That Puzzle Guy's Blog My mom thinks I'm cool


To the rescue

Last week, I returned from the annual National Puzzlers' League convention, which this year was held in Portland, Maine. As usual, I had a fantastic time solving and socializing with my puzzling family, and I still have a pile of cryptics I never got to!

The capstone to the convention is the Saturday night extravaganza, in which attendees work in teams of four to solve a big set of interconnected puzzles, leading to a satisfying final meta answer. This year's event took a different approach; while there was a small group of people heading up the design, every puzzle was constructed by a different NPL member. These contributors could still play in the extravaganza; they just had to recuse themselves from helping with their own puzzle. I was one of the people approached to make a puzzle, and I did so, but due to an abundance of grid puzzles, it was left on the cutting-room floor. But hey, that's what the Internet is for; I've posted it here for your enjoyment. As with all hunt-style puzzles, you seek a single word or short phrase as your final answer, and I warn you that this puzzle is completely untested and unedited. You can contact me if you see something I really should change.

Looking ahead, here's another reminder of the upcoming Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament in New York City. I've test-solved the first drafts of the puzzles and I can say that some fun challenges await you. I once again will fail to attend because I am super-lame. You should go so you can be not super-lame.


American Values: Working on holidays

Hey, it's Christmas! Need a fun diversion to enjoy with your family and friends, or possibly to get away from your family and friends? Well, the last American Values Club crossword drops today and it happens to be mine. Buy it for a buck, or, better yet, buy a subscription. Better still, buy a subscription for one or more loved ones!

And while we're on the subject of crossword-related gifts, Winner's Circle Crosswords remains very much available! Yes, it may be a bit late for Christmas, but hey, no reason you can't surprise someone with, say, a Groundhog Day present or something.


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.


Five-star puzzling

Attention American Values Club subscribers: My latest crossword comes out today! The title of this blog post refers to the difficulty level, but hopefully you think the quality is up there too. Have fun!

I'll have my own solving fun this Saturday at the day-long Elevate Tutoring hunt. I've heard nothing but good things; should be an entertaining and meaty event!


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...


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!



It's been a while; you'd be correct in thinking that I've been busy. Two quick things to share with you on this Friday.

Two more episodes of CROSSWORD RACE have gone online; here's the third and the fourth. Here, you'll see a preponderance of turtles as well as the much-clamored-for Translation Party episode. Will either gimmick allow Alex his first win? Find out, and tell your friends to watch too!

Also, I joined up with Mike Selinker and Gaby Weidling from the awesome Lone Shark Games to make a puzzle hunt celebrating Wired's 20th anniversary. Search through the archives to find the answers to our clues and eventually reach the final answer! You can find the clues on Wired's Twitter feed, or catch up by looking at Mike's running list. If you like, use the #wired20 hashtag to collaborate with the hivemind; these clues are tough!

That's it for now, but look out for DASH 5 and the Shinteki Decathlon in the next few weeks!


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.


Youth movement

I'm back from my third-place showing at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament; I'll have a write-up of that soon. I plan to forgo the blow-by-blow account and focus more on the interesting bits. I have a lot of thoughts about what went down and I hope it'll be an interesting read.

For today, though, I'm excited to announce the release of the 20 Under 30 puzzles! As you might guess from the name, this is a collection of twenty crosswords from constructors under the age of thirty. There was stiff competition to get a puzzle in this set, and I'm very pleased to have made the cut. The roster includes some names you know and some you probably don't. So fork over your five bucks and see for yourself that the future of crossword construction is bright!