Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August XWord Info Donations

I am thrilled to announce that Jim Horne has generously agreed to donate all August XWord Info contributions to the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  This is great news—I'm looking forward to using this money to buy more Margaret Farrar daily puzzle books, which will be used to continue matching up puzzles with their constructors, as well as for other project-related purposes.  Jim also wrote an amazing blog post, which you can read here, about the project and August contributions!

Thanks so much, Jim!

Monday, July 30, 2012

We're over 2,300, Plus Matching Up Old Books

I'm excited to announce that more than 2,300 puzzles have now been litzed!  The addition of Sunday puzzles to the PDF packets has not slowed us down very much—we're still making great progress!  Later today or tomorrow we'll be in 1989!

Also, for the past few months, I've been working on matching up Margaret Farrar–era daily puzzle authors with their puzzles.  Since Margaret Farrar didn't print the names of daily puzzle authors and since any payment records she may have kept have been lost, the only way to identify these authors is by using books of Margaret Farrar puzzles.  Stan Newman generously loaned me his collection of rare Margaret Farrar daily puzzle books, which has helped tremendously!

The matching process itself is quite complicated.  First, the 1-Across and 1-Down entries of every Margaret Farrar daily puzzle PDF available are put into an Excel spreadsheet.  Then, for each puzzle in a book, the 1-Across answer is looked at and the puzzle's 1-Across entry is searched for in the spreadsheet.  If the 1-Down entry matches too, the author's name is entered in the spreadsheet next to its corresponding date.  This system usually works well.  Sometimes, though, Margaret Farrar edited the puzzles' original fill (and often the clues!) before reprinting the puzzles in her books.  Every once in a while, she changed the 1-Across and/or 1-Down entry!  Usually, though, they are only different by one letter and can still be matched up—in part because Margaret Farrar selected most puzzles from each book from a very narrow time period (two or three months from the same year, say).

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Stan Newman, one of our editorial advisors!  It was originally published on May 27, 1989, and was litzed by Barry Haldiman (or one of his former litzers).  This is certainly one of the best pre-Shortzian themelesses I have come across so far—it's jam-packed with interesting fill, such as FLEA CIRCUS, SAN FRANCISCANS, and CLOSE SHAVE.  There is a minimal amount of crosswordese, even in the more challenging sections to fill.  Also, the grid is very elegant—I've never seen a puzzle, Shortzian or pre-Shortzian, with a 14/15/14 stack in the center!  Today, Stan Newman continues to construct and edit high-quality crosswords, many of which can be solved here.  Below is the answer grid.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is ATLEE.  According to the Ginsberg database, ATLEE has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the September 26, 1992, puzzle by Tap Osborn, which was recently litzed by Mangesh Ghogre.  The clue for ATLEE was "Salt tree: Var."  Webster lists the primary spelling, atle, as a variant of the athel tree!  Webster defines an athel tree as "a small, drought-resistant evergreen tree (Tamarix aphylla) native to Southern and Western Asia but now widely planted as an ornamental or shelter-belt tree in warm dry regions (as of the southwestern U.S. and Australia); broadly: any of several other trees or shrubs of the genus Tamarix."  Wow, that's a mouthful!  Below is a picture of an atlee/atle/athel tree:

Image courtesy of EnviroControl.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vic Fleming's Column on Litzing (Part 1)

I'm delighted to announce that the first column in Vic Fleming's series on litzing and the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project was published today in the Daily Record, and you can read it here.  Thanks so much, Vic—this was a great piece, and I'll be posting the next installments as they're published!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back in the Maleska Era, Commenting, Sunday Puzzles, and an Interesting Article

I'm pleased to announce that we're now litzing puzzles in the Maleska era again, this time in 1990!  We blasted through several months of Margaret Farrar puzzles, increasing the total number of litzed puzzles from just over 2,000 to just under 2,200.  Keep up the great work, everyone—before we know it, we really will have only Margaret Farrar puzzles left to litz!

Also, feel free to leave comments on the blog posts!  Since I moderate all comments, they may not display immediately, though.  Please keep the comments positive and on the topic of crosswords, litzing, or the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project in general.

I've recently started including Sunday puzzles in PDF packets.  So far I've seen some very cool pre-Shortzian Sundays, including a crossword/cryptogram combo constructed by Eugene T. Maleska and a puzzle with the letter A removed from every entry in the style of a vowelless variety puzzle!

A few days ago I discovered a very interesting New York Times article about pre-Shortzian constructors and editors, which you can see here.  The article, originally published in 1988, discusses the style differences between traditionalist editors, such as Eugene T. Maleska and William Lutwiniak, and the so-called new wave editors, such as Will Shortz and Stan Newman.  My favorite part of the article is the "Oreo War" paragraph.  I'm so glad I no longer see the pre-Shortzian clues for OREO anymore!  For those of you who are curious, below is a picture of an oreortyx.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Herbert Ettenson.  It was originally published on May 29, 1954, and was recently litzed by Mark Diehl.  Amazingly, this puzzle included eight symmetrical theme entries!  Each theme entry was clued as "Nonsense."  My favorite theme entries are FLAPDOODLE and GALIMATIAS because they sound so cool!  In addition, the puzzle included the semi-theme entry YAKS, which was clued as "Talks nonsense: Slang."  On top of all of this, the fill was remarkably clean.  GODSPEED and MESS HALL are terrific entries!

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is CINCHONA.  According to the Ginsberg database, CINCHONA has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the September 30, 1992, puzzle by Joy L. Wouk, which was litzed by Dan Schoenholz.  The clue for CINCHONA was "Quinine-supplying tree."  Webster lists two definitions of cinchona: "any of a genus (Cinchona) of South American trees and shrubs of the madder family" and "the dried bark of a cinchona (as C. Ledgeriana) containing alkaloids (as quinine) and formerly used as a specific in malaria."  Cinchona comes from New Latin but more specifically from the name of a Peruvian viceroy's wife dubbed "The Countess of Chinchรณn."  Below is a picture of a cinchona.

Image courtesy of Access Excellence.

Monday, July 23, 2012

2,000-Plus Puzzles Litzed, 1950s Puzzles, and Vic Fleming's Columns

I'm thrilled to announce that more than 2,000 puzzles have been litzed so far!  A few days ago, litzer Mark Diehl finally pushed us over this milestone.  We are now approximately 1/8 done with all the litzing, which is mind-blowing!

As many litzers have noticed, I've been sending out puzzles from the 1950s for litzing.  I sent these puzzles because I was out of town for two weeks and hadn't downloaded enough 1990s puzzles to satisfy such a great demand!  I figured that the rest of 1991 would be enough to last two weeks, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  In addition to the 1991 puzzles, I ended up needing more than 15 additional weeks to send out!  The 1950s puzzles have been very interesting so far.  Though many of them were themeless, some had surprisingly elegant themes.  One particular puzzle, which will be featured in a future blog post, had nine interlocking theme entries and very little crosswordese!  This is still incredible by today's standards.

Finally, litzer Vic Fleming is dedicating three of his "I Swear!" columns, which can be seen in the Daily Record and other Southern newspapers, to the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  I've had the pleasure of reading two of them in advance, and they are wonderfully written and a lot of fun to read!  I'll be posting links to them as they're published over the next few weeks.

As promised, today's featured puzzle is another Ronnie K. Allen masterpiece.  It was originally published on April 20, 1991, and was recently litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick.  In addition to having a fun letter insertion theme (WENT OUT ON A LIMBO [clued as "Took a chance with a dance?"] and BUY A PIG IN A POLKA [clued as "One way to get Polish sausage?"] ), this puzzle also uses the rare 13-/14-/15-letter stacking pattern.  Though I wasn't fond of all of the long adverbs in the bottom section, the fill sparkled for a Maleska puzzle.  WEATHER CHARTS, STARSKY, and SARDONIC are all excellent entries!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is TOMBOLOS.  According to the Ginsberg database, neither TOMBOLOS nor TOMBOLO has been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  TOMBOLOS originally appeared in the October 30, 1991, puzzle by Bert Rosenfield, which was litzed by Peter Broda.  The clue for TOMBOLOS was "Island-to-mainland sandbars."  Webster defines a tombolo as "a sand or gravel bar connecting an island with the mainland or another island."  Tombolo comes from Italian but can more specifically be traced to the Latin word tumulus, which means "mound."  Tombolo was introduced to our language in 1899.  Below is a picture of a tombolo.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Advisory Board, Plus 1993 Pre-Shortzian Puzzles on XWord Info

I'm delighted to announce that the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project now has an advisory board!  Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor, and Stan Newman, Newsday crossword editor, will be our editorial advisors; Jim Horne, creator of XWord Info and former New York Times Wordplay blogger, will be our technical advisor.  Welcome aboard, everyone!

Other big news:  Jim Horne recently added the 1993 pre-Shortzian puzzles to XWord Info!  They can be viewed or solved by clicking on the respective links under the Puzzles column.  Jim Horne and I have decided to incorporate the remaining pre-Shortzian puzzles one year at a time into XWord Info.  I'm hoping that all the pre-Shortzian puzzles will be available and analyzable within a few years.

Today's featured puzzle was constructed by Ronnie K. Allen.  It was originally published on October 26, 1991, and was recently litzed by Andrew Laurence.  Not only is this puzzle one of the only double tri-stacks published under Maleska, but it also has a subtle pun theme (which dentist/litzer Mark Diehl would likely appreciate):  DENTAL TELEPATHY plays off of mental telepathy, and CLARE TOOTH LOOSE plays off of the author Clare Boothe Luce.  The fill is remarkably clean (HIBACHI, LAUGHTER, and ADVERB are fantastic), and all four nonthematic spans feel "in the language."  I wasn't as fond of MALAYSIAN LEADER, but it still felt legitimate.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

According to my records, Ronnie K. Allen published just two other pre-Shortzian New York Times crosswords.  Jeffrey Krasnick recently finished litzing one of them, and it was equally impressive!   I will be featuring it in the next post.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is LATHI.  According to the Ginsberg database, LATHI has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle (though it has appeared in several Universal crosswords).  It originally appeared in the August 1, 1993, puzzle by Martin Fass, which was litzed by Barry Haldiman (or one of his former litzers).  The puzzle can be seen on XWord Info here.  The clue for LATHI was "Punjabi policeman's club."  Webster defines a lathi as "a heavy stick often of bamboo bound with iron used in India as a weapon esp. by police (as in dispersing a crowd or quelling a riot)."  Below is a picture of lathis in two different sizes.

Image courtesy of Digitech Security Advisor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Project Publicity, New Litzers, and a Funny Story

Recently the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project got two nice doses of publicity!  First, litzer Peter Broda announced the project on his blog, The Cross Nerd (http://thecrossnerd.blogspot.com/).  Then Tyler Hinman posted a tweet about the project (https://twitter.com/thatpuzzleguy).  Thanks so much, Peter and Tyler!  

Also, this week we had two more litzers join the crew!  There are now 18 litzers working on this project.  Litzers, keep sending in those mini-biographies and photos!  We now have six mini-biographies and photos posted on the Meet the Litzers page.

And now, here's a funny story about the website.  A few days ago, litzer Barry Haldiman told me that his workplace had blocked it for "potentially damaging content."  He then joked that I must be a "budding hacker"!  I replied that Barry's workplace must have considered the picture of the worker with a shaduf "overly revealing."

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Alfio Micci.  It was originally published on May 8, 1992, and was recently litzed by Brad Wilber.  The theme entry GO DOWN ONE SIDE read in the down direction, and the theme entry AND UP THE OTHER read in the up direction!  This sprinkling of thematic material allowed for many lively entries, such as PANACHE, SHREWISH, EGGPLANT, and FLOODGATE.  I like how Alfio Micci thought outside the box when constructing this one!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is SKATOLES.  According to the Ginsberg database, SKATOLES has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the September 12, 1992, puzzle by Tap Osborn, which was litzed by Angela Halsted.  The clue for SKATOLES was "Perfume fixatives."  Webster defines a skatole as "a foul-smelling compound C9H9N found in the intestines and feces, in civet, and in several plants or made synthetically and used in perfumes as a fixative."  I don't think I'm ever going to think of perfume in the same way after reading this definition!  Below is a representation of a skatole's molecular structure.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Litzer Totals and Pre-Shortzian Editors

I've added a couple of new pages to the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project website over the past few days.  The first is Litzer Totals, which contains the total number of puzzles each litzer has litzed.  I'll try to update it as frequently as I can.  Thanks, everyone, for all your work!  If each constructor in the crossword community litzed just one puzzle, we could probably finish litzing two years' worth of puzzles in just a few days!  Each and every puzzle counts—not everyone has the time to do more than a puzzle or two, which is just fine!

The second new page on our website is Pre-Shortzian Editors, which has short blurbs about Margaret Petherbridge Farrar, Will Weng, Eugene T. Maleska, and Mel Taub (the interim editor before Will Shortz).

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Eugene T. Maleska.  It was originally published on November 29, 1991, and was recently litzed by Andrew Feist.  The puzzle had two clever theme entries (MCE MCE MCE and TRN TRN TRN).  The clues for them were "THREE BLIND MICE [the MCEs represent mice with no Is—thus, phonetically, they are blind]" and "NO U TURNS [the TRNs represent turns with no Us—thus, they are no-u turns]."  There was also some nice nonthematic fill, such as WEAK SISTER and DIETICIAN.  Finally, I really liked all the Vs in the central section of the puzzle.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is KIMURA.  According to the Ginsberg database, KIMURA has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the April 25, 1992, puzzle by Tap Osborn, which was litzed by Doug Peterson.  The clue for KIMURA was "Japanese astronomer."  KIMURA refers to the Japanese astronomer Hisashi Kimura, who lived from 1870 to 1943.  Wikipedia says that Kimura studied and measured variations in latitude.  In 1936, he won the prestigious Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.  A crater on the moon and an asteroid were named in his honor.  Below is a photo of Kimura on a Japanese stamp:

Photo courtesy of the Tokyo Stamp Company.

Friday, July 6, 2012

We're in 1991—Plus, a Litzing Tip!

Amazingly enough, we're already litzing puzzles in 1991!  Just last week, before I announced the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, we were still in December 1992.  It's amazing how the crossword puzzle community has come together and made so much progress in such a short period of time.  At this rate, we'll be litzing the last few puzzles of 1942 in a few years!

Litzer Vic Fleming shared a very useful tip to speed up time and increase accuracy when entering the author, editor, and copyright into the information field.  He suggested saving the following template into Crossword Compiler (or other program) for litzing Maleska-edited puzzles:

Title: NY Times, Day, Mon no, 199_
Author: First last
Copyright © 199_, The New York Times.  Editor: Eugene T. Maleska.

Thanks for this great tip, Vic!

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Timothy S. Lewis.  It was originally published on March 21, 1992, and was recently litzed by Mark Diehl.  Both Mark and I liked how BENJAMIN/DISRAELI symmetrically intersects with one of Disraeli's quotes.  This must have been a very lucky coincidence for Timothy S. Lewis—it's extraordinary that he was able to pull that off!  Plus, in addition to the quote and author, he also included the titles of two books that Benjamin Disraeli wrote:  Tancred and Lothair!  On top of all of this, the fill was relatively clean for a Maleska puzzle (with the exceptions of MINIE balls, the partial TRIAL BY, and SCYE).  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is SCISSEL.  According to the Ginsberg database, SCISSEL has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the September 21, 1950, Margaret Farrar–edited puzzle, whose author we don't know yet.  The clue for SCISSEL was a real mouthful:  "Plates of metal with circular blanks after cutting for coinage."  Webster defines SCISSEL as "metal scrap clippings left over in various mechanical operations; esp. the remnants of fillets from which coin blanks have been punched."  Below is a picture of scissel:

Photo courtesy of the Canadian Numismatic Publishing Institute.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Off to a Great Start!

Happy Fourth of July!  As the post title says, we're off to an excellent start on the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  Between this post and the previous one, 73 more puzzles have been litzed (or are about to be litzed).  Several litzer biographies and pictures, as well as July's Litzer of the Month interview with Barry Haldiman, now appear on this website.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle was constructed by Tap Osborn.  It was originally published on March 27, 1992, and was recently litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  I find this puzzle particularly interesting because it had ten mostly symmetrical theme entries, several of which interlock.  This is amazing for a 1992 puzzle—and still would be by today's standards.  In case you're wondering, each theme entry is a movie that won an Oscar.  The fill was somewhat compromised by the high theme density (OESE, clued as "Bacteriologist's wire," is bad), but I hope to see many more puzzles like this one!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is SHADUF.  SHADUF, according to the Ginsberg database, has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the May 2, 1992, puzzle by Jesse Roarke, which was litzed by Vic Fleming.  The clue for SHADUF was:  "Irrigation device: Var."  Webster defines a shadoof (the primary spelling) as "a counterbalanced sweep used since ancient times especially in Egypt for raising water (as for irrigation)."  Below is a picture of a worker using a shadoof:

Picture courtesy of  FAO Corporate Document Repository.