Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hooray for Hex! (Puzzle No. 3,294)

Henry Rathvon and Emily Cox at the ACPT
photo by Nancy Shack
This week, Hot and Trazom pay tribute to Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, who together are “Hex” in Cryptic Nation.  But they hold passports from other lands too, including acrostics (where they have a twice-monthly gig in the Sunday New York Times), and straight crosswords (Boston Sunday Globe, a gig shared with another fine cryptic constructor: Henry Hook).  Cryptically, they publish a weekly block puzzle in the National Post, a monthly variety puzzle in the Wall Street Journal, and an occasional block puzzle in the Sunday Times) Splicing all those jobs together, they might be the most successful American puzzle constructors working today.

As I mentioned over at Word Salad, one of the many things that impress me about their work is their attention to detail, resulting in finely polished work.  You see it in bar cryptics with proper symmetry,  acrostics where words relating to the quotation are worked into the clue answers, and variety puzzles where the metas work like whipped cream and a cherry on an ice cream sundae.

Detractors might get on them for being too safe in their work, not pushing the limits of “American” rules like Hot and Trazom do.  But like Hot and Trazom, they know they are in business to satisfy their customers; and when you’re seen as the people who define the American cryptic style, you’re loathe to tamper with it.

In an earlier post, I shared my observations on Hex’s cluing style, which in both their cryptic and straight puzzles frequently use secondary definitions of words as a means of making things more challenging and sometimes getting the bonus of tying clues in more closely to their theme.  I think it's a compliment to their ability that I’ll find myself murmuring “now that’s a Hex clue” as I solve.

A .  This couple not only finishes each other’s sentences, they do it for a living.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate to hard

Hozom’s comment: Cryptic Royalty, in which Hot and Trazom lead three cheers for Emily and Henry.

Solution and annotation posted Monday.  Join us as always for Sunday brunch this weekend.

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