. I made a guest appearance on Thomas Snyder's excellent Grandmaster Puzzles blog, contributing an odd logic puzzle I came up with. It's small, but might pose a decent challenge until you have the important breakthrough, so give it a try.

Another novel logic puzzle type is debuting on Nikoli's website; I've certainly never heard of it before. Meet Satogaeri. I blew through the sample puzzles and I'm interested to see what can be done with it at a harder difficulty. We were overdue for a new type on the site and I'm glad we're getting it.

On the crossword side of things, Fireball Crosswords mastermind Peter Gordon has turned to Kickstarter to continue the crosswords he contributed to The Week magazine until recently. If you like the Fireballs' style, but think you might like something a little easier and newsier, give this a look; you can get the puzzles for as little as a quarter apiece. Gordon has set an ambitious goal; I'll be keeping tabs to see if he gets there.

Hey, look, DASH 5 is on Saturday! Puzzlers in fourteen cities across America will solve the same puzzle hunt, tailored slightly to make a good walking game for each locale. A week from Saturday, it goes international, as even London gets in on the action. I'll join up with a slightly shorthanded League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen team; Dr. Sudoku's move to Seattle has trimmed our ranks. Nonetheless, I feel good about our upcoming experience in Half Moon Bay and I trust it'll be fun everywhere else too.

Lastly, on Monday, I got news that I immediately knew was going to be the best of my week. A sizable part of my childhood, The Incredible Machine, is coming back in the form of Contraption Maker, from the same team that did the original games! I'd always wondered what could happen in that game with modern technology and without some of the limitations of the versions I played. I have a large game backlog as it is, but I'll have to make room for this one!


Happy new year!

The Year of Puzzles, that is. The first fruits of Puzzazz's campaign finally reached backers today, and it's a meaty double-Spiral puzzle from Parker Lewis. This initial offering is free for everyone, so try it out if you're not already in on this. Looking forward to seeing what's next!

Elsewhere, it's my turn over at the American Values Club crossword, so if you're a subscriber, I hope you enjoy my nice 'n' easy creation. If you're not a subscriber, we're fighting. Go make it up to me by signing up.


Late to the games

The post-ACPT haze cleared up a while ago, but I've been very busy all the same. Let's run down a few items I probably should have blogged about in a more timely fashion.

I contributed last week's NPR puzzle. Unfortunately, a wording change introduced the possibility of a second answer, so here's my original version that should only permit my intended answer: Take an eight-letter word for something used in water. Phonetically remove another word for something else used in water. The result, again phonetically, will be a verb describing what the first word can do to water. What words are these?

The indie crossword blogosphere continues to grow; check out Andy Kravis's site. Andy's work has been featured in, among other places, 20 Under 30, so I'm looking forward to more good puzzles in that vein.

Prolific Sporcle quiz creator (and National Puzzlers' League member) sproutcm created a puzzle hunt, in which all the quizzes resolve to a final answer. Can you crack the metapuzzle? Find all the challenges here.

The Shinteki Decathlon is back! I always look forward to this day of great puzzles that take participants all over the Bay Area. This time around, I'm getting back together with my team from last year's Disneyland event. The sign-ups for June 1st and 8th filled up quickly, but there's a possibility that a third run will be added on the 15th.

Meanwhile, the puzzle hunt season is really heating up on the east coast. BAPHL 7 is coming next month; I'm looking forward to helping the test-solving effort next week. Late June will see the Boston edition of WarTron, and The Famine Game, still shrouded in mystery, will take place near the end of September. Get to work on my teleportation device, scientists.


Games in the grid

I can't imagine how or why you'd have the thought that there aren't enough Kickstarter projects for quality puzzles, but really, I'm not sure there's such a thing as too many highly-regarded puzzlemakers setting these things up. The newest one is from Neville Fogarty; he's promising a suite of crosswords based on board games. I've eagerly thrown in my tenner and look forward to the results. Between this, Patrick Berry's cryptics, Lone Shark Games' puzzle novel, Trip Payne's extravaganza, Puzzazz's year of hunt-style challenges, David Millar's logic puzzle book, and Double Fine's adventure game, there's gonna be a lot of puzzle payoff later this year! (Late addition to this entry: Millar has released the PDF of his book to his backers! Hooray!)

Thomas Snyder alerted me to a fun contest from Logic Masters India. Solvers have a week to finish the test, doing a puzzle at a time as their schedules suit them. It's set up this way because every puzzle is big; solving them in one go would be a pretty big undertaking! Hopefully I'll find the time to do this this week, but I feel like I have something to do this coming weekend...

...oh, look at that; the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has snuck up on us again. I'll again make a quick 48-hour trip to Brooklyn in pursuit of my sixth championship. Once again, though, I don't really like my chances for a few reasons. One is the strength of the field; in addition to favorite Dan Feyer, there are at least a few people poised to make their first big push towards the top three, in addition to the crowd already clamoring for spots in the final. The number of serious title contenders very comfortably reaches double digits. Secondly, the hunger I spoke of in last year's wrap-up hasn't really manifested itself. Life remains busy, and when I've had chances to practice, I've decided I'd rather just play Super Mario Galaxy (64 of 120 stars found so far) or something instead. I'm realizing more and more that speed-solving, especially on paper, just isn't something I particularly enjoy. Lastly, because of the Pacific-Eastern time change and the tournament coinciding with the Daylight Savings change, I'm going to be solving Puzzle 7, the final opportunity to charge at a spot in the final, at what feels like 5 AM. Adrenaline will get me through it, but it's no substitute for genuine rest, especially when it comes to avoiding careless mistakes.

The good news for me is that, for whatever reason, I pull out my best solving when trying to win this tournament, and I've exceeded my low expectations with second-place finishes the last two years. Also, though most of them are on the computer, I still solve a ton of crosswords, so I have no reason to think my clue-solving skill has lapsed. And, as I know better than anyone, luck plays a hefty role in this event, from the variables in the puzzles to the knowledge gaps every solver has to the crucial difference between times of 3:59 and 4:01. To sum up, I can't say I think it'll be me lifting the bowl, but it could be. See you by the Bridge on Friday!