Saturday, May 4, 2013

Actuaries have more fun? (Sunday brunch: May 5, 2013)

Most people wouldn't associate the world of actuaries with something fun to do (though frankly, most people wouldn't know what an actuary is to start with).  Now could I expect an actuary to be a whiz at sudoku?  Absolutely!  But they're supposed to work with numbers, not words.

Well along comes Tom Toce to bust up all those preconceptions about the life of actuaries.  He contributes a variety cryptic to each issue of Contingencies, the magazine published by the American Academy of Actuaries.  From what I can tell, Tom comes from the Stephen Sondheim/Richard Maltby school.  The giveaway is the Sondheim quote in his instructions: "Ignore punctuation, which is designed to confuse."

I found a few inside references like "Rocky Mountain insurance company" in the sample of puzzles I solved, but they're either in the final meta or mostly Googleable so they don't get in the way of us laypeople.  The grids come in great variety, though they're not as interlocked as the very best can manage (like Maltby or Hex or Patrick Berry).  Cluing is pretty much by the book, and not too difficult.  These are good puzzles for people who've gotten the hang of cryptics and are ready for a new challenge.  If you're an experienced solver, here's a good place to go for a quick solve that's lots more interesting than the average block cryptic.

So we'll put Contingencies on the menu.  This really is a good time to be a crossword fan: there are more and more puzzles available to us every month.

The weekend's blue plate special is acrostics.  The Wall Street Journal has a Mike Shenk puzzle while
the New York Times has the regular Hex acrostic behind the paywall and Deb Amlen's column with comments from Hex.  The NYT bonus puzzle (online subscribers only) by Fred Piscop is also posted.

More comfort food?  A block cryptic by Hex in the National Post ought to hit the spot.  Falcon serves that one up for you.

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