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):

Friday, February 20, 2015

1962 puzzles up, Will Weng in CROSSW RD Magazine, and Todd Gross on B. A. Heimbinder

Project Update:  1962 Puzzles Up

The 1962 puzzles are up on XWord Info, thanks again to Jim Horne, and as soon as I've finished looking through all the 1961 and 1960 puzzles, those will be up too!  We're making great progress, and everyone is now being sent puzzles from the 1950s.  Todd Gross started off this week's stash on Saturday morning by sending 10 puzzles with 33 mistakes, which were followed by 25 more from Mark Diehl that night.  Then Sunday night Mark sent another 30 puzzles—and Monday morning 31 more.  Monday afternoon Todd sent 10 with 28 mistakes, then Tuesday afternoon an additional 3 with 12 mistakes, and that night 6 more with 16 mistakes.  Later Tuesday night Mark sent 28 puzzles, which were followed by 3 more with 5 mistakes from Todd on Wednesday afternoon.  Finally, on Thursday night, Mark sent another 26 puzzles.  Awesome job, everyone—thanks so much again!

Blast! Challenge Goes Unsolved

No one sent in the correct solution to last week's Blast! challenge.  The clue, which was from the August 11, 1963, puzzle, was "Variation of death and taxes."  The two-word answer:  OFFICE COLLECTIONS.  Ha!

One incorrect response led me to think I should clarify something.  In Hangman, when you guess a letter and it's one of the letters in the answer, all instances of that letter get entered.  So, using last week's Blast! as an example, if the letter L was the one I revealed for the day, I entered both Ls in COLLECTIONS, and none of the remaining blanks in OFFICE would be filled by an L.  In any case, there's a new Blast! up in the sidebar—good luck!

Will Weng

I've posted another one of Helene Hovanec's great pieces from CROSSW RD Magazine on Scribd:  "And the Wynners Are . . . Weng, Hook, Cox, Rathvon, Shenk, Pomerance, and Joline," which originally appeared in the March/April 1991 issue.  This article starts off featuring the winners of the "Wynner awards" for various crossword contributions and is followed by a wonderful profile of Will Weng.  To read it, click here.

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

Todd Gross on B. A. Heimbinder

Recently litzer, proofreader, and historian Todd Gross contacted me about some research he'd been doing on pre-Shortzian constructors—specifically, B. A. Heimbinder, who, according to my (incomplete) records, published just one New York Times puzzle in the pre-Shortz era.  Todd wrote:

I don't think I'd heard of B A Heimbinder before seeing the Sun 29 May 1966 NYT puzzle, but with such an odd name, I figured I had a chance of finding him or her, even with only initials for the first name.  What I found is complex and multifaceted and rather interesting.  Let me start with the crossword stuff: as far as I can tell, B A Heimbinder started creating puzzles in the mid 60's.  He had a few published in newspapers, but interestingly published several books of crossword puzzles, all of which appear to be aimed at children.  His earliest was Fairy Tales Crossword Puzzles in 1965, then books on Great Americans, Great Inventions, and Sports Heroes in 1966.  Finally, with some co-authors, he created The Blue/Red/Yellow Crossword Puzzle Book: Grades 3 and 4 in 1972.  That's three books in three different colors.  I even found an article in a journal about teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) that recommended a couple of his books.  Copies of these books aren't easy to find, but it looks like there are a couple for sale, and probably a few in public libraries that can be borrowed.
But he wrote another book before this.  Titled White Conquest (An Epic of Antarctica), it was published in 1934.  That's right, more than 30 years before his crossword books.  That book's author is given as Barney A Heimbinder, so yeah, B A is a man.  With help from Google and, I pieced together a rather interesting tale.  Barney Aaron Heimbinder was born 22 Jul 1894 in Brooklyn.  He worked for the Brooklyn Public Library from 1910–15, served overseas during WWI from Oct 1917–May 1919 and returned to New York marrying in 1920.  He had two sons that I know of, Larry and Murray.
His personal history gets kind of complicated now.  A WWII registration card shows him working for the Klein-Heimbinder Co. on Madison Ave. in Manhattan.  Oddly, when I looked the company up, the records said it was formed in 1962 and dissolved in 1993.  But it clearly existed in some capacity before 1962.  It's quite likely the partnership started in the mid 1930's, given Mssrs. Klein and Heimbinder were awarded a patent for a kind of record book in 1938.

I'm not completely sure what business the Klein-Heimbinder Co. was in, but printing office forms and related materials makes the most sense from what I know (from a list I saw of copyrights for some payroll and tax forms for them in 1936–7).  I don't believe any of B A's crossword books were published by Klein-Heimbinder...but oddly, another book was.  A book of poetry, titled A Moment's Monument, by Florence Hamilton and Edwin Markham, published in 1939, in a limited edition of 500.  I'm guessing it was a kind of personal favor, but I'll note that Edwin Markham is a noted poet and Florence Hamilton was his secretary and apparently something of a poet in her own right (note her name comes first as author before Markham).
So. Mr. Heimbinder took up crossword construction at about 70 years old, and not only got published in the NY Times and elsewhere, he wrote several books for children as well.  Rather impressive.  But this isn't the end of the story.  He was also something of a songwriter.  In 1946, he wrote the lyrics for a song called Miguel the Matador, the music was written by his son Lawrence/Larry.  And in 1956, he's credited with writing the words and music for a song called Champagne in August.  It's the first song that gave me his middle name.
He died at the age of 80, on 23 Aug 1974 in Broward County, FL.  Alas, I haven't found an obituary for him.  I also haven't found any pictures of him.  But I did find an obituary for his son Lawrence (who died last year at the age of 90) which includes a picture.  So we can get some idea of what B A Heimbinder may have looked like.
Larry's a pretty amazing fellow in his own right...but apparently not related to crosswords.  I will say I found an interesting legal case involving Larry Heimbinder: the judge ruled (mostly) in his favor, but I don't know if he was able to collect on it.

Todd finished by noting that in research, "[y]ou turn up all kinds of interesting folk as crossword constructors."  That's certainly true—thanks so much again, Todd, for all of this pre-Shortzian history!

Friday, February 13, 2015

1963 Puzzles Up, New York Times Crossworld in CROSSW RD Magazine, and Howard Barkin Solves Blast! Challenge

Project Update:  1963 Puzzles Up

The 1963 puzzles are now up on XWord Info!  Thanks again, Jim!  What's more, I expect to send off the 1962 puzzles over this long weekend, and all the proofreaders are now receiving puzzles from the 1950s!

It's been another busy week on the proofreading front—Friday evening Todd Gross sent in 10 puzzles with 13 mistakes, which were followed by 11 more with 10 mistakes on Saturday morning.  Sunday night Dave Phillips sent 27 puzzles with 63 mistakes, and then Monday morning Todd sent 14 more with 17 mistakes.  Early Tuesday morning Todd sent another 11 with 31 mistakes, and then Wednesday morning Denny Baker sent 31 more puzzles.  That night Tracy Bennett sent another 30; finally, Friday morning Todd sent in 8 more with 19 mistakes.  Great job and thanks so much, everyone—soon all the puzzles from the 1960s will be done!

Howard Barkin First to Solve Blast! Challenge

Congratulations to Howard Barkin, who submitted the first correct answer to last week's Blast! challenge on Monday, February 9!  The clue, which was from the September 7, 1957, puzzle, was "Mass assault on the world's secrets."  The two-word answer:  GEOPHYSICAL YEAR.  Not as scary as you might have thought!

This week's Blast! challenge, which appears in the sidebar, is from 1963—so no peeking on XWord Info!

New York Times Crossworld—and Eugene T. Maleska—in CROSSW RD Magazine 

The very first issue of CROSSW ORD Magazine featured an overview of the New York Times crossword puzzle world—and its future—and included a profile of then-editor Eugene T. Maleska.  As usual, this insightful article was written by Helene Hovanec; it appeared in January/February 1991.  I've posted it here on Scribd.

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

Featured Puzzle
The 1963 puzzles are up and tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so what better way to celebrate both occasions than to feature the Valentine's Day puzzle from 1963?  The puzzle—a real beauty (brace yourself for more bad puns within!)—was constructed by Brice Metcalfe, edited by Margaret Farrar, litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh, and proofread by Mark Diehl.  (And now, thanks to Jim Horne, you can solve the puzzle on XWord Info before reading the write-up on this blog if you so choose.)  This lovely construction features five symmetrically interlocking theme entries containing the word HEART; all the theme entries are solidly in the language, and SWEETHEART (clued as "Valentine.") is a particularly apt choice.  My heart really started racing, though, when I discovered that the grid had just 66 words, since 66-word grids were not very common in the days when puzzles were all hand-constructed!  That said, I did notice a handful of unusual and/or esoteric entries:  PLEDGOR ("Legal term akin to promisor."), RAG TREE ("Sacred plant of ancient pilgrims."), MRS WHISTLER ("Famous 'visitor' to Atlanta."), ANGOSTURA ("Bitter bark."), and DELSARTE ("System of calisthenics.").  In the not-obscure-but-not-thrilling category, there's IN SAINT ("'Meet Me ___ Louis'"), REMASH ("Fix over again, as potatoes),  MULCHERS ("Implements for spreading straw, leaves, etc."), and several unsavory three-letter abbreviations.  Although there were more compromises than would have been ideal, I heartily enjoyed seeing the following hexad:  MORASS, DITHER, DEADEYE, SEAHORSES, AL SMITH, and DEWLAP.  I imagine solvers these days would fall into two camps with DURSTNOT ("Was afraid to: Archaic.")—I think it's a quaintly pleasing archaic term, but I can imagine others being frustrated because the word is no longer in common use.  A less controversial part of the puzzle that caught my attention was the timely clue for CHAD:  "African republic, as of 1960."  I always appreciate seeing pre-Shortzian clues that aren't purely definitional!  In sum, I appreciated this puzzle's ambitious theme and grid structure, warts and all.  I hope you all have a sweet and pun-filled Valentine's Day—for now, here's the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries).  The puzzle can also be viewed on XWord Info.

Friday, February 6, 2015

1964 Puzzles Done, John Samson Profile and Fred Piscop Commentary in CROSSW RD Magazine, Mary Cee Whitten, and Funny Typos—Plus, Ben Coe First to Solve Blast! Challenge

Project Update

Great news:  The 1964 puzzles are now up on XWord Info, and I'm hoping to have the 1963 puzzles ready by next Friday—many thanks again to Jim Horne for posting them!  It's been a couple of weeks since the last update, and quite a few more puzzles have come in.  On Saturday the 24th, Todd Gross sent 11 puzzles with 15 mistakes.  Then Wednesday afternoon Denny Baker sent another 30 puzzles, which were followed late that night by 28 more from Mark Diehl.  Friday the 30th Todd sent in 8 puzzles with 12 mistakes, then kicked off February on Super Bowl Sunday by sending in 10 with 24 mistakes.  Late Tuesday night he sent an additional 10 with 29 mistakes, then 10 more with 9 mistakes on Wednesday morning, another 10 with 11 mistakes and 5 more with 8 mistakes that night, and early Friday morning an additional 10 with 20 mistakes—whew!  Thanks so much, everyone—great job!

Ben Coe Solves Blast! Challenge

Congratulations to Ben Coe, who sent in the first correct solution to the most recent Blast! challenge on Friday, January 30, at 11:31 a.m.!  Two entries from the May 4, 1963, puzzle had this clue:  "Newly extinct American species?"  The answers were REDCAP and PASSENGER TRAINS.  Although I don't hear much about REDCAPs, PASSENGER TRAINS definitely still exist in large quantities!  Maybe it's best that crosswords focus on conserving the cahow.

This week's challenge appears in the sidebar—good luck!

John Samson Profile and Fred Piscop Commentary in CROSSW RD Magazine

In honor of Bernice Gordon and her long friendship with John Samson, I've posted the profile of John that originally appeared in the September/October 1994 issue of CROSSW RD Magazine—click here to read it on Scribd.  This terrific piece by Helene Hovanec provides a fascinating glimpse not only of John himself but also of Eugene T. Maleska, who harshly rejected John's first submission, ordering him to never send anything again.  Despite this inauspicious beginning, the two ultimately became co-editors and friends—a testament to John's perseverance (and congenial nature!).

John Samson in 1994. Photo copyright
1994, 2015, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted
by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine. 

I've also posted Fred Piscop's follow-up commentary, "'Your Stuff Stinks,'" that appeared in the next issue, November/December 1994.  This thought-provoking piece offers aspiring constructors sage advice that is just as relevant today as it was more than 20 years ago.  To read it, click here.

Mary Cee Whitten

Photo courtesy of The Evening Independent.

Litzer, proofreader, and historian Todd Gross has been busy researching pre-Shortzian constructors and recently found a link to a great 1985 article featuring constructor Mary Cee Whitten:  "Crossword constructors:  Who makes up these mind-teasers?" by James Ricci.  According to my (incomplete) records, Whitten published at least 7 puzzles in the pre-Shortz era.  The article includes comments by Eugene T. Maleska, constructor and puzzle editor Herb Ettenson, and constructor Judith Dalton.  To read it, click here; the piece continues on another page, which you can navigate to by clicking on the righthand arrow at the top of the page.  Thanks again, Todd, for this awesome find!

Funny Typos

The proofreading has continued to chug along; as a result, my file of funny litzing errors has continued to grow!  Here are ten rib-ticklers from the archives:
    • Right:  Be misplaced, as a participle.
    • Wrong:  Be misplaced, as a principle.
  • ELI
    • Right:  Blue rooter.
    • Wrong:  Blue rooster.
  • ETNA
    • Right:  Threat to Sicily.
    • Wrong:  Treat to Sicily.
    • Right:  Kind of verb: Abbr.
    • Wrong:  Kind of verb: Irreg.
    • Right:  Carousal: Fr.
    • Wrong:  Carousel: Fr.
    • Right:  Type of garment.
    • Wrong:  Type of government.
    • Right:  Rocket parts.
    • Wrong:  Pocket parts.
    • Right:  Cultivated land.
    • Wrong:  Cultivated lard.
    • Right:  Kitchen aids.
    • Wrong:  Lichen aids.
  • ZANY
    • Right:  Clownish.
    • Wrong:  Clownfish.
I was actually able to find a picture of a Yale rooster stickpin, which I've included below:

Image courtesy of Collectible Ivy.