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2009 Year in Review

Dec. 30th, 2009 | 04:07 pm

Following the example of Eric Berlin, I decided to review some puzzle and game highlights from 2009.

January: The Evil Midnight Bombers presented a science-fiction-themed challenge for the annual MIT Mystery Hunt. The Hunt was visually attractive but did not whet my solving appetite as mush as some of the Hunts from previous years. The meta structures in later rounds were diabolically clever and geared more for Hunt connoisseurs than relative novices like me. Still, I had a handful of solving successes on individual puzzles, and enjoyed the camaraderie with the Boston-Cambridge gang.

February: I opted to save some money by staying home ACPT weekend and solving the puzzles online. I hated missing the social aspect of the tournament, but rationalized that I would see most of my tournament buddies at other events. I solved the seven tournament puzzles error-free and finished in fourth place overall (among online solvers).

March: I was pleased to meet several new puzzlers at the LA minicon. The other minicon guests were pleased (?) to meet a myopic mime named Monsieur Trompe L'oeil, who joined forces with Todd Rew to present an unusual game of charades. I had been intrigued with the moderator characters that puzzlers like Greg Pliska and Guy Jacobson come up with for convention games, and wanted to try coming up with my own character for a performance-based puzzle. It was a blast--especially the ad-libbing with Todd--and I look forward to trying something like that again.

May: Al Sanders and I led a free-form lecture on crossword puzzle constructions and solving for a group of honors students at University of Colorado Denver. Katherine Bryant suggested the idea to her father, who leads the program. It was an interesting challenge to work my industry observations into a lecture. Al and I worked well in concert, and several students commented afterward that it was one of their favorite lectures in the series.

June: I launched a no-frills download site where I could post crossword puzzles that had been rejected by major markets are were otherwise unsellable. The site opened the day after the Tony Awards with a puzzle theme based on a predictable Tony result. I had intended to update the site every week or two, but the lack of rejected puzzles and interest in other projects have left the site inactive for the last few months.

July: I brought two games to the NPL convention in Baltimore. Drawing Conclusions, featured on the main program, was a visual trivia game that garnered postive feedback from the players. Octegories was a trunk game that felt ripe for a revival in the after-hours game sessions. The Saturday Night Treasure Hunt left me sweaty but satisfied.

August: Lollapuzzoola 2, a Queens crossword tournament organized by bloggers Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, featured a puzzle that I constructed. I attended the tournament and enjoyed the informal atmosphere. My puzzle had a sound gimmick, and it was fun to both watch and listen to the solvers. Peter Gordon, Doug Peterson, Brendan Emmett Quigley, and other constructors presented puzzles with clever twists that could not be easily executed at a large tournament like ACPT.

September: I joined some puzzlers in Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend. We toured the casinos and restaurants, checked out some meeting spaces for a proposed 2010 miniconvention, and finished the trip with some puzzles from Malk Halpin's Labor Day suite.

I wrote another walkaround puzzle for my birthday celebration. Street Smarts 2: Codewalkers invited solving teams to explore the Cherry Creek North area and collect pieces of a complex code that would reveal "What it takes to get where I am today." I needed to provide a few taps here and there, but all of the solving teams eventually found the solution.

October: I had several crossword puzzles run in newspapers in 2009, but "Initial Offerings" (10-4-2009) was my first New York Times Sunday puzzle ever. I had to make some compromises in the grid fill in order to meet editorial approval, but I was happy with the theme.

November: After news of the NYT puzzle spread around the office, some coworkers suggested that I write a game for the office Halloween party. I accepted the challenge and produced "National Denture: Bridge to the Past," where hunters combed the third floor looking for George Washington's hidden trick-or-treat candy and Halloween-themed false teeth. A snowstorm postposed the game until November, but everything else associated with the game went smoothly.

At the November LA minicon I tried out another puzzle collaboration. Ron Sweet and I coauthored Cryptic Cafe, a cryptic crossword challenge with a nod to the classic Cross-Wits game show. It was a fun experiment, but it felt right as a one-off game.

2010: I'm looking forward to making progress on a number of projects next year, notably my maintenance project in which I am manually adjusting scores to the entries in my corssword database. I'm about currently about a quarter of the way through the 8-letter entries. The events I'm most looking forward to is the convention in Seattle and the birthday event--I need to come up with something special to celebrate turning 40.

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The Other (Black and) White Meet

Aug. 24th, 2009 | 12:13 pm

Lollapuzzoola 2 ReportCollapse )

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Guess Who Has Some Notes on the Drawing Conclusions Game? (I Do!)

Jul. 16th, 2009 | 06:57 pm

Drawing Conclusions Liner NotesCollapse )

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Another Wednesday Crossword

Jul. 15th, 2009 | 07:07 am

A new crossword puzzle, "Two-Faced," is on the site.

Just a reminder: the crosswords are .puz files so you will need Across Lite to access them. You can download Across Lite for free here.

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My De Facto Favorite Convention

Jul. 14th, 2009 | 08:00 pm

Random Comments About BaltimoreCollapse )

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Another Monday Puzzle

Jul. 6th, 2009 | 07:09 am

A new crossword puzzle, "Forgeries," is available (in AcrossLite format) here.

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Another Tuesday Crossword

Jun. 29th, 2009 | 10:01 pm

Need another Tuesday crossword puzzle? I uploaded one (in AcrossLite format) here.

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Computer Security

Jun. 24th, 2009 | 10:48 am

I got an infection on my laptop computer yesterday. After a consultation at Microcenter, I decided that it would be a better to perform a factory-new system recovery as opposed to attempting to find the problem with a virus scan. I completed the recovery last night, and my laptop is running smoother than it has in years--A lot of processor-hampering garbage has accumulated over in the hard drive apparently.

Reloading software and drivers will take a day or two, but it's not a major hassle. The recovery was an opportunity to buy the CCWIN 8 upgrade which I had been meaning to do for a while. I also need to remind myself how to install supporting code for the handful of perlscripts that I run.

I could use some input on security software. Any recommendations re Norton or McAfee or something else? Is Spybot still worthwhile auxiliary download?

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Another Tuesday Crossword

Jun. 22nd, 2009 | 10:02 pm

Need another Tuesday crossword puzzle? I uploaded one (in AcrossLite format) here.

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Another Thursday Crossword

Jun. 17th, 2009 | 10:28 pm

Need another Thursday crossword puzzle? I uploaded one (in AcrossLite format) here.

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