Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Publicity, Pseudonyms, and Another Funny Mistake

More good news:  The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project has received some additional publicity!  Deb Amlen recently blogged about the project on Wordplay—you can read her wonderful piece here!  It provides a great summary of the project.

In addition, while continuing to match Margaret Farrar daily puzzle authors with their puzzles, I've come across several names I suspect are fake:  Hume R. Craft (6/16/1959, 8/13/1959, etc.), Anna Gram  (7/25/62), and Mary Land (8/24/59).  Hume R. Craft is probably a pun on "humor craft," though I'm not sure.  However, I do know for certain that Anna Gram was one of Margaret Farrar's pseudonyms.  In fact, she even confirmed my suspicions in her introduction to Eugene T. Maleska's Across and Down!  Mary Land could have been another Margaret Farrar pseudonym, though I haven't found anything to back me up on this one.  In addition to these three names, I also know that Charles Cross wasn't a real person—several books mention that Margaret used this pseudonym when she published two puzzles by the same constructor very close together.  Finally, another one of my crossword books mentions that Sam Lake was an anagrammatic alias of Eugene T. Maleska.  That's all I know or have deduced about pre-Shortzian pseudonyms at the moment—if anyone finds support that Hume R. Craft and/or Mary Land were real people or knows of any other pre-Shortzian pseudonyms not included in this list, please comment!

While continuing to proofread, we discovered another funny error:  A clue for BEGUMS was supposed to read "Widows of agas" but had accidentally been typed as "Windows of agas"!

Today's featured puzzle, "Wondrous Maze," was constructed by Timothy S. Lewis.  It originally appeared on June 2, 1991, and was litzed by Barry Haldiman (or one of his former litzers).  This puzzle  has a very unusual stepquote theme.  The first stepquote, consisting of 6-Across, 11-Down, and 146-Across, reads "MINE IS A LONG AND SAD TALE," SAID THE MOUSE.  The second stepquote, consisting of 49-Down, 112-Across, 79-Down, 79-Across, 44-Down, 44-Across, and 45-Down, reads "IT IS A LONG TAIL CERTAINLY," SAID ALICE, "BUT WHY DO YOU CALL IT SAD?".  The stepquotes are both symmetrically placed in the grid and intersect each other in the center, which is very elegant and impressive.  On top of all of this, the puzzle contains the four bonus theme entries RABBIT HOLE, WONDERLAND, ALICE LIDDELL, and LEWIS CARROLL!  Finally, the nonthematic fill is very clean (especially considering the complexity of the theme).  I especially like the entries TOMBOY, PALAVER, and the awesome-sounding DIRNDL!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below; the complete puzzle can be seen here on XWord Info.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is INFUNDIBULIFORM.  Not surprisingly, according to the Ginsberg database, INFUNDIBULIFORM has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  INFUNDIBULIFORM originally appeared in the March 19, 1988, puzzle by Nancy Joline, which was recently litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  The original clue for INFUNDIBULIFORM was "Funnel-shaped."  Webster defines infundibuliform as "having the form of a funnel or cone."  Below is a picture of the infundibuliform Coneheads:

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Page on Site: Pre-Shortzian Crossword Books

I'm happy to announce a new section on this site:  Pre-Shortzian Crossword Books!  This page lists and describes all the pre-Shortzian puzzle books I've looked through in an attempt to match up as many constructor names with their puzzles as possible.  Many thanks again to Stan Newman for lending me his collection of 27 books—they've been invaluable.  If you have any old books of pre-Shortzian crosswords that you might be willing to let me borrow, click here or on the Pre-Shortzian Crossword Books tab for more information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1991 Puzzles Up on XWord Info, Now in 1985, New Litzers, Another Humorous Typo, and an Update on Patterson Pepple

Great news:  All the 1991 puzzles are now posted on XWord Info!  Jim Horne and I are still working on getting a few rebus puzzles to display correctly, but the others are ready for viewing (and solving!).  Thanks so much, Jim!

In other news, litzer Mark Diehl just pushed us into 1985, which is terrific!  We've also added a couple of new litzers (welcome!)—we're moving through the Maleska era at a rapid clip!

We discovered another humorous typo while proofreading the 1991 puzzles.  A clue for ICON was supposed to read "Sacred image" but had accidentally been typed as "Scared image."  I'm sure there must be some scared icons. . . .

Today's featured puzzle, "The Anglo-Hebraic Way," was constructed by Bernard Meren.  It originally appeared on January 20, 1991, and was litzed some time ago by Nancy Shack, one of Barry Haldiman's group of litzers.  I didn't understand this puzzle's diabolical gimmick at first—I spent several minutes staring at the clues and answers before finally figuring it out.  Each theme entry is composed of two parts:  One reads from left to right (the Anglo way), while the other reads from right to left (the Hebraic way).  All the theme clues also read in two directions:  The Anglo direction clues the left-to-right part of a theme entry, while the Hebraic direction clues the right-to-left part.  For example, ACCENTEDSEIP is clued as "S T R E S S E D."  "S T R E S S E D" leads to the first part of the answer (ACCENTED); "DESSERTS" leads to the second part of the answer (PIES).  All the theme entries elegantly interlock, and the grid has some nice, open corners.  Because of the theme's complexity, some of the fill felt particularly strained (L. BALL, NAIANT, EILE, etc.).  Nevertheless, this is one of the most brilliant puzzles I've ever seen, certainly up there in complexity with this Charles M. Deber masterpiece.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below; the complete puzzle can be seen here on XWord Info.

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is PRAHU.  According to the Ginsberg database, PRAHU has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  PRAHU originally appeared in the May 31, 1986, puzzle by Patterson Pepple, which was recently litzed by Robert W. Jones.  After reading the comments on my last post, I'm concluding that Patterson Pepple was a real person (mainly because of this burial notice that tabstop found).  Anyway, the clue for PRAHU was "Malayan sailboat."  Webster lists prahu as a variant spelling of prau (another variant of prau is the crosswordese proa).  Webster defines a prau as "any of various Indonesian boats usually without a deck that are propelled especially by sails or paddles."  Prau comes from the Malay pĕrahu and was first introduced into our language in 1582.  Below is a picture of a prahu/prau/proa:

Image courtesy of the Bali Children's Project.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Almost Halfway through the Maleska Era, an Unusual Puzzle, and Patterson Pepple

I am very pleased to announce that we're almost halfway through the Maleska era!  The first puzzle Maleska edited was published on February 28, 1977.  We're making amazing progress—before you know it, we'll be in the Will Weng era!

Today's featured puzzle, "Space Saver," was constructed by Ralph G. Beaman.  It originally appeared on February 7, 1988, and was recently litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick.  This puzzle is the earliest example of a Schrödinger puzzle that I've come across.  A Schrödinger puzzle intentionally has more than one correct solution.  For example, in this puzzle, the single clue "Spied at the deli?" can lead to the answers PEEPED AT THE SPICED HAMS, PEERED AT THE SPICED HAMS, PEEPED AT THE SLICED HAMS, or PEERED AT THE SLICED HAMS.  The down clues also work in this fashion:  "Some standardbreds" can lead to PACERS or RACERS, and "Company niche" can lead to SPOT or SLOT.  What makes this puzzle different from other Schrödinger puzzles is that the Schrödinger squares themselves are indicated in the puzzle itself with slashes.  Also, the puzzle includes several Schrödinger clues—for example, 129-Across (RODE) is clued as "Took a ca(b/r)".  I don't think I've ever seen a puzzle, Shortzian or pre-Shortzian, with Schrödinger clues!  As for the Schrödinger entries, I think the three 21-letter spans are awesome (even though they could never be reused in a normal puzzle)!  The one thing that bothers me about the theme entries is that several of them rely on variants of the same word (such as INDUES/ENDUES).  Also, though there are some very nice entries in the nonthematic fill (such as LANCELOT, ORLANDO, and DISCUS), much of it was strained by the complexity of the theme (A DANCE, IS AGAIN, OLID, etc.).  Nevertheless, this is an amazing feat of crossword construction!  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is ATALA.  According to the Ginsberg database, ATALA has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  ATALA originally appeared in the March 5, 1988, puzzle by Patterson Pepple, which was recently litzed by Joe Cabrera.  Since it is such an unusual name, several other litzers and I are suspicious that Patterson Pepple may have been one of Maleska's aliases.  For one thing, to my knowledge no other Patterson Pepple puzzles were published by any other New York Times editor.  Also, Patterson Pepple puzzles were almost always published either right before or after a puzzle by Maleska himself—or at least within the same week.  If anyone can weigh in on this (or come up with a possible anagram for Patterson Pepple), please comment!  Anyway, the clue for ATALA was "Book by Chateaubriand."  Below is Encyclopedia Britannica's writeup about the book, as well as a modern picture of the cover:
Atala, novel by François-Auguste-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand, published in French as Atala, ou les amours de deux savages dans le désert in 1801. It was revised and reissued with René in 1805. A portion of an unfinished epic about Native Americans, the work tells the story of a Euro-American girl who has taken a vow to remain celibate but who falls in love with a Natchez man. Torn between love and religion, she poisons herself to keep from breaking her vow. The lush Louisiana setting and the playing-out of romantic passion in primitive American surroundings are captured in a rich, harmonious prose style that yields many beautiful descriptive passages.

Image courtesy of Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Over 3,000—Almost One-Fifth of the Way Done!

I'm thrilled to announce that we've now litzed more than 3,000 pre-Shortzian puzzles!  This means we're almost one-fifth of the way to our goal of digitizing all the pre-Shortzian crosswords!  We've achieved an amazing amount in a relatively short period of time—great work, everybody!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Almost at 2,900 (and in 1986), Italics & Underlines, Plus Another Funny Typo

I'm very happy to announce that we're only 35 puzzles short of 2,900!  After that, there will only be 100 more puzzles to litz until we hit 3,000!  In addition, we only have one more puzzle packet left in 1987!  Since Barry Haldiman's CD contained so many puzzles from 1988 and 1987, we've been able to get through those years much more quickly than usual.  If we continue litzing at this pace, we can be done with all the puzzles in just a few years!

On another note, litzers have come across several puzzles with italicized or underlined clues.  Though Across Lite can't display such clues, XWord Info can.  To italicize a clue, surround it with the html tag <em> on the left and </em> on the right (do not add a space in between the first closing angle bracket and the clue or in between the clue and second opening angle bracket).  To underline a clue, surround it with the html tag <u> on the left and </u> on the right, following the same conventions about spacing as with italicized clues.  Below are two sample clues:

<em>This clue will show up italicized on XWord Info</em>
<u>This clue will show up underlined on XWord Info</u>

We discovered another humorous typo while continuing to proofread the 1991 puzzles.  A clue for STEVE was supposed to read "Allen or Lawrence" but had accidentally been typed as "Alien or Lawrence"!  (If anyone's wondering, we expect to find typos—litzing is very tough work—and usually do.  In fact, not a single packet has come back without at least one typo.  It's great when they happen to be humorous!)

Today I'm featuring another pair of related puzzles.  These two puzzles had the same theme idea executed very differently.  The first, constructed by Harold T. Bers, originally appeared on November 13, 1954, and was recently litzed by Andrew Feist.  The puzzle contains four elegantly stacked pairs of theme entries.  The inner theme entry in each stack reverses the order of the two words/parts of words in the upper theme entry.  For example, the topmost stack consists of the entries HANGOVER and OVERHANG.  The 11-Down/12-Down stack is slightly inconsistent—LOOKS OUT would have fit the theme much better than LOOKOUTS.  Nevertheless, this puzzle is admirably constructed, jam-packed with theme entries and Scrabbly fill.  The puzzle is also only one letter (Z) away from being a pangram and has many nice nonthematic entries, such as CLOWNED and KOWTOW.  (I have to admit, though, that APTERYX [clued as "Kiwi."] and JALNA [clued as "Home for the Whiteoaks." are bizarre.)  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries can be seen below:

The second puzzle, which was constructed by Bert Rosenfield, originally appeared on December 7, 1989, and was recently litzed by Doug Peterson.  This puzzle only includes one half of each pair of two words/parts of words, and the tipoff is in the cluing.  Each theme clue includes an asterisk.  For example, OVERHEATED is clued as "Fervid: reversal = like leftovers."  The reversal part of the clue hints at HEATED OVER.  Though the interlocking theme entries are very impressive, the nonthematic fill is definitely strained.  Some of the weirder entries include POILU (clued as "W.W. I soldat") and SCEND (clued as "Lift of a wave").  Also, I found it odd that 39-Down wasn't part of the theme since it certainly would have fit the pattern (INCURVES/CURVES IN).  Even with the weird fill, this puzzle is very cool and contains much more theme material than your typical Maleska puzzle.  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries appears below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is SIABONS.  According to the Ginsberg database, neither SIABON nor SIABONS has ever been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  SIABONS originally appeared in the August 17, 1991, puzzle by Kevin Boyle, which was recently litzed by Jeffrey Harris.  The clue for SIABONS was "Hybrid apes."  Siabon is such an unusual word that it doesn't even appear in Webster's Online Dictionary!  The World Book Dictionary, though, defines a siabon as "the offspring of a siamang (genus Symphalangus) and a gibbon (genus Hylobates):  The Siabon combines the physical characteristics of both parents and has 47 chromosomes (Charles F. Merbs)."  I couldn't find a picture of a siabon, so I'm posting pictures of a siamang and a gibbon instead—you can use your imagination!

Images courtesy of Wikipedia (left) and the Primate Photo Gallery (right).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Publicity—and New Litzers!

Great news:  XWord Info's Jim Horne recently blogged again about the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project—you can read his post here.  It talks about the very interesting "Cryptocrossword" puzzle from 1992 and all its obscurities.  Thanks so much, Jim!

And litzer Todd McClary wrote about us on his Autofill Project blog—click here to read his post, in which he calls the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project a "kindred spirit" of his own fascinating Autofill Project!  Thanks, Todd!

We've also had several new litzers join the project—welcome aboard, everyone!  There are now 23 of us working our way back through the years!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vic's Third Column, Litzing on the Go, Plus Another Humorous Error

Following up on last Friday's post, litzer Vic Fleming's third and final column about the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project appears in today's Daily Record!  The column lists some of the funniest (and most risqué!) Shortzian clues and entries.  For more, click here.

In other news, litzer Mark Diehl has shown just how versatile litzing can be, even on the go:  Coming back from a trip, he was planning to litz on the plane!  This just goes to show that litzing can be worked on almost anywhere, at almost any time!

While proofreading the 1991 puzzles, I happened to catch another funny mistake.  A clue for NEVIN was supposed to read "Composer Ethelbert ___" but had accidentally been typed as "Composter Ethelbert ___"!  Maybe Ethelbert Nevin was an early environmentalist too!

Today I'm featuring a duad (as pre-Shortzian editors might say) of puzzles.  These two puzzles break the basic rules of crossword construction.  Since many pre-Shortzian puzzles were asymmetric, I'm only featuring puzzles that violate the more major rules of construction.  The first puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, originally appeared on September 16, 1950, and was recently litzed by yours truly.  Oddly enough, the puzzle has a pair of two-letter nonthematic entries in it, SM and NS!   Aside from this flaw, though, the fill is interesting and Scrabbly.  I especially like the entries SERENDIPITY, MAJORCA, and SILVERY.  The answer grid with highlighted two-letter entries appears below:

The second puzzle was constructed by Rosalind Pavane.  It was originally published on December 7, 1991, and was recently litzed by Andrew Feist.  The puzzle contains seven rebus squares of BUCK, which is very impressive for a 15x!  All the rebus entries are rock-solid—my favorites are DADDY WARBUCKS and BUCK ROGERS.  Unfortunately, though, the grid is divided into three nonintersecting sections, which is a major no-no.  Nevertheless, breaking this rule allowed the constructor to cram all the rebuses in and still include several lively nonthematic entries, such as  REFEREE and RAZOR.  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is NOSTOC.  According to the Ginsberg database, NOSTOC has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle.  It originally appeared in the September 30, 1989, puzzle by Eugene T. Maleska, which was recently litzed by Todd McClary.  The clue for NOSTOC was "Freshwater alga."  Webster defines a nostoc as "any of a genus (Nostoc) of usually filamentous cyanobacteria that fix nitrogen."  Nostic comes from New Latin and was first introduced into our language in 1650.  I wonder how low Todd McClary would score this entry in his word list—it would probably have an even worse fate than INFANT EYES (see his INONESCUPS/UNTHEMELY #27 post), if that's even possible!  Below is a picture of some nostocs on a microscope slide:

Image courtesy of Connecticut College.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

1992 Puzzles on XWord Info, 2,600 Litzed Puzzles, and More Publicity

Great news:  Jim Horne has just posted all the proofread 1992 puzzles on XWord Info!  He's still trying to fix up a couple of tricky puzzles, but the rest are ready to go.  Jim has also created a separate section of links for the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, which now has its very own FAQ page and a link to this website.  You can view the pre-Shortzian puzzles here and solve them here.  Thanks so much, Jim!

Needless to say, this certainly couldn't have happened so quickly without the help of all our litzers!  Thank you, everyone!  Together we've now reached 2,600 litzed puzzles!

We've also received some more publicity:  T Campbell posted a wonderful write-up of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project on Amy Reynaldo's Diary of a Crossword Fiend blog, which you can read here!

Today I am featuring two puzzles with very outdated but historically interesting themes.  The first was constructed by Bernice Gordon, who, incredibly, is still publishing crosswords at 98!  This puzzle originally appeared on January 23, 1955, and was litzed by Barry Haldiman (or one of his former litzers).  The title for the puzzle is "Household Words."  It features four appliances that were considered novelties back in the day but that are so commonplace now that we don't even think about them.  My favorite theme clue is "Work of a modern kitchen appliance" for GARBAGE DISPOSAL—it made me laugh out loud!  The nonthematic fill was very clean for the 1950s—I especially like SQUEEZING, NEW YORK, and CYNICAL!  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries appears below:

The second puzzle was constructed by Jules Arensberg.  It was originally published on July 11, 1953, and was recently litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  This puzzle was published before Hawaii became a state (ironically the fiftieth, not the forty-ninth) in 1959.  Its main theme entries are FORTY NINTH STATE (clued as "Subject of pending legislation.") and HAWAIIAN ISLANDS (brilliantly clued as "Star on the flag?").  The puzzle also included the bonus theme entry MAUNA LOA and had a very nice nonthematic fill.  My favorite nonthematic entries are OPERA HAT and SLAVE ANT.  The answer grid with highlighted theme entries can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is KAKAS.  According to the Ginsberg database, KAKAS has never been reused in a Shortzian puzzle, though KAKA appeared in a Shortzian BEQ puzzle (clued as the soccer star).  KAKAS originally appeared in the October 7, 1989, puzzle by Bernard Meren, which was recently litzed by Todd Gross.  The clue for KAKAS was "New Zealand parrots."  I've disliked parrot clues ever since I got naticked at the Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest because I didn't know KEAS!  (And recently I came across an entire 1993 Maleska puzzle with a parrot theme!  The puzzle, which can be seen here, even included KEA—gasp!—as one of its theme entries!)  In any case, Webster defines a kaka as "an olive-brown New Zealand parrot (Nestor meridionalis) with gray and red markings."  Kaka comes from Maori and was first introduced into our language in 1774.  Below is a picture of a kaka:

Image courtesy of New-Zealand-Holidays.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vic's Second Column, More Publicity, New Litzer of the Month Andrew Feist, Plus a Funny Mistake

I have some more big announcements!  First, litzer Vic Fleming's second column about the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project was published in today's Daily Record!  The column discusses many of the featured pre-Shortzian entries of the day; you can read Vic's piece here.

The project has also received a lot more publicity recently!  Jim Horne's announcement on CRUCIVERB-l gave us another two litzers, which is terrific.  Also, Amy Reynaldo announced the project on Diary of a Crossword Fiend here, and Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen and The Puzzle Brothers tweeted about our work!  Thanks, everyone!

Now that we're in August, we have a new Litzer of the Month:  Andrew Feist!  Andrew hit the ground running—and the 2,400 mark on our thermometer!  To read more about him, click here.

Before I get to the puzzle of the day, I thought I'd share a funny mistake I happened to catch while proofreading.  A clue for TSETSE was supposed to be "Ugandan pest," but it had accidentally been typed as "Ugandan priest"!  Litzing and proofreading are tough jobs, and everyone's been doing a great job!

Today's featured puzzle was constructed by Ralph G. Beaman.  It was originally published on April 7, 1990, and was recently litzed by Angela Halsted.  This puzzle has a very clever gimmick executed to a tee—exclamation points are actually parts of several answers in the grid, yielding a total of 13 theme entries!  In addition, the puzzle included the defining entry SCREAMER, which was clued as "This puzzle's theme, to a printer."  My favorite theme entry is TORA! TORA! TORA!, which has three exclamation points!!!  Because of this theme's complexity, though, some of the nonthematic fill feels strained (particularly ERYTHEMA [clued as "Skin redness"] and ALALIA [clued as "Mutism"]).  Nevertheless, the constructor still managed to include the terrific entries RICKRACK and BUSTY!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is TERAI.  According to the Ginsberg database, TERAI has been reused in only one Shortzian puzzle from 1994.  It originally appeared in the February 16, 1990, puzzle by Peggy Devlin, which was recently litzed by Alex Vratsanos.  The clue for TERAI was "Hat worn for sun protection."  Webster defines a terai as "a wide-brimmed double felt sun hat worn especially in subtropical regions."  Terai comes from Tarai, a lowland belt of India, and was first introduced into our language in 1888.  Below is a picture of an officer wearing a terai:

Image courtesy of the ODM Group.