Friday, November 29, 2013

Almost at 13,800, Puzzazz Thanksgiving Weekend Black Friday Puzzle Sale, and PuzzleNation's Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

I hope you all had a wonderful, puzzle-filled Thanksgiving!  This week the litzing machine has continued to chug along—I received more than 100 puzzles, and we're now almost at 13,800 on the litzing thermometer!  Just minutes after last week's blog post went live, Todd McClary sent in 7 puzzles.  Then late Friday night, Lynn Feigenbaum sent in her first batch of 7 puzzles—welcome, Lynn!  Sunday morning, Todd Gross sent in 10 proofread puzzles, followed by another 11 Tuesday morning.  Four minutes later, Ralph Bunker sent in 28 puzzles.  Wednesday morning, Ralph sent in 28 more puzzles (putting his total at more than 700!), which were followed by 31 proofread puzzles from Tracy Bennett that afternoon and 15 more litzed puzzles from Mark Diehl that night.  Mark sent in another 13 late Thursday night (putting his total at more than 4,100!), and this morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7 more.  Awesome job, everyone—we should definitely be over 13,800 by next Friday!

In other news this week, two very timely sales came to my attention:  the Puzzazz Thanksgiving Weekend Black Friday Puzzle Sale, which has great deals on puzzle e-books and apps and features two free Logic Crossword books by Roy Leban just for using the Puzzazz app any time between now and Monday; and PuzzleNation's Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, which contains a list of many fun gift options for down time over the holidays not already taken up by litzing and proofreading!  Fluxx: The Board Game stood out to me the most.  Crossword constructor extraordinaire Mike Shenk introduced me to the card game Fluxx, whose rules get created differently each time the game is played, at the most recent National Puzzlers' League convention.  The game was loads of fun, and I'm sure the board game is a treat as well!  PuzzleNation also has a link to Dell's 100 Years of Crosswords, which of course includes puzzles by pre-Shortzian constructors!

Today's featured puzzle, "Thanksgiving Fare," was constructed and edited by Will Weng (who modestly used the byline W. W.), published on November 23, 1969, and litzed by Todd McClary.  In his Litzer of the Month interview from July, Todd cited this puzzle as the most memorable one he had litzed.  I wholeheartedly agree that this puzzle shines, not only because it's a quintessential Weng puzzle in terms of his style as a crossword constructor and editor but also because the theme is eccentric, fun, and even historically significant!  In this masterpiece, Weng dished up eight mostly symmetric, interlocking theme entries that take a dig at what was then considered a modern Thanksgiving meal:  PLASTIC TABLECLOTH (clued as "Holiday dining decor"), BISCUIT MIX ("Mom's baking standby"), PAPER NAPKIN ("Table decor"), FREEZE-DRIED COFFEE ("Repast topper"), INSTANT POTATOES ("Holiday menu item"), CANNED PEAS ("Vegetable for mom's table"), DEFROSTED TURKEY ("Crux of a holiday meal"), and BURNT BEANS ("Home-cooked item").  To me, the puzzle feels like a rueful homage to the old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner when all the food items were fresh rather than artificial and pre-made.  It presents a bittersweet yet sardonic view on the evolution of an impatient, fast-paced modern society—a view that may have been reflective of his generation's take on the baby boomers as a whole.  (Just imagine how Weng might have felt about today's society!)  I am somewhat surprised that Weng didn't include an additional theme entry where SNOWMOBILE is, though the entry itself and its wacky clue ("Sleigh for today's grandma") could be considered thematic by a stretch and make up for the paucity of theme entries in that section of the grid.

The rest of the nonthematic fill has its ups and downs—I like the semi-thematic entry SALIVATE a lot, and entries like BOLOGNA, ROB ROY, ROMANTIC, SNIPING, and GIRAFFE give the fill a fresh and lively feel.  Also, although I've never heard of the word ERISTIC ("Controversial"), I feel it's an interesting word that's worthwhile knowing.  According to Webster, this rather unusual term can ultimately be traced back to the Greek eris, meaning "strife," which is also the name of the Greek goddess of discord.  The fill does, however, contain a sizable number of entries I'm not overwhelmingly fond of:  the partials THE DAY ("Officer of ___"), A DAY'S ("___ work," which also overlaps with THE DAY), and NOSE IN ("Stick one's ___"); the abbreviations RNWYS ("Airstrips: Abbr.") and OPR ("Girl with a headset: Abbr."); the hardcore crosswordese UINAL ("Mayan month"), ENTAD ("Inward: Anat."), and EDAR ("Biblical tower"); and the gallimaufry of prefixes and suffixes featuring ATOR ("Doer: Suffix"), ESCE ("Verb suffix"), AMIDO ("Of an acid"), IERS ("Comparative suffixes"), and OZON ("Oxygen prefix").  Also, SPOT-FREE ("Like a freshly-cleaned suit") feels a bit roll-your-own.  Many of the nonthematic clues, as in most Weng-constructed puzzles, have a lovely wry, clever twist to them.  My favorites are "Creators of jams" for AUTOS, "Social bore" for EGOIST, and the timely "1969 champs" for METS.  In all, despite a few setbacks in the nonthematic fill, this is a beautiful, meaningful construction and a harbinger of the brilliance and creativity that would flourish in the late Weng and early Maleska eras.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Following up on the nostalgic note of the featured puzzle, I thought I'd close off this post with some clues that reflect the changing times in the '60s:
  • March 31, 1964 (constructor unknown, litzed by Ed Sessa)
    • Clue:  Memento of the trolley age.
    • Answer:  CAR TRACKS
  • October 18, 1966 (constructor unknown, litzed by Mike Buckley)
    • Clue: Vanishing vehicle.
    • Answer:  STREETCAR
  • January 6, 1967 (constructed by Arthur Schulman, litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Slogan of today's youth.
    • Answer:  A-GO-GO
  • February 22, 1967 (constructed by William Lutwiniak, litzed by Martin Herbach)
    • Clue:  Movie stars of the good old days.
    • Answer:  VAMPS
  • May 16, 1969 (constructor unknown, litzed by Howard Barkin)
    • Clue:  Anyone over 30, to the new breed.
    • Answer:  OLDSTER
  • And finally, my favorite, from July 18, 1967 (constructed by Helen Fasulo, litzed by Martin Herbach)
    • Clue:  Ever-rising item.
    • Answer:  HEMLINE
Below is a picture of some miniskirts from the '60s:

Image courtesy of Everything About Fashion.

Friday, November 22, 2013

20th Anniversary of Will Shortz's Editorship (and of the Post–Pre-Shortzian Era!), Lynn Feigenbaum's 1993 Interview with Will Shortz, Eric Albert's "The World's Most Ornery Crossword," Project Update, Looming Litzing Challenges, and More Publicity

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Will Shortz's editorship of the New York Times crossword—and, hence, of the post–pre-Shortzian era!  The past 20 years have truly been the golden age of Times crosswords—congratulations, Will!

November 21, 1993, New York Times announcement.

And, serendipitously, yesterday I received an e-mail from our newest litzer, Lynn Feigenbaum, reportedly the first journalist to interview Will after he became puzzle editor of the Times.  Lynn's article, "Bill Clinton Of The Crossword Puzzle World," appeared in December 1993 in Editor & Publisher.  She writes:  "I had met him at the 1986 U.S. Open Crossword Championship (where I came in an inglorious 203rd out of 250 puzzlers . . . I've never gotten much better) and was appalled that the press didn't know what a revolutionary change was ahead.  I hoped writing the article for E&P, a newspaper trade mag, would spread the word.  I like to think it did. . . . "  You can read Lynn's fascinating piece here.

If you enjoyed Eric Albert's "Crosswords by Computer" article last week, you may want to try your hand at solving "The World's Most Ornery Crossword."  This computer-created puzzle by Eric has two independent sets of clues—"Hard" and "Easy"—so you can choose the challenge level you prefer.  The puzzle appeared in the same issue of Games and can be viewed and downloaded here.

On the litzing front this week, Howard Barkin sent in 7 puzzles (putting his total at more than 800 litzed puzzles!).  Saturday morning, Joe Cabrera sent in 6 more.  Then Sunday morning, Alex Vratsanos sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Denny Baker that afternoon and 8 from Mark Diehl that night.  Monday morning, Alex sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Denny on Wednesday afternoon.  Friday morning, Todd Gross sent in 10 proofread puzzles.  Great job, everyone—by next week at this time, we should be over 13,700!

As we get into the final stretch of litzing, we're facing some new challenges.  Several litzers have already been sent some unusual packets—instead of containing a typical week of Monday through Sunday puzzles, some packets now may have just a few daily puzzles or a few Sunday puzzles with no dailies.  Soon we'll be entering the Sunday-only phase, which will begin (moving backwards in time) on September 10, 1950.  Packets from then on will consist of 4 to 5 Sunday puzzles.  Although this will mean that individual litzing totals will increase more slowly, the Sunday puzzles from this time period had so many fascinating historical and cultural references that they should still hold our interest!

Another looming litzing challenge is the number of missing puzzles, either because of newspaper strikes or because we simply couldn't find PDFs of certain puzzles.  Although these problematic puzzles comprise a relatively small percentage of the total—I recently counted 129 newspaper strike dates, for example—in the not too distant future I'll be soliciting help to track them down.

Finally, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project received some more publicity this week in Deb Amlen's November 19 post on Wordplay—thanks so much, Deb!

Today's featured puzzle was constructed by George Laczko, edited by Margaret Farrar, published on March 13, 1967, and litzed by Mark Diehl.  This remarkable construction features six symmetrically interlocking theme entries that contain an article of clothing but that are either idiomatic and/or have nothing to do with the articles of clothing in and of themselves, such as SLIPS OUT and IN ANOTHER'S SHOES.  TIES INTO and SNOW CAPS are positioned particularly elegantly since they intersect two other theme entries apiece, a feat that would be exceptionally challenging even with the word lists and other resources available to 21st-century crossword constructors!  What really makes this puzzle extraordinary and way ahead of its time, however, is the inclusion of the reveal entry GARMENT DISTRICT (clued appropriately for The New York Times as "Part of New York City.").  I haven't seen very many daily puzzles from the '50s and '60s with themes as solid as this one, but I don't think I've seen any that go so far as to include a reveal entry!  The theme density did, however, necessitate a barrage of crosswordese and unusual entries in the nonthematic fill, which include ORLO ("Flat plinth."), PINNI ("Feather: Prefix"), ALME ("Egyptian dancing girl."), STYR ("Ukrainian river."), and DTHS ("Theological degrees.").  The weirdest-looking entry has to be WHEYEY ("Like thin milk."), a word that I've never seen before within or outside of crosswords!  Nevertheless, Mr. Laczko did a brilliant job with this puzzle, and I look forward to seeing more puzzles that are 20–30 years ahead of their time as litzing continues!  For now, here's the solution (with highlighted theme entries):

Friday, November 15, 2013

Eric Albert's "Crosswords by Computer," Mark Diehl Litzes One Quarter of All the Pre-Shortzian Puzzles, In 1956, and Cogito Article on the Project

This week I'm delighted to present a link to Eric Albert's classic article, "Crosswords by Computer—or 1,000 Nine-Letter Words a Day for Fun and Profit," on his experiences in the early years of crossword construction software.  This fascinating piece originally appeared in February 1992—more than 20 years ago!  To read it, click here.  Thanks so much again, Eric!

I'm also thrilled to announce that on Sunday litzer Mark Diehl reached a major milestone:  He litzed his 4058th puzzle, meaning he has now litzed more than one quarter of all the pre-Shortzian puzzles!  This is truly an amazing feat—congratulations, Mark, and thanks so much again!

Lots of other puzzles came in this week too, starting off on Saturday afternoon with 7 from Ed Sessa.  Twenty minutes later, Brian Kulman sent in another 7.  Sunday afternoon, Ralph Bunker sent 28 puzzles, putting us over 13,500 on the litzing thermometer (and his own total at more than 600 litzed puzzles—since mid-September!)!  Then later that night, Mark sent in the batch of 22 puzzles that brought his record-breaking total to 4058!  Monday afternoon, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7 more puzzles.  Tuesday morning, Denny Baker sent 7 puzzles, which were followed that evening by 10 more proofread puzzles from Todd Gross.  Wednesday morning, Ralph sent in 28 more puzzles.  Thursday afternoon, Nancy Kavanaugh sent a mega-batch of 42 puzzles, putting us over 13,600 on the litzing thermometer and into 1956!  A short while later, Todd sent 10 more proofread puzzles, which were followed by 11 litzed puzzles from Mark later that night.  Then late this afternoon, Todd sent in 11 more proofread puzzles, which were followed 15 minutes later by 7 litzed puzzles from Mike Buckley.  Super job, everyone—we're really whizzing through the 1950s!

We're now in 1956, the breakout year for "the King" (no, not the Litzing King, Mark Diehl!).  Elvis Presley rocketed to superstardom with the January release of his first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel."  Here's a picture:

Image courtesy of HowStuffWorks

In other news, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project received some more publicity recently!  Kristi Birch's article, "Project Spotlight:  Getting a Clue," features an interview with me about the project and is on the site of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.  To read it, click here.

Today's featured puzzle, "Sweet Talk," was constructed by the legendary A. J. Santora, edited by the legendary Margaret Farrar, and litzed by the legendary Mark Diehl!  The publication date, which was November 27, 1966, isn't particularly legendary, though this puzzle is from one of the first batches of litzed puzzles I reviewed in the year 1966.  The theme, which involves different types of candy clued in ways that don't relate to candy, is a solid representation of what Sunday puzzle themes were like from this time period (category members with alternate meanings).  I've noticed that there were relatively few themeless Sundays published in the late Farrar era, and the ones that did appear seem to have all been constructed by the same person (the exceptionally prolific William A. Lewis, Jr.).  Anyway, my favorite theme entries in this puzzle are CHOCOLATE CREAM SOLDIER (clued as "'Arms and the Man' man."), ON THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP (clued trickily as "Temple song of years ago."—Mr. Santora was referring to Shirley Temple rather than to the place of worship!), CRACKERJACK ("First-rate: Slang."—which, interestingly, is a brand name of sweets), and BUTTERSCOTCH ("Yellowish-brown.").  I haven't personally heard of the first two of these theme entries, but I like that they're both 21 letters—and besides, who can split hairs over such a sweet theme?  The only theme entry that feels a little weak is PEPPERMINTS ("Pungent plants."), since its clue isn't that far off in terms of meaning from the candies.  The nonthematic fill, which feels fresh and lively, makes up for this slight inconsistency and really shines because of the puzzle's relatively low theme density.  I especially like the entries TAMMANY, ZEALOT, EXODUS, BABOONS, CROUPIER, UPROAR, and, most of all, BALLYHOO!  That said, this puzzle review would feel too treacly if I neglected to mention the slew of partials in the grid, which include TAKING A ("___ back seat"), REAP THE ("___ whirlwind"), and the repetitious À-TÊTE ("Tête ___"), as well as the unpleasant TRAUMAS ("Emotional stresses") and the lesser-known SEGETAL ("Growing in fields of grain."), RORIC ("Dewy."), and TSHI ("Gold Coast language.").  In sum, however, this is a fine construction with a mouth-watering theme—I look forward to seeing some more of A. J. Santora's earlier constructions as litzing continues!  For now, here's the answer grid with highlighted theme entries.  Time to go grab some candy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

1980 Puzzles Up, Ralph Bunker's "Evolution of a Litzer," and Site Changes

Great news:  The 1980 puzzles are now all proofread and up on XWord Info!  Thanks so much again to proofreaders Todd Gross, Tracy Bennett, and Kristena Bergen, who toil quietly in the background getting the litzed puzzles ready for prime time—and to Jim Horne, for solving technical issues and then posting the puzzles on XWord Info!

And in our first post-Litzstarter week, more proofread and litzed puzzles have continued to come in, starting off very early Saturday morning with 10 proofread puzzles from Todd Gross and 3 litzed puzzles from C. G. Rishikesh (Rishi).  Sunday morning, Rishi sent 3 more, and then that night, he sent another.  Monday night, Todd sent in 10 more proofread puzzles, and Tuesday morning, Ralph Bunker sent in 28 litzed puzzles.  Early Wednesday morning, Todd sent in 11 more proofread puzzles, and shortly thereafter, Ralph sent in 28 more litzed puzzles, putting us over 13,400 on the litzing thermometer!  Very early Thursday morning, Todd sent in 10 more proofread puzzles, then later sent 10 more, putting us into 1979 with the proofreading!  Thursday night, Mark Diehl sent in 31 puzzles, and early this morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7 more.  Awesome job, everyone—thanks so much again!

This week I'm delighted to feature a piece by litzer Ralph Bunker, who burst onto the scene a quarter of the way through Litzstarter and, using programs he writes, has been able to litz an amazing number of puzzles in a very short period of time.  Here's his article:

Evolution of a Litzer

by Ralph Bunker

Phase 1
Printed out puzzles, typed them using only CrossFire.

Phase 2
Did not print out puzzles. Used a second computer to display the clues and answers for a puzzle side by side.

Phase 3.
Got tired of typing in the title, author and copyright and not being able to hit return to get to next line of grid in CrossFire, so I wrote a program to overcome thiese annoyances. I copied the email David sent with the one line descriptions of the puzzles to a text editor and typed the grid under each line, getting something that looked like this:

2/28:  Unknown

The program read the file containing the grids and did the following:
1. Expanded the one line header into Title, Author and Copyright lines.
2. Verified that each line of a puzzle was the same length.
3. Printed a warning if the puzzle was not square.
4. Printed a warning if the puzzle was not symmetric.

Note: every such warning was actually an error. All puzzles that I have entered are square and symmetric.

5. Analyzed the grid to determine clue numbers.
6. Generated an empty clue for each across and down answer.
7. Produced an XML file that could be read by CrossFire.

Phase 4.
Got tired of switching back and forth between entering a month's worth of grids in a text editor and then using CrossFire to enter the clues, so I asked David for a year's worth of puzzles. I spent a couple of days entering all the grids, then spent the rest of the time entering the clues.

Note: Maybe people without construction software could enter the grids and somebody else enter the clues.

Phase 5.
When I type clues I find the clue on the computer displaying the puzzles, then type in the clue looking at the screen because that is how I am used to typing when I program. This allows me to verify that the clue and the answer make sense together. However, sometimes I get into a zone where I am just typing clues and when I do a pass through the clues on completion of a puzzle, there are answers that I have no recollection of seeing. This concerns me, so I wrote a program that collects all the distinct answers and displays all the ways that each answer was clued. For example,

  Urge on. 36A[600425]
  Help, especially in wrongdoing. 12D[600506]
  Aid. 57D[600805]
  Urge on. 57A[600812]
  Support. 11D[601118]
  Second; support. 53D[610211]
  Countenance wrongdoing. 11D[610318]
  Aid's partner. 54D[610927]
  Sanction. 62D[611002]
  Aid and ___. 17D[611008]
  Second. 21D[620508]
  Aid's partner. 6D[630112]

which looks pretty good, but then there is something like

  Math subject: Abbr. 27A[600907]
  Branch of math. 53A[601003]
  African country: Abbr. 49A[601101]
  Math area: Abbr. 14D[610115]

and I wonder if I missed the Abbr in the answer for puzzle 601003.

Phase 6 (in progress)
Analyze the answer file produced in Phase 5 to find possible errors, e.g.
1. Missing periods.
2. Incorrect spacing of ellipsis.
3. Clues that include the answer (i.e. I typed the answer instead of the ___)
4. Answers in which most but not all clues include Abbr., etc.

I can correct errors such as mispellings in the file and then write another program to apply the corrections to the CrossFire files. I can also convert the puzzle dates into links that will display the PDF files for the puzzle.

Phase 7 (thinking about as I type)
Write a program that floats over the PDF file so that an answer is directly above it as I type.

Thanks so much again, Ralph, for this fascinating piece about the evolution of your litzing process!

You may have noticed some minor changes in the site's sidebar on the right.  Now that Litzstarter is over, I've removed the sponsor logos; I've also put in a link to XWord Info, since that's where you'll find the pre-Shortzian puzzles, and moved up the Subscribe button.  In addition, I've removed the PayPal Contribute button, since it was rarely used and took up important "real estate" in the sidebar.  (You can still contribute, though, by clicking on the Contribute tab above and following the instructions.)  All these changes have moved the Litzer of the Month gadget back into its former more prominent position.

Today's featured puzzle was constructed by Harold T. Bers, edited by Margaret Farrar, litzed by Brian Kulman, and originally published on February 21, 1959.  This prodigious puzzle contains just 64 words and, unlike the precious few other pre-Shortzian puzzles with low word count I've encountered, uses an eye-catching grid with no cheater squares.  On top of all this, the puzzle is filled much more cleanly than the average pre-Shortzian themeless with 72 or more words, making it a true tour de force!  Some of my favorite entries are LOVE SEAT, TERRA FIRMA, CREEPS UP, LANDMINE, and SEE STARS.  HEBETUDE (clued as "Dullness; lethargy") is an interesting-sounding entry as well, though I'd never heard of it before this puzzle.  Webster notes that hebetude and its adjectival form, hebetudinous, come from the late Latin hebetudo, which can ultimately be traced to the second-conjugation Latin verb hebēre, meaning "to be dull."  The puzzle does contain a few entries that Amy Reynaldo would designate as "roll-your-own," including PRECASTS ("Selects actors without a tryout."), RESTAMP ("Imprint again."), ENNEADIC ("Of a group of nine."), and ASAS ("Men named for a king of Judah."), as well as a few unusual terms, such as the partial-like ARLESIENNE ("Famous Van Gogh painting, with "L."), ADEEMS ("Revokes, as a legacy."), and RACEME ("Floral structure, as lily of the valley."), though none of these entries feels glaringly bad.  The clues are fairly standard on the whole, though the clue for SKEE ("Engage in winter sport: Var.") surprised me, since SKEE-Ball was definitely around back then and would have made for a better clue.  Then again, it seems that Maleska didn't introduce the Skee-Ball cluing approach until 1990—perhaps the pre-Shortzian editors felt Skee-Ball was too much like a brand name.  Nevertheless, this is an exceptionally strong, smooth pre-Shortzian themeless that would still be considered high-quality today, and I'm looking forward to seeing other ahead-of-their time Bers masterpieces as litzing continues further back into the '50s!  Here's the answer grid:

Friday, November 1, 2013

2,355 Puzzles Litzed During Litzstarter, Nancy Kavanaugh Wins ACPT Grand Prize, Mark Diehl Tops 4,000, New Litzer Extraordinaire Ralph Bunker, November Litzer of the Month C. G. Rishikesh, and In 1957

Litzstarter is now officially over, and it's been a tremendous success!  With an ambitious goal of reaching 13,000 on the litzing thermometer in just two months, we not only met that goal but surpassed it, hitting 13,363 by 11:59 p.m. PDT on October 31.  A total of 2,355 puzzles (counting 97 of my own, which weren't listed in the contest totals) were litzed—an astounding achievement!  Thanks so much again to everyone who participated—awesome job!

And many thanks again too to our generous sponsors:  the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), American Values Club Crossword (AVCX), Crossword Nation, Fireball Crosswords, Puzzazz, Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle, and XWord Info.  The awards were terrific incentives and helped make this the most successful Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project contest ever!

The winner of the Grand Prize drawing for free admission to the 2014 ACPT was Nancy Kavanaugh—congratulations, Nancy!  Contest litzers were assigned numbers between 1 and 2258 based on the number of puzzles they'd litzed during Litzstarter, and a random-number generator produced the winning number.

Now for a recap of Litzstarter's final six days:  Ralph Bunker got us off to a fast start on Saturday morning with 28 puzzles.  Late that night, Mark Diehl sent in 25 more.  Then Sunday morning, Ralph sent in another 28, putting us over 13,100 on the litzing thermometer (and his personal totals at more than 500!)!  Sunday night, Denny Baker sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed by 20 more from Mark.  Monday evening, Vic Fleming sent in 21 puzzles.  Then Tuesday afternoon, Brian Kulman sent in 7, which were followed by 28 more from Ralph that night, putting us over 13,200 on the litzing thermometer!  About half an hour later, Mark sent in 35 more puzzles (putting his contest total at more than 600!).  On Wednesday afternoon, Tracy Bennett sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed a little over an hour later by a mega-batch of 42 from Nancy Kavanaugh.  That night, Mark sent in 28 more puzzles, putting us over 13,300 on the litzing thermometer (and his contest total at 650 and regular total at more than 4,000!)!  Very early Thursday morning, Todd Gross sent in 11 more proofread puzzles, then later, Brian sent in 7 litzed puzzles.  Thursday night—the last night of the contest—Todd McClary sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 24 more from Mark about an hour and a half before the midnight deadline.  And Howard Barkin sent in an additional 21 puzzles this week as well!  Great job, everyone—thanks so much again!

As I mentioned, Mark Diehl reached a major milestone this week in his regular total, which now comes to 4,036—nearly one-fourth of the total pre-Shortzian puzzles!  Congratulations, Mark, on this amazing achievement!

And many of you may have noticed the sudden appearance of new litzer extraordinaire Ralph Bunker, who first contacted me on September 14 (two weeks after Litzstarter had begun) about litzing and who has since litzed an astounding 539 puzzles—in just six weeks!  Ralph has written programs to speed up his litzing, and next week I'll be publishing a fascinating piece he wrote about that.  Thanks so much again, Ralph!

In other news, we have a new Litzer of the Month:  C. G. Rishikesh (Rishi)! Rishi lives in India and is a prolific constructor of cryptic puzzles.  His response to my question about which aspect of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project database he was most excited about was particularly eloquent:
To be able to go to old puzzles and see those old references.  To marvel at some things that are still fresh.  To mourn over things that have died a silent death.  To recall a half-forgotten quote, to be reminded of a movie that you saw years ago with a cousin who is no longer alive, to find an echo from a distant song. . . .  The possibilities are endless.
To read more about Rishi, click here or on the Litzer of the Month tab above.

With all this litzing, we've whizzed into another year:  1957.  This was a year of many major historical events, but in honor of the speed at which we've zipped through the litzing, I've decided to highlight the record-setting run by British race car driver Stirling Moss on August 23, 1957, in the MG EX181.  Reaching a speed of 245 mph—almost as fast as litzers!—Moss broke the class F world land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  Here's a picture of the MG EX181:

Photo courtesy of Auto Heritage