Friday, August 29, 2014

Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge—Plus More Todd Gross Research

Project Update

It's been an amazing week on the proofreading front, with approximately six more months done!  The puzzles started coming in Tuesday evening, when Mark Diehl sent a batch of 31.  Early Wednesday morning, he sent 28 more, then another 31 late that afternoon and 31 more Thursday morning!  Whew!  An hour or so later, Todd Gross sent in 10 proofread puzzles.  Then Thursday night, Mark sent 29 more—and then another 24!  Thanks so much again, Mark and Todd—great job!

Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge

While we're on the subject of proofreading, recently I've been thinking about ways to increase our speed without compromising accuracy.  To this end, I've come up with what should be another fun contest—the Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge!  Unlike the litzing contests, though, the Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge won't be about speed.  The goal won't be to proofread as many puzzles as possible but to find as many mistakes as possible.  So it will be to your advantage to proofread slowly and carefully.  Obviously, though, the more puzzles you proofread, the more mistakes you'll find!  Here are the rules:

1.  The contest will run from September 1, 2014, until 11:59 p.m. on October 31, 2014.
2.  The minimum number of puzzles each contestant must proofread is 30 (one month, roughly speaking)
3.  Contestants should follow the style rules outlined in the proofreading guide.  If you've never proofread before, you'll need to own Crossword Compiler and contact me first for the proofreading self-test.
4.  Reporting of the number of mistakes found will be on the honor system, so you'll keep your own tally and report it when you return your proofread puzzles.  I'll keep a running total of the mistakes found on the Contest Totals page so you'll be able to see how your total stacks up against other totals.
5.  Logical groupings of mistakes will count as one mistake.  An example of this would be if you discover three missing ellipsis points; this would count as one mistake, not three.  Another example might be an underscore that is two lines too long; deleting the extra two lines would count as one mistake, not two.  Adding missing quotation marks would also count as one mistake, not two.  You get the idea.  It's definitely possible to find more than one mistake in a clue, but they have to be clearly different mistakes.  An example might be a misspelled name, followed by an incorrect punctuation mark; that would count as two mistakes.
5.  Prizes will be as follows:
1st Prize:  All prizes listed below
2nd Prize:  $25 Amazon gift card
3rd Prize:  A surprise pre-Shortzian artifact from my collection
Random Prize:  A Puzzazz e-book of your choice
I'll announce the contest again on September 1—just a few days away!  Until then, enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Todd Gross's Research

In addition to continuing with proofreading, Todd has been busy researching again and has come up with some great finds about three pre-Shortzian constructors, two of whom were women.

Diana Sessions

The first is Diana Sessions, who published at least 70 pre-Shortzian puzzles in The New York Times and about whom Todd wrote:
She was born Diana Robinson in Anniston, AL on 2 Oct 1922 and passed away 14 Feb (Valentine's Day) Anniston, AL.  My sense is she never lived anywhere else.  In the interim, she married Lewe Sessions on 29 Jul 1942 and raised 4 children.
And yes, the R in Diana R Sessions stands for Robinson.
I haven't found an obituary yet, but I found two articles about her.  Both are from The Anniston Star.  One, from 4 Feb 1968, is a bio that describes her work with crosswords.  [Ed.:  Click here to read it.]  It also has a nice picture of her, with one of her daughters.  By my count, she would have been 45 at the time. . . .
Diana Sessions (right).  Image courtesy of
  The Anniston Star.
Even more interesting, however, is the other article I found, printed on 29 Dec 1974.  Apparently, she was something of an amateur astrologer (one wonders how she found time to do this with raising 4 children and limiting herself to 4 crosswords a year) . . . , and at least according to the article, a pretty good one.  [Ed.:  Click here to read it.]  I'm sure they're cherry-picking the better results, but if people kept going to her to foretell their future, she can't have been too bad at it.
Todd added later:
I'm looking at her 1940 Census record.  It says she had 1 year of college at age 17...but I suspect that's a transcription error.  It also says her parents have no income from their jobs...and neither do a lot of other working folk on that page.  Strange.
Nancy Scandrett Ross

The second female constructor Todd reports on is Nancy Scandrett Ross, who published 34 or more pre-Shortzian puzzles (and 22 Shortz-era constructions) in the Times.  Todd wrote:
The Who's Who bio mentions her being born in NYC, attending Smith College, her career, retiring and moving to Eugene, OR, etc.  But it said nothing about living in Georgia in 1940 when the census was taken.  And her father wasn't living with them.  And none of them apparently worked.  Interesting.
Even better, I got a picture of her from the 1952 Smith College catalog, the year she graduated.  I'm enclosing the picture.  It's really nice putting a face to a name.  I'm really glad Jim Horne came up with idea of having pictures of constructors.
Nancy Scandrett [Ross].  Image cour-
tesy of Smith College.

Bert H. Kruse

Finally, Todd found the following information about pre-Shortzian constructor Bert H. Kruse, who published 63 known pre-Shortzian puzzles in the Times:
Bert Kruse is a modestly common name, and I really didn't have anything beyond his/her name to work with.  But with some effort, and some real luck, I can now confirm that Bert is indeed a he, and has in fact passed away. . . .  And the reason I can confirm it is I found an online obituary for him that mentions he constructed crossword puzzles.  [Ed.:  Click here to read it.]
Thanks so much again, Todd, for all this terrific research!  It really helps bring the pre-Shortzian constructors to life!

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