Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, everyone!  The blog is on hiatus this week but will resume next Friday.  In the meantime, you can still try solving last week's Blast! from the Past challenge—no correct solutions have come in yet, and there are now seven hint letters!

Image courtesy of

Friday, December 19, 2014

10,000-Plus Pre-Shortzian Puzzles Now on XWord Info, Jane S. Flowerree's American Crossword Puzzle Academy Additions, and Doug Peterson First to Solve Blast! Challenge

Project Update

I'm delighted to report that late Friday night I received the following in an e-mail from Jim Horne of XWord Info:

Fun fact: now that 1966 is up, there are over 10,000 pre-Shortz puzzles now in XWord Info!

That's amazing—thanks so much, Jim!  And many thanks again to all the litzers and proofreaders who helped us get to this milestone!  To see all 10,000-plus puzzles, click here.

10,000-plus puzzles

This week was a bit quieter on the proofreading front, undoubtedly because of the holiday season and Matt Ginsberg's word list project, which continues to occupy many proofreaders!  Todd Gross sent in 10 puzzles Friday morning, though, with 17 mistakes, so we made some good progress—thanks again, Todd!

Next week the blog will be on hiatus because of Christmas, but I'll continue to process puzzles, so please do keep sending them in—and let me know if you'd like more (or to try your hand at proofreading!)!

Doug Peterson First to Solve Last Week's Blast! Challenge!

On Monday at 8:28 p.m. Doug Peterson was the first to guess the answer to the last Blast! challenge—congratulations, Doug!  The clue, from the June 14, 1959, puzzle, was "Current political issue," and the answer was INTEGRATION.  It's always interesting to see which issues are so significant that they get preserved in black and white!

Next week's challenge is a bit different:  Instead of providing the clue, I'm listing the entry, and the challenge is to guess the clue!  I'll announce the winner in two weeks—as usual, a new letter will appear each day.

Jane S. Flowerree Adds to Mark Diehl's American Crossword Puzzle Academy Treasures

In the December 6 post, I reported on and linked to Mark Diehl's American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame treasures.  This week Jane S. Flowerree, the subject last week's post and Todd Gross's interview, sent in several more American Crossword Puzzle Academy items, including the missing Report 3, which was published in May 1990 and can be seen here (scroll down after clicking)!

Jane also sent the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame Bylaws of the Board of Governors, dated December 21, 1989; to read them, click here.

Interim Notice

In addition, she sent an Interim Notice, dated October 27, 1989, about a meeting that was to be held on Saturday, November 18, 1989.  To see a larger version of the above image, click here.

Thanks so much again, Jane, for these great additions!

I find it fascinating that there could be so many bylaws for an institution like the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame; at the same time, however, I wonder whether such bylaws were necessary.  Perhaps the complexity of the organization  contributed somewhat to its downfall!  I also very much enjoyed reading Report 3 of the newsletter, though I once again wondered whether these reports were the best way to inspire interest among members.  All the letters to the editor are interesting historically in that they can be considered predecessors of crossword blogs, but were they of real interest to members back in the day?  My guess is that the Academy would have survived longer had its bulletins contained puzzles to solve, as Crossworder's OWN and Crossw_rd did.  If the American Crossword Puzzle Academy had used its funds to launch another crossword market rather than to hold meetings, constructors from around the country, rather than just those in New York, would have been able to feel involved.  Then again, the letters may indeed have been fascinating for constructors since they'd never really seen such fan mail before.  Perhaps modern constructors are more jaded now that both wanted and unwanted feedback about their published work can be accessed with the click of a button.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jane S. Flowerree Interview with Todd Gross, 1966 Puzzles Sent, and Jeffrey Harris First to Solve Blast! Challenge

Project Update

It's been another busy week, with more than 100 proofread puzzles sent in—including the last from 1966!  Saturday afternoon Tracy Bennett sent in 30 puzzles with 50 mistakes, which were followed Sunday afternoon by 15 puzzles with 30 mistakes from an anonymous proofreader.  Tuesday morning Denny Baker sent in 31 puzzles; early Wednesday morning Wei-Hwa Huang sent 10 puzzles with 13 mistakes, which were followed that afternoon by 18 puzzles with 18 mistakes from an anonymous proofreader.  Thanks so much, everyone—we're doing great!

The 1966 puzzles have now been sent to Jim Horne at XWord Info and should be up soon—thanks again, Jim!

Jeffrey Harris First to Solve Last Week's Blast! Challenge

Last Friday I posted the Blast! challenge at 4:08 p.m. Pacific time.  At 4:30, just 22 minutes later, Jeffrey Harris was the first of four readers to send in the correct answer—congratulations, Jeffrey!  As promised, on Saturday I started replacing the blank underscores, hangman-style, with a new letter each day so everyone could keep getting hints, and during the course of the week several other people submitted correct solutions.  The clue, "Husband in the good old days," was from the June 22, 1959, puzzle, and the answer was LORD AND MASTER.  Pretty amazing—times have definitely changed for the better!

If you'd like to try solving this week's Blast! challenge, check it out in the sidebar to your right.  A new letter will replace its corresponding blank underscore(s) each day, so if you don't come up with the answer right away, you may later on in the week!

Jane S. Flowerree Interview with Todd Gross

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from litzer, proofreader, and historian Todd Gross about some pre-Shortzian constructors he'd been researching.  One of these was Jane S. Flowerree, who published four puzzles under editor Eugene T. Maleska.  When Todd discovered that Jane was an attorney, he contacted attorney/litzer Vic Fleming and asked if Vic could make an initial contact with her.  Vic was happy to oblige and reported back that Jane had said her puzzles were "all done manually during the Maleska era" and that she had often worked on them "while waiting in carpool lines, taking her kids to and from elementary school."

After Todd sent in the interview, he received an e-mail from Jane that included the following:

. . . I hope I am sending you the right photo.  It is probably the only photo ever taken of me with a crossword puzzle in it (sitting on the table next to me).  This was pretty representative of my life when I started constructing crosswords, so I thought it would be appropriate.  You will see what I mean when you read my answers to your questions. . . .  I saved all my correspondence with Mr. Maleska and could find most of it, which helped me answer some of your questions.  I also saved the fan/hate mail. . . .  Many thanks to you and Vic and David for sending me on a trip back down memory lane to my “glory days”. . . .  I hadn’t thought about it in a long time and the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances have no idea that I ever constructed crosswords.  I think they would be surprised. . . . I am a little worried that some of my responses might sound bitter, but I assure you I am not!  Suum cuique!

I then wrote to Jane myself, asking whether she wanted to include any more photos or perhaps a recipe from the cookbook she wrote.  She sent back a delightful e-mail, which was followed by digital images that included a letter from Maleska, a piece of "hate mail" Maleska received in response to one of her puzzles, and a note from a fan.  Here is an excerpt from her e-mail:

I quickly scanned in one of Mr. Maleska's letters.  I chose it because he talks about how he felt when he first saw his name in the TIMES.  That particular letter was written before he started receiving mail on the puzzle he refers to.  When the letters came in, he forwarded them to me. He would tell me if he already responded to each letter writer or if he wanted me to do so.  I scanned in a negative letter and a positive one. . . . I remember one woman sent the puzzle back shredded like confetti, which was kind of funny.

I've inserted these letters, as well as the other images Jane sent, into the interview, which you can read here.

Thanks so much again, Jane and Todd, for this wonderful window to the past!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mark Diehl's American Crossword Puzzle Academy Treasures—Plus Blast! Change and Another Proofreading Log

Mark Diehl's American Crossword Puzzle Academy Treasures

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is behind us—delightfully topped off by Puzzazz's free thank you gift for everyone, Bruce Leban's Jumping to Conclusions hangman riddles!—it's time to revisit the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame.  As I mentioned last week, I have something more on this short-lived but historic enterprise, thanks to litzer and proofreader extraordinaire Mark Diehl!  After my November 21 post on the Crossword Puzzle Academy appeared, Mark wrote me that he was able to dig up the original membership solicitation flyer he'd received in 1989 from Robert Guilbert!  Mark continued:

I remember paying for the membership and signing a Charter Member placard for the proposed display wall.  I think the missing section of page 3 and 4 was the application form and it had a drawing of the proposed signature display wall.

I didn't attend the first and only meeting in 1990.  I vaguely remember talk of a commemorative book of puzzles with pic and bio of member-contributors as a fund raising project.  Don't know if this ever happened—I wasn't contacted to submit anything.  Perhaps Guilbert passed away and the book never saw the light of day.

I wonder if the signature wall was ever created or if the signature placards are still in existence—what a great collection of Pre-Shortziana that would be!

I've posted the four pages of the flyer on Scribd—you can see them by clicking here.  The first page mentions the May 11, 1988, meeting at the Harvard Club in New York, which was attended by Frances Hansen (who stood in for Maura Jacobson), William Lutwiniak, Eugene T. Maleska, Stanley Newman, Will Shortz, Mel Taub, and Will Weng.  Maura and the six male attendees became the "ad hoc Founding Board of Governors."  The second page mentions British constructor ("setter") Paul Henderson, who reportedly was in touch with Guilbert about the possibility of establishing a U.K. Academy and alludes to an upcoming meeting in Britain to discuss that, along with the idea of an International Academy and Hall of Fame.

This page also lists the following nominations for the Crossword Puzzle Academy Hall of Fame:   Arthur Wynne, Margaret Farrar, Prosper Buranelli, Gregory Hartswick, Jules Arensberg, Harold Bers, Jack Luzzatto, and Anne Fox.  It notes that Mervin Edward Griffin (of Wheel of Fortune fame!) was "elected for induction as a Fellow."

Membership in the Crossword Puzzle Academy was $10.00; here is what it included:

Then, a few days ago, Mark wrote me again, saying he'd found another stash of Crossword Puzzle Academy papers while searching for something else.  I've posted them all on Scribd—to see each one, click on its name below:

Nominating Ballot and other information
Proclamation of December 15, 1988
Report 1 (September 1989; contains the names of the original 82 members, plus 55 comments)
Report 2 (December 21, 1989; contains more comments, plus a demographic map)
Report 4 (July 1990; contains more comments)
Sketch of the wall (which you can see below in reduced form)

Report 4 also mentions the possibility of publishing a compendium of puzzles by members, which would also include a headshot and thumbnail bio of each constructor (like with the crosswords I edit for the Orange County Register's associated newspapers), to "acquaint puzzle fans with the real people behind the names as well as the identities of those who supply generic feature fare."  It goes on to say that individual members might also write "a brief essay on the nature of the craft and its historical genesis."

Thanks so much, Mark, for saving these amazing treasures from the past for all these years and sending them in—they really bring the American Crossword Puzzle Academy and Hall of Fame to life!  Robert Guilbert was clearly a visionary—perhaps someday his idea will be revived.

Blast! from the Past Change

Puzzazz's new hangman book gave me an idea for a change to the Blast! from the Past format.  Since figuring out the answers to the Blast! challenges has been a bit tough without any surrounding information of the sort that would be in crossword grids, I've decided to provide a new letter each day.  When the Blast! challenge first appears, you'll just see blank underscores for where the letters should be.  The next day, one letter will be filled in (in all the appropriate spots); the third day, a second letter will appear, and so on.  So the challenge will still be to see how fast you can solve it, but I'm hoping this format will make doing so easier!

Project Update, Plus More of Dave Phillips's Proofreading Log

It's been a busy week, and we're finally closing in on 1966—I'm just waiting for the last few proofread puzzles!  Saturday night Mark Diehl sent in 30 puzzles and then 31 more Sunday morning.  Sunday afternoon Denny Baker sent 31 more, which were followed by another 30 from Mark that night.  Monday night Dave Phillips sent in 30 puzzles, along with a continuation of his very interesting proofreading log from the October 10 post (reproduced in two parts below).  And then Thursday afternoon Todd Gross sent 11 puzzles, in which he found 16 mistakes.  Thanks so much again, everyone—we're making great progress!