Friday, February 27, 2015

1961 Puzzles Up, Nancy Schuster in CROSSW RD Magazine, and Barbara Hindenach Solves Blast! Challenge

Project Update:  1961 Puzzles Up

Great news:  The 1961 puzzles are now up on XWord Info—thanks again to Jim Horne for hosting them!  And this was another busy week on the proofreading front, starting off on Saturday night with 30 puzzles from Denny Baker and then 10 more later on from Todd Gross, who found 22 mistakes in them.  Sunday evening Mark Diehl sent 27 puzzles and then another 30 Monday night.  Tuesday morning Todd sent 10 more with 37 mistakes, which were followed by 31 more from Denny Baker Wednesday afternoon and another 31 that night from Mark.  Then Thursday night Mark sent 31 more, another 17 later on, and 28 more Friday morning, which were followed by another 10 from Todd.  Thanks so much again, everyone—we're making terrific progress, and I should have the 1960 puzzles off to Jim by this time next week!

B. A. Heimbinder Photo

After Todd Gross's piece on B. A. Heimbinder appeared in last week's post, an anonymous commenter sent a link to this 1920 photo of him.  The portrait was one of 23 photos of leading workers for the Hebrew Association Building Fund—thanks again for the link!

Photo courtesy of The Brooklyn Standard Union.

Barbara Hindenach First to Solve Blast! Challenge

Congratulations to Barbara Hindenach, who sent in the first correct solution to last week's Blast! challenge Thursday morning!  The June 18, 1959, clue was "Question mark of 1960."  The entry:  RUNNINGMATE.  I'm glad everything was resolved by the time of the election!  This week's Blast! challenge is now up in the sidebar—good luck!

Nancy Schuster in CROSSW RD Magazine

I've been busy going through more old issues of CROSSW RD Magazine, and this week I'm delighted to present Helene Hovanec's great profile of pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era constructor and editor Nancy Schuster!  You can link to it on Scribd by clicking here.  The feature also includes a very interesting history of the beginnings of Dell Champion, whose editorship had a puzzling start!

Photo copyright 1991, 2015, Megalo Media, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine.

Featured Puzzle

Today's featured puzzle, which was constructed by Diana Sessions, was published December 25, 1956; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  This Christmas-themed crossword shows holiday spirit in a way I haven't seen before:  through a list of gift suggestions.  As a bonus, the constructor sprinkled in a handful of standard holiday entries, such as CHRISTMAS CAROLS, XMAS DECORATIONS, and NICK.  But the constructor didn't stop there:  She even went so far as to connect the ordinary entries VERB and SOOT to Christmas through the clues "Give, for example." and "Santa's chimney problem.," respectively.  All the thematic layers make the puzzle quite elegant, though the gift list was what convinced me to feature this puzzle here.  The list, which reflects numerous stereotypes that were pervasive when the puzzle was published, can be seen below:

Gift for a future Olympics contender. (ICE SKATES)
Gift for a lady of leisure. (MULES)
Gift for a little girl. (DOLLHOUSE)
Gift for a college girl. (CLOCK RADIO)
Gift for a bride-to-be. (SILVERWARE)

The main thing that stood out to me about the list was that four of the five gifts were for female recipients.  I wonder why the constructor chose to structure the puzzle this way—for example, CLOCK RADIO could have been just as easily clued as "Gift for a college student."  Could it be that the constructor added a unique female perspective to the theme because of her gender?  Did the constructor happen to be considering gifts for a daughter?  Or was the whole gender imbalance just chance?  It would have been fascinating to have had constructor notes (as well as bylines, of course) for the pre-Shortzian puzzles—then there would have been very few such mysteries.

The theme took up a lot of real estate in the grid, though the constructor still managed to keep the fill relatively smooth.  There weren't any particularly snappy entries, but only a few entries struck me as rather esoteric:  KOBS ("African antelopes."), COOSA ("River in Georgia and Alabama."), and the crosswordese-y ESSED ("Ancient chariot.").  In this day and age, we would probably add BEVAN ("Aneurin of England.") and ECA ("Gov't agency, 1948-51.") to that list.  BAROCCIO ("Painter of 'Presentation in the Temple.'") is tough, but unlike in the cases of KOBS and COOSA, here I appreciated learning about a Renaissance painter with whom I wasn't familiar.  In all, this is an excellent pre-Shortzian puzzle from another of my favorite pre-Shortzian constructors.  Stay tuned for more Sessions masterpieces—I plan to feature one of her numerous "Central Intelligence" Sunday puzzles in an upcoming blog post!  For now, here's the solution grid (with highlighted theme entries, excluding the semi-thematic VERB and SOOT):

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