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.


  1. What a nice surprise seeing that '89 NYT puzzle of mine! I remember it very well, submitted as sort of a "peace offering" to Maleska, a crap-free contemporary puzzle that wouldn't have anything he'd object to. In those pre-CCW days, it was made on graph paper with lots of help from a ancient Funk and Wagnalls Word Finder book.


  2. Thanks—I hope the "peace offering" worked, at least for a while!

  3. The USA Today puzzle once clued ATLEE as a former British Prime Minister.

    The lesson, as always, is that the USA Today puzzle sucks.

  4. The clue should have been "Former British Prime Minister: Var."!