Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mike Shenk (Sunday brunch: August 18, 2013)

Since Mike Shenk constructed the variety puzzles in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal this weekend, let’s give him his due.  Mike is the puzzle editor for the WSJ, and has done a great job there, providing the Java program.  Before that he was one of the editors of Games magazine. He’s known in the NPL as Manx.  Hot looks up to him, which is pretty high praise.

Mike is one of the founders of Puzzability: a content producer that has created puzzles appearing in places ranging from the New York Times op-ed page to Snapple bottle caps.  While they do some straight crosswords along with a lot of non-crossword puzzles, Puzzability doesn’t do many cryptics.  See a sample of their work here, and there are weekly word ladders (very nicely presented) and other puzzles at the Puzzability site.

Mike’s approach is that the value of a puzzle is in solving it: he doesn’t need to seek validation in humiliating people.  That’s good for business, I’m sure.  Clients’ customers feel good about themselves when they get the answer and associate their success with the client’s brand.  He can make puzzles for us tougher customers too though.

Shenk’s New York Times puzzle (behind the paywall) is a “Set Pieces.”  It’s a collection of anagrams rather than a crossword, and is actually a publication of a puzzle that debuted (or at least was play-tested) at the NPL con this summer (the one that Ucaoimhu set that impressive trio of cryptics for).

The Wall Street Journal puzzle is a “Marching Bands.”  Look below the fold for a hint grid, but you really shouldn’t need it, it’s an easy puzzle  Even though it was quick to do (solving was almost as fast as downloading), I enjoyed it: the quality of the fill is excellent.

Those of us who are traveling this weekend, will also have a new Harper’s puzzle (subscriber link) by Richard Maltby, but alas, Erica has not updated her Harper’s blog since May.

And of course there’s the weekly Hex cryptic in the National Post (maybe Falcon ran off and joined the circus?) and Nathan Curtis’s variety puzzle, which he calls “Whirlwind.”  The grid is similar to a Marching Bands.

Xanthippe has four(!) new Brit-cryptics for us, but no PDFs though: you’ll need to copy and print the grid and then view the clues in your browser.

Wall Street Journal hint grid below the fold.

Hint grid for Marching Bands by Mike Shenk: Wall Street Journal–August 17, 2013)

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