Monthly Archives: August 2015

Archive of posts published in the specified Month

Written on Aug, 30, 2015 by in , | 12 Comments.

UPDATE, 9/1/15: When I first published the puzzle, I refrained from providing more explicit meta instructions, but I am changing that now. The answer to this meta is a quotation.


NOTE: This meta puzzle includes a visual element that is not available in the electronic format. I recommend that you print out the PDF, or at least look at it; it will make solving the meta easier.
Devil Cross PUZ button    Devil Cross PDF button    Devil Cross Spice Rating Super Spicy Header

(Photo credit: John Pendygraft for The Washington Post)

(Photo credit: John Pendygraft for The Washington Post)


Over the past week I’ve seen some very lovely and heartfelt obituaries and tributes to the late, great Merl Reagle. Several of my own puzzle colleagues have dropped references to Merl in recent clues, and some have even created entire tribute puzzles of their own. It’s clear that he was a remarkable man who touched many, many people’s lives in a profound way that words can’t begin to describe. I know he’s had a big influence on my own work, even though I did not know him very well personally.

If you’ve seen the movie Wordplay or ever met him at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, you knew he had a real penchant for anagramming people’s names on the spot. He didn’t need any software or any references for that; he just did it in his head, because that’s how creative and ingenious he was with words. I never forgot how easy he made it look creating a crossword by hand in Wordplay — I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could do THAT?” Fast-forward nine years later and I spoke to him in person only for the first time at the ACPT last March, and he said he recognized my name as an independent puzzle constructor. It was a small gesture, but to hear such a giant in the crossword business say that he knew who I was upon meeting him still felt pretty amazing. Anyway, he didn’t offer up any anagram of my name at the time. I like to think that EVAN BIRNHOLZ may have truly stumped him on the anagram front. But I also feel pretty confident that if I directly challenged him on it and gave him a minute or two, he’d have come up with one.

Since his untimely passing, it dawned on me that my greatest regret as a crossword constructor is that I did not get to know Merl as well as I could have on a personal level while I still had the chance. So now, there’s only one way I know how to get to know him better: continue to make crosswords. This Sunday-sized puzzle is my way of paying tribute to the man. It’s a tough puzzle and has a meta to boot, but don’t worry: the Super-Spicy rating is just for the crossword itself. The meta is (hopefully) easier.

The answer to this meta is a quotation. Please send your answer to me ( by 8 pm ET on Friday, September 11. It’s a big puzzle, so I’m giving you extra time to work on it. Only one answer per entrant, please — so make sure you’ve got it right before hitting “Send.” One random winner will get a Merl Reagle puzzle book of your choice. And as I said in the note at the top of this post, I highly recommend checking out the PDF and printing it out.

Thanks again for your patience while I worked overtime on this. This was by far the biggest constructing challenge I’ve ever taken on for a single puzzle — building the grid, editing the clues, typesetting it, re-editing the clues, and re-re-re-re-editing the clues all took a long time, and I wanted to get it right. I’m hoping that the wait and the payoff will have been worth it.

Finally, a programming note: there will be no Devil Cross puzzle next week on September 5. I will be going on a camping trip for most of next week, and after what I put myself through to create this puzzle, I’m relieved to give myself a break.

Enjoy the puzzle — this one’s for you, Merl.

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Written on Aug, 29, 2015 by in | 4 Comments.

Hey folks,

My apologies, but I have to postpone publication of my latest puzzle until sometime later tonight. I hesitate to put an exact time down because I don’t want to set the schedule, and then have some other complication come up. One of my excuses is that I was a groomsman at a friend’s wedding yesterday, and got really busy with the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, and the actual wedding. Another excuse has to deal with the puzzle itself, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, let’s just say it was…..not the easiest crossword to put together.

In the meantime, here are some other items of note:

1) I wrote today’s New York Times puzzle. Hope you enjoy it! It sucks that I couldn’t have Puzzle #61 ready at the same time, but well, see Excuses above.

2) The talented artist Hayley Gold created a comic for my NYT puzzle — that is seriously cool. She’s got a great sense of humor and does great drawings to boot. Obviously, you should solve the puzzle first so as not to get spoilers.

Speaking of Hayley, she has an important announcement: she used to receive advance copies of the NYT puzzle early enough so that she could publish her comic on the same day of crossword publication. That is no longer the case, and so any NYT comics she creates will be published on a week-long delay by necessity. Personally, I think her creativity and steady dedication to her comics warrants her being able to see the puzzles early when a couple of other puzzle blogs receive advance copies themselves. But my opinions aside, she has a new plan that she’d like to try out:

First, the delayed comics will be coming out every Sunday/Monday starting the 2nd week in September, where she’ll choose the puzzle herself and will still be a free comic. For a fee, she will allow readers to choose the puzzle from the past week for which they want her to create a comic.  If you’d like Hayley to do a comic on a classic or indie puzzle, it can be done as a commission.  Finally, Hayley asks that everyone give the new format a chance and give her feed back via email ( to let her know if they feel it still works. I highly recommend supporting her in whatever way you can.

That’s all for now. Again, I’m sorry for being late this time on my Devil Cross puzzle. I’ll try to get it up as soon as I can.

Update I, 8/29/15 @ 11:40 pm ET: Still working on it, friends. The clues are finished, but it still needs typesetting. My guess is sometime early Sunday morning will be a more realistic posting time. Again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience. 

Update II, 8/30/15 @ 10 am ET: Almost done — just writing up the blog post. Thanks so much for bearing with me.

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