Dead tree solving - eco edition! 
Best of both worlds - paper and pencil/pen solving, but rather than curled up with the newspaper, you're curled up with your tablet/iPad/Android! Write, even draw, in the grid, directly on the screen. 

Perfect for rebus puzzles, like this one from a recent Thursday NYTimes puzzle. Use a stylus, for the feel of really writing, or just use your fingertip - it is remarkably easy and is your real writing... I filled this one out using my finger - the stylus is just there for show. (The rebus was MAN - as in TAXMAN at 54D...) If you would like to try it out, click on "About Me" on this page and send me an email.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rebus, writeovers, and MEMEMEMEME

RebusToday's NYTimes Croswword Puzzle by Mr. Schoenholz was great fun, with my favorite xword contrivance, the Rebus!

Here is how my grid looked - in keeping with the theme, I rendered my rebi as tiny visages of Moi - I mean ME.  Love the way I can open up a palette, and draw whetever I want.  (An outlet for my inner artiste...)

The different thicknesses of the letters show either how unsure I was of the answer (light gray), or how many times I erased and re-entered.

Also, shout-out to my newest cousin, tiny ANOUK, who was 1 year old on Christmas Eve!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Handwriting- finally, a reason to own an iPad

In spite of many friends and colleagues sporting sleek & shiny iPads, I really could think of no good reason to own a tablet myself.
Until now...with my spanking new Google Nexus 7 tablet, I am happy as a clam, doing puzzles the old-fashioned way - writing and doodling directly into the grid.  Only I use my tablet.

It feels totally natural, and so much nicer than hunting and pecking on a faux keyboard.  You can use a stylus or not - believe it or not, using your finger works really well.  Even lumberjack puzzle-spouse can use his finger.
I use both - if I have the stylus handy, I write with it.  I found a nice one with a smaller, tapered nib than most - it is so much like using a pen!
But often, I don't even remember to look for the stylus - I just pick up the Nexus and get started.
(Works on any iPad, Kindle Fire, tablets like Google Nexus 7, Samsung, even Windows Surface tablet!)
See above for pics.  I will try and post a video of me solving at some point.

P.S. - Erasing is fun - makes you feel better about your mistakes, cause it's so easy to erase!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Metamorphosis and Lunch

Brilliant sunshine and a warm fall day in New England -- the perfect setting for lunch and more... 
A few Rexvillians (mac, Sparky, JenCT), some spouses (Paul, Phil), a couple of German tourists (Michael & Silke), and a botanist (Sheila) or two rounded out the field for a delicious meal, a smattering of crossword gossip, and plenty of conversation about everything else.  It's a curious and marvelous thing that the internet has wrought, enabling such a meeting.

First, the menu: chouriรงo with Jen's fabulous bread, Phil's garden tomato salsa, beef bulgogi & chicken satay, and for desert, mac's perfection of a pound cake with fresh berries and Il Bacio ice cream (the best you'll ever have!). 

Now for ordinary folks, that would have been enough for a spectacular day.
But Jen, our in-house part-time lepidopterist, brought us all a little bit of magic...

A crystal-clear jewel of a chrysalis, with a soon-to-emerge Monarch waiting within.  She held it in front of the AC vents in the car during the 1-1/2 hour drive, to make sure it wouldn't emerge until just the right moment!

Neither words nor pictures can convey the wonder of seeing this happen before your very eyes.  But do click on more below and take a look.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Will!

Warmest wishes for your 60th birthday, Mr. Shortz, and many happy returns!
We were just coming back up for air after having spent 3 delightful weeks of playing tourguides and innkeepers to waves of friends from near and far, when what should appear in my Inbox but an email from Andrea Carla Michaels pointing me towards a seemingly endless slew of tribute puzzles.  And here I thought I was actually going to be productive this week...

Well, of course I can't resist, so beauty sleep be damned, full speed ahead!
Here are my musings and tags on the first 3 I tackled...from the King and Queen of Mondays, Tom Pepper and Andrea.
I'll post the others as I am able to steal time away.
At the right is the very apropos KUDOS I get whenever my puzzle is correct - a smiling Will!  Today he has even more reason to smile.

(Please click read more below to read my summaries on the 2 ACME and the Tom Pepper puzzles.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lollapuzzoola 5


Lollapuzzoola 5, a set on Flickr (courtesy Bob Kerfuffle).
My first Lollapuzzola was a blast. It was a fun gathering of like-minded smart people who decided it would also be fun to do a few puzzles together.

Brian Cimmet was a Master of Ceremonies par excellence. The getting-to-know-you "People Bingo" game was had to run around the room filling out a bingo card with things like "Someone wearing purple"; "Can name all six Friends"; Can speak more than one language"; Can make a sound like a fire alarm (make them do it)". Getting you entire card filled out with names earns you a prize. But of course, it was jsut fun to have a completely inane excuse to walk up to total strangers and strike up a conversation.

I liked that it was very relaxed - the rather loose time frames gave us time to talk with old friends and make new ones. Because face it, most of us** are there for the camaraderie, not to make it to the finals! A few other group games kept things loose and kept us from having our brains fried by the really challenging puzzles.

For the record, I am the 99th greatest crossword puzzle solver in the world*!
(I've decided that from now on, my ranking will be reflected by either 1) my most recent competition, or b) my highest ranking, whichever is highest...)

Oh yeah - Joon Pahk and Glen Ryan won!!!! Congratulations! See the official writeup at Brian's site.

*"World" in this context is defined as all the people that were at Lollapuzzola 5...a grand total of 122 folks!

** With the exception of some of you - you know who you are - who actually ARE right up there in the stratosphere...

 P.S.  Really liked that there is a Pairs competition - might convince puzzle husband to join in...
Only disappointment was missing out on some of the zaniness that I heard about from the previous years - maybe if we all clap really hard, they'll bring it back for next year!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicken Paprikash and Crossword Puzzles

One particular clue/answer really got to me in today's NYT puzzle.  Now, this might not have anything to do with puzzle quality, but again, that's what's fun...something resonates sideways...
Anyhow, this evening, after a difficult and harrowing weekend, I finally sat down with a glass of wine and the Monday puzzle.  Phil was in the kitchen working on a stunning paprikash sauce, whose aroma was wafting through the house.  Then I hit 12D - Kitchen Magnet - A_OMA...  what serendipity!
Especially fun that in the opposite corner were SMELLY gym socks.
It was, in fact, a gourmet's delight, with ECLAIRs, Black-eyed PEAS, BAGELs, Chewing of the fat, BEL Paese cheese, OVO, Uncooked: RAW

Here's our clue-by-clue replay.  Thank you Andrea & Michael Blake.


Puzzle completion time

Solve time
Pause time
Total time
No pauses

ACPT results (based on time limit of 15min:0sec)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How puzzles spark conversation

Here is the Comments tab from my favorite "Queen of Mondays" latest Tuesday puzzle...
I tagged as I solved it, and then commented during the Instant Replay after I was done.

It really was one of the funnest puzzles I've done in ages - so many answers evoked nice memories or brought a chuckle (or downright ROTFLMAO!)..  Ralph solved too, so you can see his thoughts as well.  This takes a solitary solve and makes it a catalyst for some fun conversation! 
**SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't done the puzzle, go to and solve it first!**


Overall comment
Bubbly and bright puzzle. Great words scattered all over, many evoking fun memories. Loved it in spite of all those sports clues!!!!!!!! Even a sports natick at

Monday, April 30, 2012

ACPT Scoring - how it's done

In response to a question posed in Rexville, and r.alph's question in yesterday's post, here is more detail than you might ever want to know about ACPT scoring - how it's done, and how we interpret it.
To reprise part of yesterday's post:
If you want the complete low-down on how the scoring works, click on "Read more" below...
For many, you won't need to bother with the detail - just the final results are enough to see how you would have done at the "real" ACPT, and to use it to help you gauge your progress as you get better at solving, and to help you brag to your friends!  My favorite part is that I the first section tells me how much actual solve time I spent, automatically removing pauses for petting of cats and talking to friends, napping, whatever!
(To answer r.alph's question, as to how I could have 69 correct words out of 70, but no incorrect letters, see *** at "Read more".)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

ACPT Scoring - track & compare your progress

In response to a question posed in Rexville, here is what the ACPT Scoring looks like with our app:
This actually was an all-time record Saturday for me, though I did google MNEME, which of course I would NOT have been able to do at ACPT!
As you can see, actual time I spent solving was a mere 35 minutes!!  But since at ACPT you are not allowed pauses for refilling your coffee or petting your cat, the scoring is based on the Total Time. 
(I am not at all a speed solver, so I actually don't really care about the time it took me.  Some days I'll have total times of 8 hours or more!)

It is still interesting to see, and really ideal if you are in training or simply want to compare your performance over time and/or with your other puzzle-friends.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baring my Soul

The illustrious Tyler Hinman has prompted a thoughtful discussion.  I encourage you to read it here.
In it, Joe Krozel, constructor and solver, threw out the following challenge:
" In fact, it would be fun to see a tongue-in-cheek blog showing half-finished puzzles containing a small fraction of wrong answers … and having a blogger defend his wrong answers. Now that would be something worth reading on a daily basis. "
"Just display half-finished puzzles with wrong answers included, and adamantly defend them! It would be hilarious. For instance, I recently put in TOAD rather than TOTO for [Biter of Almira Gulch] … I think one could reasonably assert that a toad is found in a gulch, even if others insist that it’s more of a hopper than a biter."
Please click here to see a quick attempt at just that.  (I tried to narrate it, but the Dell microphone gods are against me, so sorry - no sound!)  My defense of the new sport of Taser Tag...
Also, take a look at the running list of everyone else's embarrassing moments.  And contribute some of your own.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Better than paper?

You love doing the puzzle with paper and pencil, so you'll never use an app for solving...?
Me too.  Before.  But now I'm hooked.  For a lots of reasons.  Here's one that's really cool... introducing ScratchPadTM  
Those scribbles in the margins that fire off my "Aha Moments"...

Check out the video to see what I mean.
Hey - even we like to curl up in a comfortable chair with a well-sharpened #2 pencil and a fabulous Puzzle Tablet...  But take
a look -- this just might convince you.

Thanks for watching.

ACPT 2013 - look out!

Does a little bit of one's soul get imparted when autographing something?
If so, bring it on in 2013!

Armed with this newly anointed puzzle tablet, how can I lose?

Thanks to all the good-natured celebrities who stood around and signed autographs.  Be you winners, constructors, editors, hats off to you, and thanks for making crosswords even more fun for the rest of us!

(I even let Dr. Fill sign!!)
See more about ACPT 2013, including some pics, here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Infographs - why are puzzles hard/easy?

Here is a short demo comparing an easy Monday to a hard Saturday using the Crucimetrics solving app.
Please view it full screen and HD for best quality.
We believe that there are many more factors than simply time that make a puzzle easy or challenging.
And of course, a huge part of that is subject to each solver's "wheelhouse".  
Crucimetrics helps you to  visualize this, which in turn makes you a better solver.  A solving interface that will win over even diehard paper solvers lets you tag and share with your friends, and compare Instant Replays of your solves side-by-side.
So what makes a puzzle hard for you? 

NEW Puzzle Boards

My energetic and endlessly creative 88 year old Mom has been making Puzzle Boards for years, and just recently has started making them with puzzle themed fabric in addition to custom-made.
Check out this fabulous over-the-top board I commissioned to match my den!  She can make one more like this with the fabric on hand, or let her skilled eye come up with one that matches your favorite puzzle-solving nook.
(That's me in the pic - can you believe I solved today's puzzle in under 2 minutes because of this new board! ;) 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Puzzle Boards!

My energetic and endlessly creative 88 year old Mom has been making Puzzle Boards for years, and just recently has started making them with puzzle themed fabric.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A quick overview of the power of the Infographs that we are developing to help provide insight into the solving experience, helping you see where you aced the puzzle, where it slayed you, and how you stack up against your friends.

Please leave feedback for us about what you would like to see graphed!