Friday, January 31, 2014

Howard Barkin Finds Bernice Gordon's First NYT Puzzle, New Litzer of the Month Alex Vratsanos, and Litzing Contest Poll

Last Saturday, I received an e-mail from litzer Howard Barkin.  He had read an article about Bernice Gordon in which she was quoted as saying she vaguely remembered her first New York Times puzzle having MAMIE EISENHOWER as an entry.  Howard had come across that puzzle—which was published on February 19, 1953—in a batch he was litzing, and he wondered whether it was indeed her first.  I checked my (still incomplete) database, and sure enough, that puzzle was the first on record for Bernice in the Times!  I sent PDFs of the puzzle and solution to Bernice, and she happily confirmed that the puzzle was indeed her first for The New York Times.  She remembered how proud she'd been to finally break in and commented that the puzzle seemed "so simple" compared to the ones she constructs today.  Thanks so much again, Howard, for your discovery!  Below is a picture of the puzzle's solution:

Tomorrow is February 1, and I'm delighted to announce that Alex Vratsanos is the new Litzer of the Month!  Alex is not only a prolific and exceptionally accurate litzer but also a young constructor who published his first puzzle in The New York Times on the day he graduated from high school!  To read more about Alex, click here or on the Litzer of the Month tab above.

It's been another busy litzing week, starting off on Saturday morning with 10 proofread puzzles from Todd Gross.  That afternoon, Alex Vratsanos sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 from Mike Buckley that evening.  Sunday morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed a few hours later by 7 more from Lynn Feigenbaum, and then 7 more from Jeffrey (two batches in one day!) that evening.  Monday afternoon, Alex sent 7 more puzzles.  I woke up Tuesday morning to find 7 more puzzles from Lynn, 7 more from Jeffrey, and 7 from Barry Haldiman—a great start to the day!  That afternoon, Todd sent in 10 more proofread puzzles.  Wednesday night, Tracy Bennett sent in 31 more proofread puzzles.  Early Thursday morning, Jeffrey sent 7 more puzzles, then a few hours later, Lynn sent in 7 more.  Very early this morning, Todd sent 9 more proofread puzzles, which were followed by 7 litzed puzzles from Lynn this afternoon and 7 from Vic Fleming just a few minutes ago.  And this week, Howard Barkin sent in 14 puzzles.  We're now over 14,900—14,961, to be exact!  Thanks so much again, everybody!

I've been thinking about running another litzing contest, since we're so close to the end.  We're actually closer than the thermometer indicates, because between the newspaper strikes and ProQuest problems, quite a few puzzles are missing.  The thing is, we're going to be entering the Sunday-only period soon—that means the puzzles will be big (often 23x) and will take longer to litz.  We could try to shoot for finishing by March 7, the start of the ACPT, but that would be a very tough goal, and I know some of you will be busy training for the tournament.  What do you think?  If you have an opinion, use the poll gadget at the top of the righthand column to cast your vote! You can also e-mail me or leave comments below.

Today's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was originally published on November 3, 1964; litzed by Mark Diehl; and edited by Margaret Farrar.  This timely and historical crossword, which appeared on Election Day, 1964, features 10 mostly symmetric theme entries relating to the election or recent politics in general.  The constructor even went so far as to disguise some of the election/political names and terms in the clues!  My favorites of these not-so-obvious references include SENATOR (clued as "Member of a ball team."), KENNEDY ("Florida cape."), MILLERS ("Chaucer's 'The ___ Tale.'"), and JOHNSON ("Lexicographer of 1775.").  H TRUMAN ("Truncated signature of White House fame.") is a particularly weak theme entry, especially since HST is elsewhere in the puzzle, but the overall theme and sheer quantity of theme entries definitely outweigh this minor flaw!  And as with all current events–themed pre-Shortzian puzzles, I find it fascinating to see how crossword constructors of the '50s and '60s chose to define leading political figures of their day.  Aside from the theme, I find it amazing that the puzzle has just 70 words, which is lower than the word count of the vast majority of themeless puzzles from the same time period.  The constructor did a truly masterful job of balancing an ambitious theme and grid with a relatively clean nonthematic fill!  I particularly like the entries HUMPHREY, BADGER, DRAGS (with the fresh, fun clue "Auto races: Slang"), and YVONNE, though I also appreciated seeing the semi-thematic entry ORATORS with the old-fashioned political clue "Bryan and others.," especially since we just studied William Jennings Bryan in my AP U.S. History course.  We also learned about Henry Clay earlier this year, so I was pleased to encounter the clue "Last word of Henry Clay aphorism." for the theme entry PRESIDENT, even though I wasn't familiar with the aphorism the clue mentioned.  Apparently, after failing to become president, Clay famously remarked, "I would rather be right than president."  Anyway, on the flip side, the nonthematic fill does have some entries that feel quite esoteric, including SNATH ("Handle of a scythe."), ALCO ("Small dog of tropical America."), and TROMBE ("Organ stops imitating trumpet tones."), as well as a handful of unsavory abbreviations and foreign terms, most notably SPTS ("Certain cities: Abbr.") and COUPURE ("Cut: Fr.").  Nevertheless, I find this puzzle fascinating from both a historical and a cruciverbal perspective, and I hope to see more like it in previous election years.  For now, here's the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries):

Pre-Shortzian New York Times crosswords are notorious for having very few (if any) references to contemporary pop culture.  In fact, one critic of Maleska went so far as to state that the most recent reference Maleska used in a crossword during his 1977–1993 editorship was Rosie the Riveter!  Contrary to this stereotype, I've seen many clues in pre-Shortzian puzzles that were quite fresh at the time.  Here are seven clues that date back to the Beatles' earliest years of fame in the United States, all of which come from puzzles litzed by Mark Diehl (and most of whose constructors are unknown).  These 1964 and 1965 clues were definitely contemporary!
  • November 6, 1964 [The British Invasion of crossworddom begins, per my records, based on the pre-Shortzian New York Times crosswords I've reviewed so far!]
    • Clue:  1964 phenomenon.
    • Answer:  BEATLE
  • February 1, 1965
    • Clue:  Not descriptive of the Beatles.
    • Answer:  BALD
  • March 28, 1965 (constructed by Jack Luzzatto)
    • Clue:  Ante-Beatle phenomenon.
    • Answer:  ELVIS
  • September 20, 1965
    • Clue:  The Beatles, Supremes, et al.
    • Answer:  IDOLS
  • October 27, 1965 [This puzzle alone nearly contains a fab four Beatles references!]
    • Clue:  Liverpool drummer.
    • Answer:  RINGO
    • Clue:  Certain headliners.
    • Answer:  BEATLES
    • Clue:  See 1 Across. [RINGO]
    • Answer:  STAR [Interesting that Ringo was also a STARR!]
My favorite of these clues is definitely the one for BALD—the Beatles were certainly hair apparent!  Here's a picture of this beloved hirsute band:

Image courtesy of

Friday, January 24, 2014

Over 14,800, In 1952 . . . and to Burp or Not to Burp?

It's been another busy week—we're not only over 14,800 but also, at 14,856, more than halfway to 14,900!  The first puzzles for this week—7 from John Bulten—actually came in Friday morning but didn't get logged in till later.  Early Saturday morning, Lynn Feigenbaum sent in 7 puzzles, then that afternoon, Todd Gross sent 11 proofread puzzles.  Early Monday morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7 more puzzles, and later that morning, Denny Baker sent 3 more.  Early Tuesday morning, Lynn sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Jeffrey half an hour later and another 7 from Barry Haldiman a few hours after that.  Wednesday evening, Denny sent 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 25 more from Ralph Bunker.  Early Thursday morning, Jeffrey sent 7 more puzzles, putting us at 14,800 on the litzing thermometer!  Shortly before noon, Barry sent in another 7, then that afternoon, Nancy Kavanaugh sent in a mega-batch of 42 puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Lynn less than half an hour later!  Awesome job, everybody—maybe we'll even make it to 15,000 this coming week!

We're also now in 1952, and I'm especially delighted to present this representative photo from that year—the first issue of Mad magazine!  Mad originally appeared as comic book before becoming a magazine; here's a picture of the first issue:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
My list of puzzles to feature on this blog is now 46 pages long, and it grows by the day as litzers continue to send in so many puzzles at such a rapid clip!  For today's featured puzzle, I decided to scroll all the way up to page 16, which contains some of the puzzles I found most interesting from 1975 and 1976.  This crossword, which was constructed by George Madrid, was originally published March 26, 1976; edited by Will Weng; and litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  Since I've seen so many pre-Shortzian puzzles, I wasn't sure what to expect when I reopened this puzzle's Crossword Compiler file; I did have some idea, though, as I had jotted down that it was a "good representation of Weng's style."  Looking back on this crossword nearly a year later, I completely agree with my original description—this puzzle screams Weng to me!  The puzzle contains a wacky, not-quite-symmetric quote (described as a gourmand's cop-out in the clues) about burping:  TIS BETTER TO BURP AND BEAR THE SHAME THAN NOT TO BURP AND BEAR THE PAIN.  This is definitely one of the most amusing quotes I've seen in a crossword puzzle, pre-Shortzian or Shortz-era!  I wonder if the constructor intended TORMENT (clued as "Pain," which also appears in the quote) and EAT CROW ("Suffer humiliation") to be part of the theme by a stretch—the former in particular feels like it should be part of the theme, since its symmetrical counterpart is part of the quote (BURP AND).  Either way, the theme is fun and enjoyable!  The nonthematic fill, however, feels rather sketchy in places—I can't imagine any of Weng's successors (or his predecessor) allowing the entry USED AIR GUN ("Child's offering for a swap")!  Other entries that feel a bit iffy include the partials WHO ARE ("'We ___ about to die . . . '") and IT'S UP TO ("'___ you' (your option)") and the not-so-great plurals EASYS ("Chair and Street") [yikes!], AAAS ("Shoe widths"), and NNES ("Compass points").  On the flip side, PAID UP, ARCANE, LENORE, ROBBERY, and SNATCH are quite nice.  The most intriguing entry to me, though, is HELEN TRENT ("Radio soap-opera heroine"), an older reference I wasn't familiar with.  After a quick Google search, I discovered that Helen Trent was the protagonist in the 1933–60 CBS radio soap opera The Romance of Helen Trent, which ran for more than 7,222 episodes.  Helen was a 35-year-old dressmaker who apparently had a number of male admirers (most notably Gil Whitney), none of whom she ended up marrying.  What an interesting reference!  The clues are also nice on the whole, particularly "Tin and rabbit" for EARS.  In all, this puzzle is a strong example of a pre-Shortzian quote theme and epitomizes Will Weng's style!  The answer grid (with the quote highlighted) can be seen below:

At 18 pages, my list of clues to feature is also mushrooming (pun intended) as litzers continue to send back Atomic Age puzzles!  I've seen a number of Farrar-era clues that reference "the good old days," which I always find particularly interesting, since they imply that the entry in question no longer existed in the mid- to late 1960s.  Here's an ennead of "good old days" clues.  I find it rather fitting (though sad) that none of these puzzles' constructors are known.
  • February 16, 1965 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Courtliness of the good old days.
    • Answer:  CHIVALRY
  • April 27, 1965 (litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh)
    • Clue:  Sound of spring, in the good old days.
    • Answer:  HURDY GURDY
  • May 6, 1965 (litzed by Denny Baker)
    • Clue:  Girls of the good old days.
    • Answer:  TOMBOYS
  • August 28, 1965 (litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Clue:  Children's game of the good old days.
    • Answer:  BEANBAG
  • October 27, 1965 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Visitor's adjunct of the good old days.
    • Answer:  CARD CASE
  • January 11, 1966 (litzed by Denny Baker)
    • Clue:  Girl, in the good old days. [Margaret Farrar was into this clue!]
    • Answer:  TOMBOY
  • February 22, 1966 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Girlish glow of the good old days.
    • Answer:  BLUSH
  • May 26, 1966 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Romantic idea of the good old days.
    • Answer:  LIVE ON LOVE ALONE
  • June 25, 1966 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Square dances of the good old days.
    • Answer:  LANCERS
I find the TOMBOY and TOMBOYS clues most intriguing and objectionable, since there were plenty of tomboys in the '60s (including my mom!), and there are still a good number of them today.  I do think there's something to be said for there possibly being a decrease in tomboys over time, though, since society has become more and more celebrity- and fashion-obsessed as advertising proliferates and new ways to receive information continue to be invented.  Below is a picture of some more fashion-focused, "modern" girls—can't say I'm complaining ;) !

Image courtesy of New York Girl Style.

Friday, January 17, 2014

John M. Samson Interview, Bernice Gordon Article by Kathy Matheson, and Over 14,700

This week I'm delighted to present an interview with pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era constructor John M. Samson, who is also the crossword editor of Simon & Schuster!  To read John's wonderful reminiscences, click here or on the Pre-Shortzian Constructor Interviews tab above.

Also, another article on pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era constructor Bernice Gordon appeared, just before Bernice published her first New York Times puzzle as a centenarian!  To read Associated Press reporter Kathy Matheson's charming piece, click here.

It's been another busy litzing week, starting off with 4 puzzles from Denny Baker on Saturday afternoon that put us over 14,600 on the litzing thermometer!  Sunday morning, Lynn Feigenbaum sent in 7 puzzles, and then that afternoon, Ralph Bunker sent 28 more, putting his total at more than 800 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Ralph!  That evening, Mike Buckley sent 7 puzzles, which were followed 20 minutes later by 7 from Jeffrey Krasnick.  Monday morning, Brian Kulman sent in 5 puzzles, and less than an hour later, 6 more came in from Denny.  That afternoon, Todd Gross sent in 10 proofread puzzles.  Tuesday morning, Denny sent 3 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 from Barry Haldiman that afternoon.  That evening, Jeffrey sent in 7 puzzles.  Wednesday morning, Lynn sent 7 puzzles, and less than an hour later, 7 more came in from Denny, putting us over 14,700 on the litzing thermometer!  Thursday morning, Jeffrey sent 7 more puzzles.  Then this afternoon, Todd sent in 10 more proofread puzzles, which were followed 5 minutes later by 6 litzed puzzles from Denny.  And Howard Barkin sent in 11 puzzles this week too.  We're now at 14,716 litzed puzzles—by next week, we should be over 14,800!

This week's featured puzzle, "White Christmas," was constructed by John M. Samson.  The puzzle was published on December 20, 1992; edited by Eugene T. Maleska; and litzed by Barry Haldiman (or a member of his former team of litzers).  This impressive 21x crossword features seven rebuses of CHRISTMAS, a word so long that it had to be abbreviated to XMAS in the rebus squares to make the puzzle display well on XWord Info!  Nearly all the CHRISTMAS entries feel fresh and fun, though my favorite has to be HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.  How often do you get to see that in a crossword?  The only two theme entries that feel a little less solid are the partials THE CHRISTMAS (clued as "'___ Wife,' 1988 Robards TV film") and OF CHRISTMAS MY ("' . . . day ___ true love . . . '").  Nevertheless, I'm amazed that John was able to find so many entries containing Christmas and get them to interlock into a 21x grid so elegantly!  The nonthematic fill is also remarkably clean, given the constraints imposed by all the rebus squares—I especially like the entries ANTHILL, RUTABAGA, SQUINT, MANHOLES, HOT RODS, and SOIREES.  The entry that looked the most unusual to me is ORPHREY ("Gold embroidery"), which, according to Merriam-Webster, is ultimately derived from the Latin aurum (meaning "gold") and Phrygius (meaning "Phrygian").  INSTAR ("Top off a 19-Across [CHRISTMAS TREE]") also gave me pause, though I appreciate how John was able to tie it into the theme.  Last but not least, the clues were very nice—"Dumbo's were jumbo" for EARS left me riant!  In all, this is an excellent pre-Shortzian Sunday crossword with both a timely and well-executed theme.  The puzzle can be seen below with highlighted theme entries and fully spelled-out rebus squares or on XWord Info without highlighting and with easier-to-read rebus squares.

In other news, my list of clever clues from mid-to-late 1960s Farrar puzzles keeps on growing!  Here are five of my favorites from a few batches of 1965 puzzles litzed by Mark Diehl:
  • March 28, 1965 (constructed by Jack Luzzatto)
    • Clue:  Aye, there's the rub!
    • Answer:  MASSAGE
  • June 8, 1965 (constructor unknown)
    • Clue:  Heavy ones get too heavy.
    • Answer:  EATERS
  • June 10, 1965 (constructor unknown)
    • Clue:  Men of high interest.
    • Answer:  LOAN SHARKS
  • June 29, 1965 (constructor unknown)
    • Clue:  Animal possibly welcome at picnics.
    • Answer:  AARDVARK
  • July 17, 1965 (constructor unknown)
    • Clue:  Where stars shine.
    • Answer:  HOLLYWOOD
Clues like these are part of what makes looking through the pre-Shortzian puzzles so much fun!  Here's a picture of aardvark (in its natural habitat rather than at a picnic!):

Image courtesy of National Geographic.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Bernice! (Plus, 1979 Puzzles Up, Almost at 14,600, In 1953, Update on Constructor Genders, and C. J. Angio)

I decided to publish this week's blog post today instead of yesterday because today legendary pre-Shortzian & Shortz-era constructor Bernice Gordon turns 100!  Happy 100th Birthday, Bernice—have a wonderful day & party!  Bernice has had the longest crossword-constructing career for The New York Times of any constructor—more than 60 years—&, amazingly, she still builds one crossword a day!  To read more about Bernice & her puzzle innovations, go to the excellent Bernice Gordon Wikipedia page, which contains many links to articles about her, or click on the Pre-Shortzian Constructor Interviews & Pre-Shortzian Constructors tabs above.  & be sure to check out this week's featured puzzle below & her ampers& puzzle featured previously on this blog.  

Image courtesy of The Pennsylvania Gazette
 & Sarah Bloom.

In other, less monumental news, the 1979 proofread puzzles are now up on XWord Info, and we've now litzed almost 14,600 puzzles—14,597, to be exact!  Great job, everyone!  It was a very busy week on the litzing front, starting off with 4 puzzles from Lynn Feigenbaum on Saturday.  Sunday morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 18 puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Denny Baker.  That night, 28 more puzzles came in from Ralph Bunker.  Then Monday morning, 7 puzzles came in from Barry Haldiman, and Todd Gross sent 10 proofread puzzles.  That afternoon, Lynn sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 from Denny, 10 more proofread puzzles from Todd, and 7 litzed puzzles from Todd (T) McClary.  We passed 14,500 on the litzing thermometer Monday evening!  Then Tuesday morning, Barry sent in 7 more puzzles.  Early Wednesday morning, Jeffrey sent 7 puzzles, putting his total at more than 900 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Jeffrey!  Then 20 minutes later, 28 more puzzles came in from Ralph.  A few hours later, Lynn sent 7 more, which were followed by 7 more from Denny and 10 more proofread puzzles from Todd.  Early Thursday morning, Jeffrey sent in 3 more puzzles.  That afternoon, Denny sent 7 more puzzles, putting his total at more than 800 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Denny!  Then Friday morning, Lynn sent 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 from Jeffrey and 7 more from Barry that evening, putting his total at more than 1,300 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Barry!  And Howard Barkin sent in 13 puzzles this week too.  Thanks so much again, everyone—it won't be long now before we're at 15,000!

With all this litzing, we're now sending out puzzles from 1953.  Although 1953 had many notable events, one in particular stood out for me:  the first successful ascent of Mount Everest on May 29, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.  At 8,848 m, Mount Everest is Earth's highest mountain, and scaling this 8,848 m peak is in some ways like conquering our mountain of 16,225 pre-Shortzian puzzles!  Both involve team efforts to reach very difficult goals, and like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, we will eventually reach our summit!  Here is a picture of Mount Everest:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thanks so much to those of you who contacted me with information about pre-Shortzian constructor genders and names.  With this help and some more digging through old books of puzzles, I was able to determine the genders of some of the most prolific pre-Shortzian constructors.

The one notable exception was C. J. Angio, whose name may actually have been a pseudonym.  Several people suggested that C. J. Angio was most likely female, because women were more likely than men to use initials instead of their names.  Unfortunately, this was not always the case among the pre-Shortzian constructors—quite a few prolific male constructors, such as A. J. Santora and W. E. Jones, used their initials too.  I was able to determine that C. J. Angio lived in Illinois, but despite extensive searching, I still couldn't find him or her.  If anyone has any more information about C. J. Angio, please contact me.

Today's featured puzzle was constructed by . . . Bernice Gordon!  Although Bernice is best known for bending the rules of crossword construction in her innovative rebus puzzles, she's come up with many other twisty, forward-thinking, and creative themes.  This week's highlighted puzzle, for example, features four entries that read up and backwards!  The puzzle, which was edited by Eugene T. Maleska, originally appeared on  January 27, 1989, and was litzed by Mark Diehl.  Each theme entry that reads in the opposite direction literally contains the word UP or BACK, which adds a nice level of consistency to the already clever gimmick.  As a bonus, both of the BACK entries reference mirrors and looking glasses in their clues!  The nonthematic fill has many nice entries, including BADGERS, ALIASES, IP CRESS, DOCENT, and DAKOTAN.  Bernice also included some cranium-crushing words I've never heard of, including TANAGRA (clued as "Scene of a Spanish victory: 457 B.C."), ARUNDEL ("Site of a magnificent English castle"), NESIOTE ("Inhabiting an island"), and SERINGA ("Source of Pará rubber").  Nesiote is such an unusual word that it doesn't appear in Merriam-Webster, though my favorite of these entries has to be ARUNDEL.  Here's a picture of the truly magnificent castle:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Arundel Castle looks spectacular, though in my opinion, it doesn't quite surpass the attractiveness of symmetrical black and white squares!  So for all you fellow cruciverbalists, here's a picture of Bernice's puzzle with highlighted theme entries, which can also be viewed on XWord Info without highlighted theme entries.  Happy Birthday again, Bernice!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fun Vocabulary Test, New Litzer of the Month Doug Peterson, New Thermometer, PuzzleNation Publicity, and Constructor Genders

Happy New Year!  It's been a great year for the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, and to celebrate, I've put a special New Year's vocabulary test treat at the end of this post!

I'm also delighted to start off 2014 with an interview with new Litzer of the Month Doug Peterson!  Doug is not only a litzer but also a top-notch constructor—to read more about him, click here or on the Litzer of the Month tab above.

On the litzing front, we've had a very busy week, starting off with 7 puzzles from Jeffrey Krasnick early Saturday morning.  Sunday morning, he sent in 7 more, which were followed about an hour later by 6 from Lynn Feigenbaum.  Sunday evening, Jeffrey sent in an additional 7, which were followed by 10 proofread puzzles from Todd Gross.  Monday afternoon, Denny Baker sent in 6 more puzzles.  Early Tuesday, Jeffrey sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed in the afternoon by 28 puzzles from Ralph Bunker and 7 more from Lynn. The first puzzles of 2014 were 10 proofread ones from Todd early Wednesday morning.  Jeffrey sent in 7 more litzed puzzles a few hours later, then in the afternoon, Vic Fleming sent 28 puzzles, putting us over 14,300 on the litzing thermometer!  Denny sent in 7 more puzzles that afternoon, which were followed by 7 more from Jeffrey—a great start to the New Year!  Thursday morning, Lynn sent in 7 more puzzles.  A few hours later, Nancy Kavanaugh sent a mega-batch of 42 puzzles, putting her total at more than 1,000 litzed puzzles—congratulations again, Nancy!  That afternoon I received 4 puzzles from Denny and then 7 more puzzles from Mark Diehl.  This morning, Todd sent in 11 more proofread puzzles (the last from 1979!), which were followed by 4 more litzed puzzles from Denny this afternoon.  And Howard Barkin sent in 14 puzzles this week too!  So we're now over 14,400 on the litzing thermometer!  Terrific job, everyone—thanks so much again!

You may have noticed that we have a new litzing thermometer image.  On Monday the thermometer wasn't showing up on the site—this has happened before but has always resolved itself.  Early Tuesday morning, however, litzer Jeffrey Krasnick told me the thermometer still wasn't there.  Since it hadn't appeared when I checked again several hours later, I went to the thermometer's site, where I discovered that our original image had been replaced by new options, so I chose one of those.  R.I.P., old thermometer.

In other news, the project received some more publicity yesterday on PuzzleNation—click here and scroll about halfway down the page to see it.  Thanks, PuzzleNation!

Some of you may have seen my recent post on Cruciverb-l asking for help in identifying the genders and full names of some pre-Shortzian constructors.  A few people have responded, which has been very helpful, but there are still many unidentified constructors left.  I've listed the remaining names, with the range of years in which the constructors published in the Times, below—I'm particularly interested in identifying the genders of C. J. Angio, Dale O. Burgener, W. E. Jones, S. A. Kay, J. F. Kelly, and Patterson Pepple.  If you have any information on these constructors or any of the others in this list, please e-mail me (click on the Contact tab above for the address)—thanks!

I was looking through my list of crosswords to feature on this blog and discovered that I had marked down three puzzles containing symmetrically interlocking 15-letter foods!  All three puzzles contain amazing theme density and interlock for their time, especially given that the constructors didn't have access to computer software to find 15-letter food names with three letters in particular positions.  Also, I find it fascinating that all three puzzles contained PEACH PIE A LA MODE—its letters must have lent themselves well to crossing!  Unfortunately, though, the constructors of these mouth-watering masterpieces are all unknown.

The first puzzle chronologically was published February 9, 1968; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Joe Cabrera.  This puzzle's constructor focused mostly on desserts, though he/she did mix CHICKEN CHOW MEIN and CREAMED POTATOES into this sapid omnium-gatherum for variety.  The puzzle is beautifully executed—the constructor even managed to toss a bunch of food-related entries into the surrounding fill, including SALADS, TOM (clued as "Kind of turkey."), BLE ("Wheat: Fr."), SHOOTS, DANE ("Maker of pastry."), MESAS ("Tables: Sp."), ROES, BULB ("Onion, for one."), DROP ("Piece of candy."), and SPUD.  Wow—that's a mouthful!  My only quibble with the theme is that two of the 15-letter theme entries contain the word PIE, but in all honesty, my complaint is trifling.  The answer grid (with highlighted 15-letter theme entries) can be seen below:

The second puzzle was published June 1, 1970; edited by Will Weng; and litzed by Mark Diehl.  This puzzle has a more even distribution of flavors than the first one did, though in exchange, there's one less 15-letter theme entry.  Removing a central theme entry also allowed the constructor to add some sparkle to the nonthematic fill—I particularly liked the entries CHARYBDIS and OBJET D'ART, though I also appreciated seeing the Latin-derived word PRESIDIAL ("Having a garrison").  As in the first puzzle, the surrounding fill also contains an extensive assortment of food-related entries, which include PEAS, IRISH ("Kind of stew or coffee"), PIT ("Prepare fruit"), CHEWS ("Works on caramels"), and PEARS.  I could complain about leftover PEACH PIE A LA MODE and CREAMED POTATOES, but these foods are so delicious that the repetition doesn't bother me very much.  The contrived plural SPCAS and the partial TÊTE A ("___ tête") did give me mild indigestion, but the rest of the fill was nice and smooth.  The answer grid (with highlighted 15-letter theme entries) can be seen below:

The third puzzle was published December 28, 1971; edited by Will Weng, who has shown himself to be quite the gourmand; and litzed by Howard Barkin.  This puzzle, which contains just 28 blocks, boasts a more impressive grid than did either of its predecessors.  The constructor also included some fresh fruit (WILD BLUEBERRIES) to complement the high-calorie foods elsewhere in the grid!  The theme as a whole, however, feels slightly less consistent than in the previous two puzzles—I was disappointed that FEAST OF LANTERNS was inedible, and ROAST LOIN OF PORK sounds a bit roll-your-own (or should I say PARKERHOUSE ROLL your own?).  In addition, I was dismayed to find just two other food-related entries in the surrounding fill:  LOTUS and HUSKED.  I was so impressed by the 28-block grid and mind-blowing theme entry interlock, though, that I couldn't help enjoying this one!  Here's the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) for this puzzle:

After such a lovely feast of words, what could be more refreshing than testing your vocabulary on some of the most bizarre words I've encountered in pre-Shortzian puzzles?  I've prepared a fun 10-question multiple choice quiz modeled after the vocabulary tests in Eugene T. Maleska's A Pleasure in Words.  Each question is an unusual entry that appeared in a pre-Shortzian puzzle; the correct answer choice is the original clue (and accurate definition), while the other three are made-up distractor clues.  I left the puzzle dates and authors off of each entry to make the quiz more challenging for litzers who may have encountered these entries.  Answers are below.  Please feel free to post your scores as comments!
  1. chandoo  a. Old World monkey.  b. Assam measure.  c. Oriental land form.  d. Opium preparation.
  2. golliwog  a. Tadpole: Var.  b. 18th-century fright wig.  c. Tamarisk.  d. Grotesque doll.
  3. breccia  a. A composite rock.  b. Branch: It.  c. Beetle genus.  d. Forearm muscle.
  4. horehound  a. European polecat.  b. Striped marble.  c. Coughdrop ingredient.  d. Cur.
  5. holluschick  a. Heavy wooden club.  b. Young male seal.  c. Screech owl.  d. Wax sculpture.
  6. euphroe  a. Andiron loop.  b. Mediterranean whirlwind.  c. Sliding stick for tightening tent ropes.  d. Heraldic band.
  7. janizary  a. Turkish soldier.  b. Arabic title of respect.  c. Ambassador, old-style.  d.  European honey buzzard.
  8. elaeometer  a. Greek sundial.  b. Oil-testing device.  c. Unit of measurement, equivalent to a vara.  d. Surveyor's tool.
  9. stickjaw  a. Quiet  b. Curved knife for deboning fish  c. Praying mantis feature  d.  Caramel candy, for instance
  10. zobo  a. Yak hybrid  b. Shield embossment  c. Lens shield  d. Wagnerian dwarf
To fill the spoiler space, here's a picture of A Pleasure in Words:

Answers:  1-d, 2-d, 3-a, 4-c, 5-b, 6-c, 7-a, 8-b, 9-d, 10-a

Score Converter:

0–3:  [Insert scathing Maleska insult here.]
4–7:  You know more words than I do!
8–10:  You are a word wonder!