Crossword of the Month, November 2013

Here are my five nominees for Crossword of the Month for November 2013. Note that if a puzzle requires a subscription to solve, clicking on the title below will lead to a review of the puzzle. If no subscription is required, clicking on the title below will lead to the puzzle itself.

In chronological order, our five nominees are:

“Veiled Invitation,”
by Pete Muller. Muller Monthly Music Meta, November 5th, 2013.

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Stunningly original meta-crossword concept with fittingly skillful execution.

“Mark My Words,” by Peter Gordon. Fireball Crosswords, November 6th, 2013.

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Another skillful meta-crossword, utilizing the accent marks found on various foreign words.

“Taylor Made” by Erik Agard. Glutton for Pun, November 6th, 2013.

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One of the very cleverest quotation puzzles of all time, if that’s not damning with faint praise: the constructor forces the solver to feel the frustration expressed by a popular singer about crosswords and love (no joke).

Untitled, by Alan DerKazarian. The New York Times, November 7th, 2013.

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Elegant and intricate two-way rebus by a debut constructor.

“Seeing Double”
by Trip Payne. Fireball Crosswords, November 20th, 2013.

Novel and magisterial construction by one of the all-time greats: each clue appears twice, defining two different entries.

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And the winner is:

Pete Muller for “Veiled Invitation.”

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The king among kings in a regal month for high-concept crosswords: an iconic, fifteen-word Fleetwood Mac lyric hides, one word per row, in fifteen grid entries.

Deceptively simple in concept and construction, requiring only a highlighted grid to explain, and obvious in retrospect — but so hidden-in-plain-sight that fewer than three dozen solvers managed to see what was right before their eyes.

Absolutely beautiful, and a clear winner, despite extremely elegant competition, for my pick as Crossword of the Month, November 2013.

Full list of Crossword of the Month winners:

September 2013 — Anna Shechtman, American Values Club Crossword
October 2013 — Francis Heaney, American Values Club Crossword
November 2013 — Pete Muller, Muller Monthly Music Meta

One Hundred Years of Solvitude

On December 21st, 1913, Liverpool-born Arthur Wynne published the world’s first crossword puzzle (in the New York World, where he was working at the time). And you thought the best thing to come out of Liverpool was the Beatles.

A bevy of crossword luminaries have published books to mark the approaching 100th anniversary of our beloved game. Here are the main ones:

The Curious History of the Crossword, by Ben Tausig. A hip, erudite take on crosswords past, present and future, from the man who edited the Onion‘s crossword.

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Merl Reagle’s 100th Anniversary Crossword Book, by Merl Reagle. America’s most beloved crossword writer shares puzzles and anecdotes from his long career.

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100 Years, 100 Crosswords: Celebrating the Crossword’s Centennial, edited by Peter Gordon. The best crossword editor in the country presents ten crosswords relating to each decade since the game’s invention.

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Cluetopia: the Story of 100 Years of the Crossword by David Astle. Australia’s preeminent wordsmith offers international insights on the worldwide crossword phenomenon.

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Centenary of the Crossword, by John Halpern. Another international take on crosswords worldwide, from one of England’s top cryptic crossword setters.

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On behalf of crossword constructors everywhere, let me say: we hope you’ve enjoyed the first 100 years of crosswords, and we look forward to vexing the hell out of you for a second century, beginning in a few weeks.

Crossword of the Month, October 2013

Here are my five nominees for Crossword of the Month for October 2013. Note that if a puzzle requires a subscription to solve, clicking on the title below will lead to a review of the puzzle. If no subscription is required, clicking on the title below will lead to the puzzle itself.

In chronological order, our five nominees are:

Untitled by Evan Birnholz. The New York Times, October 3rd, 2013.

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Creative twist on the two-way rebus square idea.

Untitled by Byron Walden. The New York Times, October 5th, 2013.

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Outstanding freestyle crossword from one of the very best constructors around.

Untitled by Jason Flinn. The New York Times, October 9th, 2013.

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Unusual find by a debut constructor: two famous stories by Philip K. Dick cleave and then stack perfectly for a 15×15 grid.

“Cut Down” by Brendan Emmett Quigley. www.brendanemmettquigley.com, October 17th, 2013.

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Clever rebus idea, where a 6-pack of ABS occupies the center of the grid.

“Heisenberg Uncertainty” by Francis Heaney. The American Values Club Crossword, October 24th, 2013.

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Masterful and amusing play on the show “Breaking Bad,” where the solver is literally required to “make meth.”

And the winner is:

Francis Heaney for “Heisenberg Uncertainty.” crosswordofthemonth

I chose this puzzle because 1) its timing is right on, with the final season of “Breaking Bad” drawing to a close; 2) its idea is clever, using four “Heisenberg squares” (squares where two different letters work for both the across and down), and 3) its execution is more or less perfect, since each of the four letters in the word METH is changed exactly one time.

If you’re new to the concept of “Heisenberg squares,” let me use an example from this puzzle to illustrate it. At 11-down, Francis clues EXPANSIVE as Like acres and acres of real estate, say, crossing the word MATH at the A. But if you “make meth” by changing the A in MATH to an E, then you get the word EXPENSIVE, which also satisfies the clue.

This gimmick idea is well-known, but the wrinkle here of changing those letters to make another specific word four times is novel, timely, and clever, and wins my pick for October’s Crossword of the Month.

Full list of Crossword of the Month winners:

September 2013 — Anna Shechtman, American Values Club Crossword
October 2013 — Francis Heaney, American Values Club Crossword