Now for the current contest totals: Mark Diehl has litzed 247 puzzles; Jeffrey Krasnick, 121; and Bob Jones, 81. Mark Diehl has now litzed so many puzzles that he's passed Barry Haldiman and his former team of litzers in the litzer totals! With a total of 1,266 puzzles, Mark is now officially the King of Litzing! Congratulations, Mark, and thanks for all your amazing work! Thanks, too, to everyone else—every litzed puzzle gets us closer to our goal, and we're always looking for more litzers. Even if you only have time to litz one week—or just part of a week—we want to hear from you, because that will really help!
In other news, New York Times Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen recently used the XWord Info database with the pre-Shortzian puzzles to track the history of the entry TOSSPOT in New York Times puzzles. She found that TOSSPOT had been used more frequently in pre-Shortzian puzzles than in Shortz-era puzzles! I'm amazed that Maleska puzzles used this entry so much more frequently, especially since TOSSPOT is more risqué than what Maleska traditionally allowed in puzzles. Then again, I've come across a surprising number of edgy, even potentially offensive, entries in Maleska puzzles, such as SLUT (used in at least three puzzles), the pun SEX CYMBAL, and ECDYSIAST. Maleska was known for being on the more traditional/old-fashioned and literary side—he was very averse to brand names and even went so far as to reject one puzzle solely because he didn't feel that CAR SEAT was in the language! So I find it very interesting that Maleska allowed these edgy entries.
Before I get to the puzzle of the day, here are a few more news items and updates:
- Litzer Jeffrey Harris has generously agreed to type up all of the index and Rolodex cards containing the full names of pre-Shortzian constructors. These cards belonged to Eugene T. Maleska and Will Weng and were passed on to Will Shortz. The cards will be extremely helpful in deciding on spellings of certain constructors' names and in determining the first names for constructors for whom we only have last names. Thanks so much, Jeffrey and Will!
- I posted a new feature that allows readers to subscribe to this blog's posts, comments, or both. The gadget is just below the litzing thermometer and Litzer of the Month announcement, so if you'd like to subscribe, just click on it.
- Last week's poll malfunctioned because of a widespread problem with Blogger's poll gadget—for some reason, all the votes were erased. Luckily, though, I checked the poll frequently and so had a pretty clear idea as to what the results were. The last time I checked, three respondents didn't care whether the posts were short and more frequent or long and less frequent, and two preferred shorter, more frequent posts.
- Since the poll gadget is buggy, I've removed it. If you have a particular question related to this site and/or to pre-Shortzian puzzles that you'd like me to put in a poll, please comment or send me an e-mail with the question and answer choices and I'll consider using it after I find a more reliable poll gadget.
- Some time ago, I mistakenly thought that Hume R. Craft might be a pseudonym. Both Will Shortz and Hume's grandson informed me that Hume was indeed a real person—my apologies for any confusion this may have caused!
Today's featured puzzle was constructed by Jim Modney. Jim Modney's style was sort of like that of George P. Sphicas—he tended to use wide-open grids with well-researched, interesting, and groundbreaking themes. This puzzle, which was originally published on April 17, 1982, and which was recently litzed by Andrew Laurence, is certainly no exception. The puzzle is very elegantly constructed—not only does it contain many more X's than average (7), but the blocks near the center of the puzzle also form an X shape, making it the only pre-Shortzian puzzle I've seen so far to use grid art! Naturally, the fill is very Scrabbly—I especially like the entries FLEXING, SANDBOX, and SPHINX. Interesting entries without X's include FLATTOP, TRAFFIC, and NABBING. Overall, this is a very innovative and unusual pre-Shortzian puzzle! The answer grid, with highlighted X's, can be seen below (for a more modern take on the X theme, be sure to check out this impressive Oliver Hill puzzle from 2007):
From now on, I plan on alternating between a clue of the day and an entry of the day. Since last week's post contained a clue of the day, this week's contains an interesting entry: MEPHISTOPHELIAN. MEPHISTOPHELIAN originally appeared in the July 11, 1984, puzzle by William Jarvis, which was recently litzed by Mark Diehl. According to the Ginsberg database, MEPHISTOPHELIAN has never been reused in a Shortz-era crossword. The original clue for MEPHISTOPHELIAN was "Devilish." Webster defines Mephistophelian as the adjectival form of Mephistopheles, who was "a chief devil in the Faust legend." Mephistopheles comes from German and was first introduced into our language around 1590. Below is a frightening picture of Mephistopheles:
|Image courtesy of AmiaWiki.