Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Holidays!

The blog is on hiatus this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but I hope everyone had a wonderful time yesterday eating and solving crosswords!  See you next week, when I'll be presenting something related to last week's post on the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame.  In the meantime, here's a brief project update . . . along with the solution to last week's Blast! challenge!

Image courtesy of

Project Update and Blast! Solution

Despite the impending holiday, we had a fairly busy week on the proofreading front!  Sunday morning Todd Gross sent in 11 puzzles with 19 mistakes, and a few hours later, Mark Diehl sent in 30 puzzles with 57 mistakes.  Monday night Mark sent 31 more but didn't count the mistakes, and then late Wednesday, he sent another 31 puzzles.  Thanks so much again, Mark and Todd—great job!

There were no correct answers to last week's Blast from the Past! challenge.  The clue from this 1959 puzzle was:  "Once-important educator."  The hint:  "The answer is 2 words—the first is 5 letters long, and the second is 7."  And the answer was . . . LATIN TEACHER!  Mirabile dictu!

Friday, November 21, 2014

American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame

Project Update

It's been a slightly slower week on the proofreading front—I'm guessing that some people are still busy scoring Matt Ginsberg's word lists, since there's a lot of crossover between volunteers on these two projects!  In any case, early Tuesday morning Todd Gross sent in 10 puzzles.  Then Thursday afternoon an anonymous proofreader sent in 8 puzzles with 11 mistakes.  And Friday Denny Baker sent in 32 puzzles.  Thanks so much, everyone!  We're still finishing up 1966 and will soon be into 1965, a year that had quite a few publication problems—mostly missing, duplicate, and incorrectly typeset puzzles.  Definitely a challenge!

Blast! Solution

Speaking of challenges, there were no correct answers to last week's Blast! from the Past.  The clue, from the June 12, 1967, puzzle, was:  "Guy, good or bad."  The hint:  "The answer is 3 letters (1 vowel, 2 consonants)."  The answer was EGG!  As usual, this week's Blast! challenge appears in the sidebar.

American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame

I recently came across an article in a 1992 CROSSW RD magazine about efforts to establish a crossword academy.  The article, written by constructor and American Crossword Puzzle Tournament organizer Helene Hovanec, profiled Robert Guilbert, a marketing and communications executive and freelance writer who spent his final years trying to create a crossword academy.  Guilbert's "vision was to recognize many levels of professional crossword people—constructors, editors, writers, publishers, contest winners—and house the Academy in a public institution in Washington, D.C."

Photo of Robert Guilbert courtesy of CROSSW RD

Intrigued, I Googled Guilbert and found a 1990 New York Times article by Randall Rothenberg, "Money Is the Word to Cruciverbalists."  Apparently Guilbert had begun laying groundwork for the academy in 1988, which Rothenberg wrote about in his August 10, 1988, Times article, "Puzzle Makers Exchange Cross Words."  The 170-member group, whose official name was the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame, held its first—and seemingly only—meeting on Saturday, September 15, 1990, in New York and was attended by 28 constructors and editors.  The meeting lasted for three hours and focused on "ways to improve contracts, fees and publishers' profits."  This fascinating Times article, which you can read by clicking here, includes comments by Dorothy Davis, Maura Jacobson, William Lutwiniak, Eugene T. Maleska, Stan Newman, Lou Sabin, and John Samson.  And another article on Guilbert and his academy appeared in a blog post on kolynychboss8, which you can see by clicking here; it includes comments by William Lutwiniak and Mel Rosen.

Unfortunately, as Helene Hovanec's article notes, Guilbert passed away shortly thereafter, and "the idea of the Academy seemed to die also."  She adds, "No one in the puzzle field has expressed any interest in continuing the project as he envisioned it."  I did find a listing for the academy on Bizopedia, which you can see by clicking here.  It shows that the academy was registered as a Wisconsin Non-Stock Corporation on June 9, 1989.

I wonder whether there would be interest today in reviving the academy or creating something like it.  If anyone has any thoughts about this, please feel free to comment or contact me directly.  And if you attended this historic meeting and care to reminisce about how it went, I'd welcome any comments on that as well!

Friday, November 14, 2014

1967 Puzzles Up—Plus Highlights of December 1960

1967 Puzzles Up

Great news:  The 1967 puzzles are now up on XWord Info!  To see them, click here—thanks again to Jim Horne for posting them!  We've now proofread 27 years of puzzles, and as the Proofing Progress calendar in the sidebar shows, we're more than halfway done—great job, everyone!

It's been another busy week, starting off on Sunday morning with 31 puzzles from Mark Diehl in which he found 61 mistakes; that night he sent 30 more with 56 mistakes.  Tuesday afternoon Denny Baker sent in 23 puzzles, which were followed by 22 from Dave Phillips that night.  Thursday afternoon Dave sent 6 more, and then 5 with 8 mistakes came in from an anonymous proofreader.  That night Mark sent 31 more with 57 mistakes, putting him at more than 2,000 found mistakes—congratulations, Mark!  Early Friday morning Todd Gross sent in 10 with 14 mistakes; he also sent this very apropos screen capture of some clues from the May 5, 1966, PDF—note the appearance of the 9-Down clue, "Twist out of shape," which was for the entry DISTORT!

Thanks, Todd—and thanks so much again, everyone, for all the puzzles!

Blast! from the Past and Vocabulary Quiz

Last week's Blast! from the Past challenge had no correct answers—I'm obviously going to have to write better hints!  The clue, from a 1960 crossword, was:  "New international symbol."  The hint:  "The first word is 3 letters long, the second is 4 letters, and the third is 8."  The answer was . . . THE UGLY AMERICAN.  Hmm!

This week's Blast! challenge, which appears in the sidebar, should be a bit easier!

The 1960 Vocabulary Quiz from last week also must have been too hard, because no one posted their scores.  I guess words like chassepot, topepo, and avadavat aren't in the toolboxes of even the most avid puzzlers!

Featured Puzzle

This week's featured puzzle, "Edited for Television," was constructed by Frances Hansen; published September 8, 1974; edited by Will Weng; litzed by Barry Haldiman; and proofread by Mark Diehl.  (Since the 1974 puzzles have been proofread, you can solve the featured puzzle on XWord Info before reading on.)  This 23 x 23 by the queen of limericks and other twisty tricks contains a rather unusual gimmick:  replacing hell and damn with bleep, as if the puzzle were being censored for television.  Thus, Admiral Farragut's famous line, "Damn the torpedoes," becomes BLEEP THE TORPEDOES, and the expression "When hell freezes over" becomes WHEN BLEEP FREEZES OVER.  I find it fascinating that a theme like this would be published in the 1970s, a tumultuous time known for things far more "offensive" than the mild oaths hell and damn!  Then again, even these days, most newspaper crossword puzzles tend to avoid potentially offensive references much more than, say, song lyrics do!  As for the puzzle itself, I appreciate the number of theme entries Frances squeezed in, and getting BLEEP YANKEES to cross three theme entries must have been no easy feat.  I do wish that 80-Down could have been tied into the theme somehow—I guess one could make a case for this entry subtly implying that each theme entry is more ELEGANTLY PUT than its offensive original form, though I would have preferred a more direct thematic tie-in.  I also feel the puzzle would have been more elegant if all the theme entries had demonstrated actual censorship rather than some demonstrating actual and others artificial censorship.  In other words, the theme could have been tighter without entries such as CLAMSBLEEP that replace a hidden hell with BLEEP, forming gibberish in the process.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing such a creative theme; if Frances were still alive, she certainly would have been within her rights to say "My dear, I don't give a bleep!" to my minor criticisms!  The nonthematic fill also has a handful of strong entries—in addition to the provocative, lively SLIT SKIRT (clued as "Drafty dress feature"), Frances gives us OPAQUE, IMMOLATES, COURTYARD, TRYG VELIE (great name!), DABBLE, OH DEAR, and SIESTA.  On the not-so-sparkly side, there are a few more partial phrases and foreign words than would be ideal, and a sizable handful of the short entries, such as RASAS ("Hindu dances"), PURRE ("___ maw [roseate tern]"), and WALER ("Australian horse"), seem quite obscure.  One particularly unconventional three-letter entry, KOM ("Afo-A-___ [stolen statue]"), has a fascinating back story.  According to Wikipedia, the Afo-A-Kom statue, which is sacred to the Kom people of Cameroon, was stolen and sold to a U.S. art dealer in the late 1960s; after purportedly wreaking havoc on its new owner, the statue ended up in a Manhattan art gallery before ultimately being returned to its place of origin.  How many three-letter entries have a tale like this to tell?!  In all, although this puzzle has some slight inconsistencies and a handful of unsavory shorter entries, I admire its ingenuity and novelty.  I look forward to featuring more of Frances's puzzles on this blog in the upcoming months!  This week's featured puzzle can be viewed on XWord Info in its complete form; as usual, the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Highlights of December 1960

When I review litzed puzzles, I'm always on the lookout for particularly interesting and/or timely clues.  Most pre-Shortzian crossword clues are straight definitions, but every once in a while, something catches my eye!  Below is a list of clue/answer pairs from December 1960 (litzed by Ralph Bunker and proofread by Mark Diehl) that piqued my interest.  Only the December 25 constructor (Eva Taub Pollack) is known.

December 7
  • Pessimist's view of modern life. (RAT RACE)
  • Promise of Christmas. (PEACE)
December 9
  • New republic on the Gulf of Guinea. (GABON)
  • Ike's 1914 status. (CADET)
December 15
  • Teen-ager's term for "tops." (SUPER)
December 25
  • Housewife's aid. (DEEP FREEZE)
December 28
  • Type of conveyance, perhaps obsolete. (SPACESHIP)

My favorite of these is the December 28 clue, the "perhaps obsolete" part of which intrigues me!  Even nowadays, spaceships are symbolically futuristic.  Here's a picture of a spaceship:

Image courtesy of Limit Theory Forums.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mark Diehl Sends First Correct Blast! from the Past Guess, Proofreader Totals Added to Litzer Totals Page, and 1960 Vocabulary Quiz

Mark Diehl Sends First Correct Blast! from the Past Guess

Mark Diehl was the first to submit a correct guess to the new Blast! from the Past feature—congratulations, Mark!  Mark sent in his answer on Sunday, November 2, at 8:08 p.m.  The question was:  "Guess the 11-letter answer to this pre-Shortzian clue from 1960:  What U.S. needs more of."  The hint:  "The answer contains a single vowel (O) used 4 times."  And the answer (drumroll!) . . . SCHOOLROOMS!  Obviously a different time in history.

If you were stumped last week, try this week's Blast! challenge, which you'll find in the sidebar beneath the "Subscribe" buttons!

Proofreader Totals Added to Litzer Totals Page

Things have slowed down a bit in the aftermath of the Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge—I'm guessing everyone is taking a much-needed break!  But we've still made good progress this week, and I'm hoping to receive the last of the 1967 puzzles in time to have them up on XWord Info by next Friday.  Sunday night Mark Diehl sent in 28 puzzles with 41 mistakes.  Early Wednesday morning Denny Baker sent in 27 proofread puzzles, and then that night, Mark sent 31 more puzzles with 50 mistakes.

I've created a new section on the Litzer Totals page called Proofreader Totals, where I'll continue to track the number of mistakes proofreaders find (for those who choose to continue counting them).  Check it out by scrolling down the newly dubbed Litzer & Proofreader Totals page.

Featured Puzzle

This week's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was published December 24, 1960; edited by Margaret Farrar; litzed by Ralph Bunker; and will be proofread by Mark Diehl.  All eight of Santa's reindeer are hidden in this puzzle's 72-word grid; as a bonus, the constructor included the reveal SANTA and the entry CARIBOU (clued as "Reindeer.").  Rather than simply cluing the reindeer as "Reindeer.," the constructor cleverly found alternate definitions for each of their names—for example, VIXEN is clued as "Shrew," and COMET is clued as "Orbiting object."  The most interesting reindeer name clues are "Flash with lightning: Ger." and "Thunder: Dutch." for BLITZEN and DONDER, respectively.  I knew that BLITZEN had something to do with lightning, but DONDER was completely new to me.  Where there's lightning, there's thunder!  Elsewhere in the fill, I really appreciated seeing the wintry entries YULES, FROSTY, and SUGARY, along with the nonseasonal (but still lively) DULCIMER, CARACAS, CATBIRD, TANNERY, HAZINESS, and FROTH.  That's a lot of fresh fill for a puzzle that's already jam-packed with theme entries!  Further, I'm amazed that this puzzle is more cleanly filled than many contemporary 72-word themelesses—the only entries that mystified me were TECO ("Pre-conquest Mexican Indian."), CERRIS ("Turkey oak of southern Europe."), NOA ("Not taboo, in Hawaii.), and LABRET ("Lip ornament of primitive tribes.").  Of these unusual clues/entries, LABRET interested me most; that a labret would be a lip ornament makes sense, since the Latin word for lip is labrum, but what would such an ornament look like?  And isn't referring to a tribe as primitive (or even pre-conquest) derogatory?  In seeking the answer to the first question, I looked up labret in Merriam-Webster, which gave me the definition "an ornament worn in the perforation of the lip."  Google Images suggested that the term labret now refers to a certain body piercing consisting of balls on either end of a rod that goes through the lip, which is kind of creepy!  I wasn't able to dig up a lot of information on what a traditional labret looked like, though it appears to have been much more conspicuous than what we see today.  In sum, this is an exceptional pre-Shortzian puzzle, both in terms of theme and grid!  I hope some of the daily puzzles from the '50s that I haven't looked through yet have equally comprehensive themes and strong executions.  In the meantime, here's this puzzle's solution grid (with highlighted theme entries):

1960 Vocabulary Quiz

Below is a list of ten of the wackiest words I've seen in pre-Shortzian crosswords from 1960.  Can you match each word to its picture?  Check the answers below the pictures section (see "Answers to 1960 Vocabulary Quiz") and then feel free to post your score in the comments—the first person to post a score and the person who reports the highest score will receive special recognition in next week's post!  And now for the words (some of which originally appeared as plurals or variant spellings but have been normalized for the purpose of this quiz):


Picture 1 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 2 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 3 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 4 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 5 (courtesy of

Picture 6 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 7 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Picture 8 (courtesy of Log House Plants)

Picture 9 (courtesy of One Green World)

Picture 10 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Answers to 1960 Vocabulary Quiz

Image courtesy of Ohio University Department of Linguistics.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mark Diehl Wins Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge!

I'm delighted to announce that litzer and proofreader Mark Diehl is the first-place winner in the Pre-Shortzian Proofreading Challenge (and that no ghost stepped in to take over his lead!)!  Late last night Mark sent 33 more puzzles with 51 mistakes, bringing his total number of found mistakes in September and October to an amazing 1,742!  (Just imagine if all those mistakes hadn't been caught—a frightful thought!).  Mark's prizes are a $25 Amazon gift card, a surprise pre-Shortzian artifact, and a Puzzazz e-book of his choice.

Howard Barkin came in second, with 345 total found mistakes, and wins a $25 Amazon gift card; Todd Gross, with 165, was third and wins a pre-Shortzian artifact; and Dave Phillips, with 46, was the random prize winner and receives a Puzzazz e-book.  (Numbers were assigned to contestants based on their rankings in the mistakes totals; the numbers were then put into a random number generator, which produced the number 5—Dave's position in the rankings.)

Thanks so much again to the winners and to everyone else who participated in the contest—and who didn't but still continued proofreading!  We've made a tremendous amount of progress in the past two months—so much so that I've decided to continue the proofreading totals if anyone wants to keep counting!  If you do, just continue sending in the total number of mistakes you find in your proofreading batch, and I'll post them elsewhere on this site.

Finally, many thanks again to Roy Leban for donating the Puzzazz e-book codes!  If you're a solver who isn't familiar with Puzzazz yet, be sure to check out their impressive selection of crossword, cryptic, and other puzzle books for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch by clicking here!