Friday, February 28, 2014

Litzer Get-Together at ACPT, March Litzer of the Month Lynn Feigenbaum, Weng and Maleska Rejection Letters, Almost at 15,400, In the Final Decade, and What Makes a Puzzle Last

NOTE:  There will be no blog post next week on Friday, March 7, because I will be at the ACPT.  The blog will resume the following week.

Only one more week till the ACPT, which is going to be awesome!  I'll be bringing Oreos again for an informal litzer get-together; since the weather caused many people to arrive too late last year, this time we'll meet on Saturday night, right after the games and entertainment, in the hotel lobby area near the top of the escalators.  Anyone who's interested in finding out more about becoming a litzer or proofreader is also welcome to attend and chow down!

Today I'm delighted to announce our March Litzer of the Month, Lynn Feigenbaum!  Lynn, a former journalist and newspaper editor, is an avid solver, crossword enthusiast, and one-time constructor who bought Crossword Compiler just so she could help out with the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!  And in only three months, Lynn has litzed a phenomenal 233 puzzles!  To read more about her, click here.

In Lynn's interview, she mentions her thesis on the crossword puzzle—"Crosswords at a Crossroad:  The Puzzle Turns 100.  What Is the Clue to Its Survival?"  This thought-provoking piece is a fun and fascinating look at the crossword at a critical point in its history.

Lynn also mentions her one crossword construction, many years ago, which was titled "Fit to Print" and contained many newspaper puns—here's a photo:

Will Weng's February 4, 1976, rejection of that crossword appears below:

Some 15 years later, Lynn sent an improved version of the puzzle to Weng; his December 27, 1991, response appears below:

When she submitted her puzzle to Eugene T. Maleska, she received the undated reply below:

The enclosure Maleska mentioned consisted of an ad for his books, complete with an order form on the back.  Maleska had circled the title of A Pleasure in Words and "WITH A SPECIAL CHAPTER ON HOW TO CONSTRUCT CROSSWORD PUZZLES," noting that the book gave all rules and was available at most libraries.  Here's a picture of the enclosure:

As mentioned in a previous post, Lynn was also reportedly the first journalist to interview Will Shortz after he became crossword editor of the Times.  Here's the link again to that December 1993 article in Editor & Publisher, "Bill Clinton Of The Crossword Puzzle World."  Thanks so much again, Lynn, for all these great pieces of crossword history!

Lynn's crossword activities will be featured in an article appearing this Sunday in The Virginian-Pilot!  To see an early version of the print article, download the Evening Pilot for iPad free app.  You'll be able to scroll through and read the entire article, which is not only entertaining but also very timely, what with the ACPT only seven days away!  (If you don't have an iPad, I'm planning to provide a link to the print version after it's published.  [UPDATE:  The print version is now available—click here to read it.])

On to the puzzles—we had a great start to the week, with Mark Diehl sending in 28 puzzles late Friday night and putting us over 15,300 on the litzing thermometer!  Saturday afternoon Todd Gross sent 10 proofread puzzles, and 10 more Sunday morning.  Early Monday morning, Lynn sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed by 7 more from Barry Haldiman.  Late Tuesday afternoon, an anonymous litzer sent in 7 puzzles, then that evening, Todd sent 10 more proofread puzzles, which were followed a short while later by a mega-batch of 42 litzed puzzles from Mark Diehl, putting his total at more than 4,300—congratulations, Mark!—and us into the 1940s!  Wednesday afternoon, Barry sent 4 more puzzles, then late that night, Todd sent 10 more proofread puzzles.  And this week Howard Barkin sent in 14 puzzles, putting his personal total at more than 900 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Howard!  Thanks so much again, everyone—at 15,391 litzed puzzles, we'll be over 15,400 in no time!

We're now also in the final decade of puzzles, the 1940s—specifically, 1949!  This was the year that "bouncing putty" or "Nutty Putty"—the substance that would later be known as Silly Putty—was first marketed as a toy.  It was sold in a toy catalog for $2, which is about half the price of what Silly Putty sells for today.  Here's a picture of an early package of Silly Putty:

Image courtesy of

Instead of featuring a puzzle this week, I've decided to write about something else:  what makes a puzzle last.  Over the past few years, I've seen more than thirty years of pre-Shortzian puzzles, solved and analyzed countless Shortz-era crosswords, read scads of puzzle reviews and comments on crossword blogs, constructed hundreds of crosswords for a variety of markets, and edited more than sixty crosswords for The Orange County Register's associated newspapers.  In this process, I have given a lot of thought to the deceptively simple question of what makes a good crossword puzzle and have come to a number of conclusions.

Let's start with the pre-Shortzian puzzles, which were for the most part in a time capsule before the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project began.  The attitudes of crossword solvers changed tremendously when new waver Will Shortz began editing the New York Times crosswords.  Solvers' opinions about what constituted a quality puzzle changed further when the first crossword blogs came onto the scene and when indie puzzles began to grow in popularity.  Throughout this time period, the pre-Shortzian puzzles were largely inaccessible.  I, along with thousands of other newer faces in the crossword business, was led to believe that pre-Shortzian New York Times puzzles were universally awful, even though I had never actually seen or solved a Maleska-, Weng-, or Farrar-edited crossword.  Likewise, I noticed that many newer cruciverbalists (particularly crossword bloggers and commenters) had started to consider the term "Maleskan" synonymous with "bad."  At the beginning of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, I naturally assumed that all the puzzles I'd encounter would be boring, old-fashioned, and somewhat sloppy by today's standards, yet this was not the case.  Before long, I had a massive Word document listing the dates of interesting pre-Shortzian puzzles that I wanted to highlight on this blog.  So what makes a puzzle stand out thirty years after its publication?

For me, the answer is creativity and innovation.  I've seen hundreds of pre-Shortzian puzzles that are relatively clean, even by today's standards, but that have straightforward themes; similarly, I've encountered hundreds of 72- and 74-word themelesses from the '60s, '70s, and '80s that are fine but not particularly sparkly.  When I sense that a pre-Shortzian puzzle falls into one of these categories, I quickly scan through it for interesting clues and move on.  But when I encounter a theme I've never seen before, a trick that was brand new at the time, or a particularly impressive theme entry interlock, I slow down and admire the puzzle and the constructor for trying something a little different.  If the fill has an entry or two I don't like, then so be it.  The puzzle is still highly memorable and successful, in my opinion, for holding interest more than thirty years later.

It's much trickier to define what makes a good crossword in the 21st century.  In my opinion, though, the most important elements of a high-quality modern-day puzzle are still creativity and innovation.  When I construct themed puzzles, I take pride in breaking the rules and adding twists to run-of-the-mill themes; when I construct themelesses, I appreciate using ultra-fresh entries and/or unusual grid patterns.  This approach to puzzle construction often leads to a few compromises in the nonthematic fill and invariably leads to mixed reviews on crossword blogs, but I wouldn't want to build crosswords any other way.  That said, the nonthematic fill is also extremely important.  I particularly dislike partials and entries that solvers would have no way of knowing outside of crosswords, and an excess of such entries can make a puzzle feel sloppy, especially when the theme is rather simple.  However, there is nothing more disappointing to me as a constructor, solver, and editor than seeing a puzzle with an unoriginal theme—there is little, if any, art in such a puzzle.

I'm not saying there is no place for puzzles like this—clearly there is, and this brings up the issue of intent.  If the intent is to produce a puzzle that solvers will be able to finish without too much trouble and without introducing any new language or information, then that is one perfectly defensible goal.  If, however, the intent is to produce a puzzle that is challenging and original and that some solvers may be unable to finish without Googling and learning something new, then that is another, very different yet equally defensible goal.

Ultimately, as the quality of crossword puzzles continues to increase, the ones that are the most twisty and forward-thinking will live on, while puzzles that sacrifice complex gimmicks and innovation in the name of nonthematic fill will fade into the background—and from our collective memory.

Friday, February 21, 2014

1978 Puzzles Up on XWord Info, In 1951 and Almost at the Sunday Puzzle–Only Period, Link to New Bernice Gordon Article, and Most Common Unique Maleska Entries

Great news:  The proofread puzzles from 1978 are now up on XWord Info, thanks to Jim Horne!  The puzzles from August 10 through November 5 are missing because of a newspaper strike.

It's been a very busy week on both the litzing and proofreading fronts!  On Saturday morning, Alex Vratsanos sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed that afternoon by 10 proofread puzzles from Todd Gross.  Early Sunday morning, Todd sent in 10 more proofread puzzles, and that afternoon, Lynn Feigenbaum sent 7 litzed puzzles, which were followed by 14 from Mark Diehl that night.  Monday morning, Todd sent in 11 more proofread puzzles.  Then that afternoon, Nancy Kavanaugh sent a mega-batch of 42 puzzles, putting us over 15,200 on the litzing thermometer and her own total at more than 1,100—congratulations, Nancy!  Just 9 minutes later, 7 more puzzles came in from Barry Haldiman.  And when I woke up Wednesday morning, I found 7 puzzles sent in late Tuesday night by Mike Buckley, 7 early Wednesday from Lynn, and 10 more proofread puzzles from Todd—a great start to the day!  Thursday morning Todd sent in another 10 proofread puzzles, then 11 more that afternoon—way to go, Todd!  That night, Todd McClary sent in 7 litzed puzzles.  Early Friday morning, Barry sent 7 more puzzles.  Then, within the space of one hour, 7 more came in from Denny Baker, another 7 from Lynn, and 10 more proofread puzzles from Todd!  Thanks so much again, everyone—we're now at 15,282 on the litzing thermometer and well into the 1977 proofreading!

We're also now in a new year:  1951!  One of the most noteworthy events of that year was the introduction of the classic TV sitcom series I Love Lucy, which, according to Wikipedia, was the most watched show in the United States for four of its six seasons.  Here's a collage of images from the show:

Image courtesy of
Only one more packet containing daily puzzles remains to be sent out, so we're about to enter the Sunday puzzle phase of litzing, and all future packets will just contain those.  Although the first daily puzzle appeared on September 11, 1950, for various reasons the dailies from then through the first week of August 1951 were litzed, along with many of the Sunday puzzles during that time as well.  Since litzing Sunday puzzles takes longer, the packets will usually contain four Sunday puzzles (instead of six dailies and one Sunday).

A wonderful new article on Bernice Gordon appeared in this week's Philadelphia Inquirer!  If you didn't already see it on Cruciverb-l, click here to read it.

Now that almost all the Maleska-edited puzzles have been posted on XWord Info, I decided to take another look at the "Most popular answers found only in pre-Shortzian puzzles" page.  I naturally expected that every entry on this list would be a short-but-uncommon entry that Maleska allowed but Shortz doesn't (such as INEE).  I was thus very surprised to see that a fair number of these entries that appeared six or more times under Maleska but have yet to appear in a Shortz-era puzzle are common words, phrases, and names that are more than eight letters long!  Here are the ones that particularly stood out to me, followed by the number of Maleska puzzles they appeared in:


I find it fascinating that each of these entries appeared in so many Maleska puzzles!  I wonder if the reason why these particular entries appeared so often is that Maleska, who didn't have access to databases of previously published crosswords, unknowingly repeated common themes every couple of years.  LILY OF THE VALLEY, for example, appeared in four puzzles over a three-year period with the exact same theme (plants).  There aren't very many common grid-spanning plant names, so it makes sense that, since plants were clearly a popular theme, LILY OF THE VALLEY would appear multiple times.  This doesn't explain, though, why not a single New York Times crossword published after 1985 contains this entry (or any of the other entries in the aforementioned list).  I look forward to seeing what other long entries frequented yet were unique to pre-Shortzian puzzle grids when the Weng and Farrar puzzles are eventually posted!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Litzing During the Olympics, a Two-in-One Puzzle, and Love-ly Clues

We got off to a slightly slower start this week—it was a quiet weekend, and I'm guessing that litzers were either watching the Olympics or training for the crossword Olympics, the ACPT!  Early Monday morning, though, Lynn Feigenbaum sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed about an hour later by 7 from Barry Haldiman and then, 2 minutes later, by 7 from Alex Vratsanos!  Early Tuesday morning, Barry sent in 7 more puzzles, then that night, Alex sent another 7 puzzles, putting us at 15,100 on the litzing thermometer!  Wednesday morning, Lynn sent 7 more puzzles.  Then early Thursday morning, Barry sent 7 puzzles, which were followed late that night by a mega-batch of 42 puzzles from Mark Diehl!  And Friday morning, Lynn sent another 7 puzzles.  So even though this week got off to a wobbly start, the massive number of puzzles litzers sent in Monday through Friday has led me to give it a final score of 10!  Thanks so much again and great job, Team P.P.P.—we're now at 15,163 and well on our way to the gold medal achievement (the end of the litzing phase of this project)!

Today's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was originally published on October 8, 1966; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Martin Herbach.  This imaginative, forward-thinking crossword utilizes a trick I've never seen in any other puzzle, pre-Shortzian or Shortz era:  the use of two unrelated themes, one based on grid entries and the other contained within the clues!  The puzzle's main theme involves redefining music terms in wacky (and rather inconsistent) ways, much like the theme in last Friday's featured puzzle.  My favorites of the six symmetrically arranged music-related clue/entry pairs are "Percussion accessories of poultry." for DRUMSTICKS, "Behavior that sounds like band leader's error." for MISCONDUCT, and "Musical symbol, sounds like two-family residence." for DOUBLE FLAT!  BACK TO BACK ("Placement of two pianos.") falls flat for me, though, since the entry's connection to music seems rather dubious.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the grid entry theme, and I especially appreciate how the theme entries are both interlocking and, to some degree, stacked.  The second, less obvious theme is completely bizarre:  20 of the 78 clues start with the words "Kind of"!  The first five clues and entries, for example, are "Kind of ware." (STEM), "Kind of soon." (EFT), "Kind of curiosity." (MORBID), "Kind of paper." (NOTE), and "Kind of 'easter." (NOR).  If incorporating a second theme isn't strange enough, the sixth clue, for URBANE, reads "Type of manner." (rather than the expected "Kind of manner.").  Although the second theme is kind of cool, it at the same time feels a bit out of place to me since it draws away from the musical focus of the rest of the puzzle.  Nevertheless, I always enjoy seeing a bit of creativity and variety in theme types and executions!  The nonthematic fill in this puzzle is also nice, on the whole—HOBNOB, STAND PAT, MONGOOSE, TOOLKIT, and FOOTAGE in particular give it a nice bit of sparkle.  On the flip side, the fill contains the six-letter partial FOR THE ("___ time being.") and feels a bit heavy on esoteric entries such as PHB ("Degree."), VAI ("Liberian people."), CUPELS ("Assaying receptacles."), MOBCAP ("Head covering, old style."), RHODORA ("Rose-flowered shrub."), and DESTRA ("___ mano [right hand]: Mus."), the latter of which could be considered semithematic.  The nonthematic clues are mostly standard for their time period, though the THRACE clue ("Carved up region of SE Europe") seemed somewhat noteworthy.  In all, this is a unique and fascinating pre-Shortzian puzzle!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's an ennead of love-ly 1964 clues from my ever-growing list of Clue of the Week candidates.  Most of the writers of these entertaining, thought-provoking, or downright ingenious clues are unknown.
  • May 11, 1964 (litzed by C. G. Rishikesh)
    • Clue:  Where East and West meet.
      • Answer:  CARD TABLE
  • September 2, 1964 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Parents' indoor sport.
      • Answer:  WAITING UP
    • Clue:  Smoke under fire.
      • Answer:  CIGARETTE
  • September 8, 1964 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Items often stolen.
      • Answer:  BASES
  • October 8, 1964 (litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Clue:  Pre-TV living room fixture.
      • Answer:  PIANO
  • October 11, 1964 (constructed by Jack Luzzatto, litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Clue:  Symptoms of a mad, mad world
      • Answer:  DEMENTIAS
    • Clue:  He cometh no more.
      • Answer:  ICEMAN
  • October 24, 1964 (litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh)
    • Clue:  Like the latest in bathing suits.
      • Answer:  TOPLESS
  • December 14, 1964 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Man of the range.
      • Answer:  CHEF
My favorite of these clues is the one for CIGARETTE, which was contemporary at the time, given the Surgeon General's warning in January of 1964, and is still brilliantly misleading.  Here's a picture of a more literal interpretation of smoke under fire:

Image courtesy of the University of Hull.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Litzing Contest Poll Results, Over 15,000, List of Missing Puzzles, and Another Stan Newman Book Treasure

The results of last week's poll are in!  There were only seven votes, which leads me to think that most people didn't feel strongly one way or the other.  Of those seven, though, one person was in favor of running the contest and finishing the litzing, one didn't want the contest because of training for the ACPT, three didn't want the contest because they preferred that we take our time, and two weren't sure and said either way would be fine.  So since more than half the votes were against running the contest, we'll just proceed as usual rather than embarking on a World War II–era crossword "litzkrieg"!

We passed another milestone this week:  15,000 litzed puzzles!  Great job, everyone!  The week started off with 7 puzzles from Vic Fleming on Saturday afternoon.  Early Sunday morning, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 16 puzzles, bringing his total to 1,000 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Jeffrey!  That afternoon, Lynn Feigenbaum sent 7 more puzzles, then that night, Denny Baker sent in 7 puzzles.  Monday evening, Todd McClary sent 5 puzzles, putting us over 15,000 on the litzing thermometer!  Tuesday evening, Vic sent 6 more puzzles, then 10 minutes later sent 7 more!  Wednesday morning, Lynn sent in 7 more puzzles, which were followed by 7 from Barry Haldiman that afternoon.  Friday morning, Barry sent in another 7, which were followed by 7 from Lynn that afternoon.  And Howard Barkin sent in 21 puzzles this week.  Thanks so much again, everybody—we're at 15,065 and in the home stretch!

Some time ago I mentioned that as we got closer to the end, I'd post a list of the missing puzzles.  I've grouped them below into those that were missing because of newspaper strikes and those that were missing for some other reason.  None of these missing puzzles and/or solutions could be found on ProQuest.  When I searched for some of them on microfilm, they weren't there either.  Though if necessary we can try solving the puzzles that are just missing solutions, I think the best bet with the newspaper strike puzzles is to search for them in papers that ran the puzzles concurrently.  Margaret Farrar, in her foreword to Crosswords from the Daily Times, Series 9, said that during the strike between December 1962 and April 1963, the daily puzzles were published concurrently in the International and Los Angeles editions of The New York Times.  This book contains those daily puzzles from that period, so we already have them.  But we're still missing Sunday puzzles from that time, as well as many daily and Sunday puzzles from other strikes.  I'm planning to continue trying to find these puzzles when I have more time this summer, but if anyone wants to try now, that would be great!  If you do find anything, please send me the PDFs, and I'll update this list.

Newspaper strike:  129 missing puzzles (and their solutions)
11/30–12/8/53 (9 puzzles; 12/6 is Sunday)
12/12–12/28/58 (17 puzzles; 12/14, 12/21, & 12/28 are Sundays)
12/16, 12/23, 12/30/62 (3 Sundays)
1/6, 1/13, 1/20, 1/27/63 (4 Sundays)
2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24/63 (4 Sundays)
3/3, 3/10, 3/17, 3/24, 3/31/63 (5 Sundays)
8/10–8/12/78 (3 puzzles)
8/14–11/5/78 (84 puzzles; 8/20, 8/27, 9/3, 9/10, 9/17, 9/24, 10/1, 10/8, 10/15, 10/22, 10/29, & 11/5 are Sundays)

Others:  10
9/18, 9/25, & 10/2/65 (3 Saturday puzzles—Sunday-like puzzles appeared instead)
10/9, 10/11, 10/13, 10/14, 10/15, 10/16 (solutions for these 6 daily puzzles were incorrect and actually were for earlier puzzles—correct solutions for these 6 dates were never printed)
9/19/65 (solution to this Sunday puzzle missing)

Today's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was originally published on May 22, 1965; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Todd McClary.  This puzzle's 14 music-related theme entries aren't arranged symmetrically and are rather inconsistent in that some are legitimate musical terms (such as BARREL ORGAN), while others are unrelated entries with a musical term in them (such as STRING BEAN).  Nonetheless, the theme density and theme entry interlock are jaw-dropping!  Even better, many of the theme entries have humorous and clever clues, which give the puzzle a unique, Weng-like feel.  My favorites of the wackier, less plausible theme entry/clue pairs include ROUND STEAK ("Food for certain singers."), CONTRABAND ("Loot, apparently in opposition to the orchestra."), BASS ("Fish for F clef readers."), and RAG ("Duster liked by jazz men.").  BUGLE BEADS ("Trimmings for brass instruments."), TRUMPETWEED ("Shrubby plant for brass."), and WIND DRIFT ("Average breeze direction for a brass instrumentalist.") feel less familiar as words/phrases than do the other theme entries; still, I'm impressed that the constructor was able to find any theme entries for those spots, especially given how many other theme entries they had to cross and that there were no computerized word lists to search through back in 1965.  The nonthematic fill is also impressively clean, which I think justifies the use of 45 blocks—I'd much rather see a puzzle with too many words and/or too many blocks than a puzzle with a whole slew of partials and obscurities.  That said, there are a few small entries that feel weak, particularly ORF ("A fish, the yellow ide.") and DKS ("Ship levels: Abbr."); also, I wasn't familiar with BALCONETS ("Railings outside windows.").  While I was hunting for a definition of balconet, I discovered that the term also refers to a bra style that came into fashion in the 1950s.  I'm definitely not surprised that Margaret Farrar defined BALCONETS as the railings!  Speaking of defining, this puzzle had quite a few more interesting clues than usual.  AOK was clued Space Age–style as "Astronaut's 'all's well.'," IBM had the fascinating precomputer clue "Type of ballistic missile.," BUG was defined colloquially as "Hidden mike: Slang.," and LAURA had the semithematic clue "Lady of classic lyrics."  In sum, although this puzzle is a bit crazy, I think it's very cool and a nice example of how Margaret Farrar was willing to bend the rules once in a while.  Here's the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries):

I was looking through the collection of crossword books Stan Newman sent me last year and discovered six volumes of Bible crosswords that date back to the 1920s and 1930s.  Two of these books were published in 1925, though neither one has more specific publication specs; I'm guessing the older of the two (and the oldest in my collection) is Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book, by Reverend Paul J. Hoh.

The back cover notes that the author was a pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Mt. Airy, Pennsylvania, and states that the Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book was the first of its kind.  The back cover also implies that the book was written as supplementary material for religious education, noting that a "[p]amphlet containing solutions will be sent upon receipt of fifteen cents."  I find it fascinating that the author chose to leave out the solutions, especially since errata in crossword books are almost inevitable.  I have noticed that many of the earliest crossword puzzle books didn't include solutions, but since this is a book of crosswords intended for religious schools, I have to wonder whether the author intentionally left out the solutions to discourage students from cheating (which he may have considered sinful).  Luckily, Stan also happened to have the detached solutions pamphlet for this book, which contains a date stamp reading FEB 21 1925, a slip of paper reading "Deaccessioned from the NYPL after microfilming" (!), and a foreword not found in the book itself that reflects crossword solvers' attitudes in the earliest days of the checkered pastime's popularity.  The fascinating anecdotal middle paragraph reads as follows:
A teacher recently entered a Sunday school room and found four of the older boys absorbed in the solution of a Cross-Word Puzzle in a daily paper.  He helped them over some hard places, and was struck by the fact that when he supplied an unusual word the boys invariably asked its meaning.  That is the value of the "Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book."  It concentrates attention upon the Bible.  Instead of Webster's the solver must use the Bible or Bible Dictionary or Concordance, and naturally he will want to know something about the names and unusual words he finds.  He cannot fail to increase his Bible knowledge.
What really makes this paragraph interesting to me is how solvers in the early days were so open to learning about and researching unfamiliar words and phrases.  If a handful of obscure biblical references were used in a crossword today, crossword bloggers and commenters would likely throw their virtual hands up in frustration and see the puzzle in a very negative light.  So what has happened to crossword solvers over the course of nearly a century?  My impression is that everyone in general has become more impatient.  People no longer care for crossword puzzles that simply build vocabulary or knowledge—nowadays, in order to be well received, themed crosswords must be fantastically twisty and filled with common words to the greatest degree possible.  It's interesting that the way in which puzzles provide entertainment has completely changed.

Anyway, on to the Bible crosswords themselves.  Although the puzzles have a sizable number of two-letter words, unchecked squares, and disconnected regions, they're jam-packed with theme entries.  Almost all the biblical clues read in the style of "A city of Shinar. (Gen. 10.)" [for ERECH]; when the constructor got stuck pluralizing a biblical term, it received a clue like "An Eastern Country. Poss. (II Kg. 16.)" [KIR'S].  I was a bit disappointed to discover that the author used a single clue each time an entry appeared (CANA was clued as "Where Jesus performed first miracle." in puzzle 1 and puzzle 2).  I assume the constructor didn't vary the clues because he wanted his solvers to feel like they had learned something that could then immediately be applied to a subsequent puzzle, though seeing the same definitions over and over again makes one's solving experience rather dull.  One aspect of puzzle construction in which the author was exceptionally creative was grid design.  At 9 x 9 and 11 x 11, the Bible crosswords' grids were smaller than those of most contemporary crosswords; however, the constructor still found ways to make them resemble religious items ranging from a candelabra (puzzle 12) to a church (puzzle 28).

PUZZLE No. 12 


Puzzle 30 goes so far as to make the grid look like a pyramid!  The constructor accomplished some of these wacky grid designs by using black and white circles and triangles in conjunction with the traditional black and white squares.


One puzzle in this book (15) stands out to me as being truly brilliant and nearly a century ahead of its time!  The grid is shaped like a compass rose, and the clue headings read AROUND THE CENTER and TOWARD CENTER rather than the traditional HORIZONTAL and VERTICAL.  The entries NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST are pre-entered into the grid, and solvers are required to rotate the book to enter answers into the grid.  Seeing such creativity in a crossword puzzle from 1925 is awesome!


All in all, I very much enjoyed looking through Paul J. Hoh's Bible Cross-Word Puzzle Book!  Thanks again to Stan Newman for sending me part of his collection of old crossword books, and I look forward to seeing what other interesting puzzles crop up in the other books I have from that time period!