That Puzzle Guy's Blog The USA Today crossword's worst nightmare

4Dec/12Off

Room for a challenge

If you read my Android app reviews yesterday, you might have been intrigued by Dooors, and either recalled a real-life version of this sort of game or wished one existed. Well, once again, San Francisco delivers the goods! The same people who bring us the Real Escape Game are presenting the Real Escape Room this month. In each session, eleven players will team up in a single room, their lone goal being to open the door! Getting there will require scouring the room and untangling all the enigmas that turn up. It should be a great time; my usual cronies and I are participating in just a couple weeks. There aren't a lot of tickets left for 2012's run, but don't worry if you miss out; while the dates haven't been determined, I am told there will be more opportunities to play in 2013. Happy escaping!

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16Nov/12Off

Delay of game

Looks like I have a little catching up to do here following my trip out of town last weekend. I traveled to Cincinnati, and, despite the nightmarish crapfest thrown up by my beloved New York Giants at Paul Brown Stadium, I had a great time. Let's see what's happening right now.

The biggest bombshell, of course, is that The Onion AV Club has foolishly dropped our crossword. After a great six-year run, we were cut pretty much overnight. But we won't go away without a fight. We've shifted our attention to the burgeoning market for independent puzzles, and we've announced a Kickstarter for the new American Values Club crossword! (Get it?) If you enjoyed our puzzles and want to see them continue, it's vital that you... I'm sorry; I'm being handed a bulletin here...

...oh, it seems we've already raised over $12,000, comfortably passing our goal with more than a month to spare. Well then! This is what happens when one neglects to post in a timely fashion. Great thanks to everyone who has already donated! We will do our very best to live up to your high standards. If you haven't contributed yet, lock down your subscription while making our venture even stronger and more long-lived. Other rewards include autographed books and even grateful phone calls from us constructors. And two big spenders will be lucky enough to get a custom song from virtuoso Brendan Emmett Quigley or a personal visit from our fearless leader, Ben Tausig! Get it while it's hot!

If you've done that and you want to contribute to another talented independent puzzlemaker, or if you hate the AV Club puzzles and want to spend elsewhere, I highly recommend making a contribution to the tip jar over at Aries Puzzles. I really enjoy the weekly Rows Garden from Andrew Ries, and as if that weren't enough reason, Andrew is also donating some of the proceeds to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Looking ahead to events I'm not too late to write about, I will indeed be hunting for Black Bart's hidden hoard on Saturday. Expect a full postgame report!

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2Nov/12Off

The Pauer of Puzzles

With another holiday season comes another Puzzlefest from Patrick Blindauer! This will be the fourth one, and I recommend that you preorder it and check out the three previous packs if you haven't seen them. Patrick remains tight-lipped about this year's theme, but we do know that the difficulty level will be a little higher this time, and two grand prize winners (one fast, one lucky) will receive all of Patrick's books! Run, don't walk.

19Oct/12Off

Back in action

Been a while since I've posted about puzzle-related events, so here's a smattering of happenings.

Over at the excellent Aries Puzzles, Andrew Ries is running a Rows Garden contest to win an exciting new puzzle book honoring the crossword puzzle's 100th birthday. It's a good, approachable puzzle; check it out.

Tomorrow is The Mastermind Hunt in San Francisco. I think my team will be stiff competition, and I'll have a full report of the event next week.

Lastly, keep your eyes and ears open for a series of puzzle events to be held next month at Barnes & Noble stores around the country! There will be some fun stuff on tap; more to come later.

26Sep/12Off

Good and evil

The latter first: It's time for my latest Onion puzzle. Well, fine, it's not really evil, as such, but it's The Onion, so the usual irreverence applies. Have fun.

And now for the good: While I've been neglectful of solving the logic puzzle blogs lately, I'm going to take a look at Grant Fikes's puzzle contest for charity. You can earn entries in the drawings both by solving puzzles and by donating money to three worthy causes. Furthermore, as every charity's total reaches certain thresholds, Grant will super-size or even super-duper-size future blog puzzles. There's a lot to like about this endeavor, so let's give it lots of support!

18Sep/12Off

Apple bites

As an Android man, I'm somewhat loath to plug Apple-related items, but if you like to play games and puzzles on their devices, there's good news for you this week.

Some attendees of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in the last few years have played and enjoyed Peter Gordon's Celebrity Get-A-Clue game on his phone. I'm not much of a pop-culture guy, but the game has proven most engaging for me and everyone I've ever seen play it. At long last, the app has been approved for public consumption, so if you have a suitable device, go get it!

If you're looking for solo solving, Puzzazz has you covered. They've just announced their new store for downloading puzzle e-books. They've got American crosswords, cryptics, and plenty of miscellaneous verbal and logical challenges, with lots more material to come. If you'd like to supply some of that material, Puzzazz wants to hear from you.

Enjoy! I'll just be over here waiting for Android to get its due.

12Sep/12Off

Notes from all over

Here's a bunch of small items for you.

BACFill went very well; fifty contestants showed up in support of Families of SMA, and the venue was a big step up from a high-school cafeteria. Congratulations to champion Jordan Chodorow!

I forgot to talk about the NPL mini-convention in Las Vegas. It was once again great fun; we enjoyed some original games and puzzles as well as much of the fine food and drink that America's Playground has to offer. My girlfriend and I also mixed in a show, namely the Mythbusters: Behind the Myths show. Good times all around. One of the big puzzle-solving highlights was Mark Halpin's Labor Day extravaganza. It seemed a little bit easier this year; our group of nine polished it off in a few hours. However, it was still quite challenging and every bit as creative and well-made as in previous years. You still have some time to noodle on it before answers are posted, so have a go, and be sure to drop something in the tip jar to thank Mark for his great work.

If you're a Bay Area puzzler and you missed out on BANG 33, the rerun is on September 29th. It was a fun event in support of a good cause, so put a team together and get out there.

Last but not least, there's yet another website for quality independent crosswords. Erik Agard is a rising star in the crossworld; give his creations, including his newest contest, a try.

18Jul/12Off

Unwinding

It's my least favorite week of the year: the week immediately following the National Puzzlers' League convention. I had a fantastic time with my second family. Highlights included playing terrific homemade games (both totally original and adapted from game shows), solving clever paper puzzles alone and in pairs (I still have quite a few left), meeting some new friends, and finishing second in the Saturday night extravaganza, this year deftly constructed by Francis Heaney, Rick Rubinstein, and Eric Berlin, whose Con write-up I recommend if you want a more in-depth account. That last victory (well, near-victory) earned me my only trip to this year's prize table, but I snagged one of those neat clipboards with the clear pocket in the back. There was a very slick-looking quick-reference for NPL puzzle types in there, and I've added a code sheet, an important tool for any puzzle hunter.

I pick the puzzling right back up this weekend, as I'm off to the Berkeley Mystery Hunt. This year, the League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen will be a bit more well-manned as we add a few girlfriends and colleagues. We're optimistic we can eclipse last year's not-quite finish.

In the world of online puzzles, I urge you to back this Kickstarter from Dave Millar, AKA The Griddle. He's looking to publish a real, physical book of his fun logical challenges. I've eagerly signed up to receive both the book and a custom puzzle just for me; an offer that's a steal at $13. Let's make this happen!

I also want to give a shout to Tortoiseshell Puzzles, variety crosswords from Nathan Curtis. Nathan, who is known in the NPL as (surprise!) Tortoise, was one of my teammates in last year's extravaganza triumph. Check out his work!

5Jul/12Off

You be the judge

First things first: Les Foeldessy's new Gryptics contest is up. Go knock it out.

Now to the meat of this post: Saturday's Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge saw yet another thrilling ending to a local crossword tournament. Perennial contenders Jon Berman and Eric Maddy both made one mistake, and Jon beat Eric by a mere second! Coming in third was young newcomer Jeff Davidson... but should he have won? Read on to find out what happened and decide what you think. But don't do so until you've done Thursday's New York Times puzzle; it's a great one and you don't want to be spoiled by my description here.

22Jun/12Off

Wolff pack

Many American aficionados of the cryptic crossword will tell you that there aren't enough variety cryptics (puzzles that, in addition to cryptic clues, have some other twist for an additional payoff and/or a more difficult solve) out there. Sure, there are the Cox and Rathvon puzzles, and the one or two creations in each issue of The Enigma, and a handful of other sources, but we crave more.

Well, good news! Roger Wolff has just self-published a book of fifty variety cryptics! I'm not even close to finished with the book yet, of course, but I like what I see so far. Go order it, and pretty soon the Wolff will be at your door.