5 Questions with constructor Patrick Blindauer!

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole. (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to have Patrick Blindauer as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Any list of the top constructors in crosswords today simply has to include Patrick Blindauer. His puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the American Values Club Crossword, GAMES Magazine, and numerous other outlets, and Patrick is known for his devilishly clever themes and challenging puzzle grids.

As a regular contributor to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and co-host of this year’s Lollapuzzoola, Patrick represents both classic crossword traditions and the enterprising spirit of today’s most innovative constructors, pushing boundaries and continuing to explore just how devious and delightful crosswords can be.

Patrick was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Patrick Blindauer

1.) How did you get started with puzzles?

My parents instilled my love of puzzles and games from an early age. I remember my mom got me an educational toy called Mr. Light, and my dad had a subscription to GAMES Magazine, which I would flip through when he was done with it. I loved the visual puzzles and the contests, but I didn’t get into crosswords until many years later when I decided to give up cigarettes and take up solving.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made, simultaneously improving my health and leading me to a new hobby and eventually to a new career. After a year of solving I tried constructing, and after a year of constructing something clicked and I made my first sale (a Thursday for the NYT, which ran on 7/21/05).

2.) Whether it’s the New York Times or the American Values Club Crossword, you’ve created some truly innovative and diabolical puzzles, like your famous dollar-bill-shaped crossword (featured above) or the New York Times puzzle from last year where multiple movie titles shared boxes. Do you have any favorite puzzles or clues, either your own or constructed by others? And on the flip side, what’s your least favorite example of crosswordese?

Thanks! Those are certainly the 2 New York Times crosswords which have gotten the most attention. Other favorites which spring to mind are my 7/4/07 New York Times puzzle*, the 12/17/09 New York Times puzzle I made with Francis Heaney, and the stuff I wrote for the NY Sun when I started out, which are collected in the book Patricks’ Puzzle Pandemonium: A Cavalcade of Crossword Craziness.

[*Glenn's note: The 7/4/07 crossword was designed so that the letters "USA" could be found when certain boxes were shaded. It was no doubt a beast to construct. The 12/17/09 crossword was Noah's Ark-themed, and animal names appeared side-by-side in the grid.]

I’m also the proud poppa of 5 Puzzlefests (interconnected xword suites with a final answer), which I offer through my website, and I’ve written a bunch of puzzle books (“Crossword Word Search” and “Wide-Screen Crosswords” are two of my favorites).

There are lots of other constructors whose work I enjoy, especially those who devise novel gimmicks that really push the envelope.

[Here, Patrick stands beside fellow puzzle constructor
(and game designer!) Mike Selinker.]

My least favorite xwordese is probably LST, though I try to avoid all xwordese when I can. Coming up with a fresh SST clue is tough too, so I just avoid putting it in the grid in the first place.

[Glenn's note: LST is an abbreviation for an amphibious military craft, short for Landing Ship Tank. SST is an abbreviation for supersonic transport, like the former Concorde.]

3.) You’re also a musician, and both the best puzzles and enjoyable musical performances often have a sense of flow and elegance about them. Do you ever find yourself relying on your more puzzly skills while performing, conducting, or teaching?

Not consciously, no, but maybe I should!

4.) What’s next for Patrick Blindauer?

I actually have something very exciting to announce: I’ve been commissioned to write a 6-puzzle set for the New York Times! It will run Monday-Saturday sometime this fall, and the plan is to make it a contest, as well. I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to do something like this. Wish me luck!

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep your pencil sharp and your mind even sharper.


Many thanks to Patrick for his time. You can check out his PuzzleFests and other puzzly works on his website, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@pblindauer) to keep up on all things Patrick. (You can also learn more about the Lollapuzzoola tournament at BeMoreSmarter.com.) No doubt, Patrick will have something fiendishly fun for solvers soon.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

(More Than) 5 Questions: Lollapuzzoola edition!

Welcome to a very special edition of 5 Questions!

Usually, 5 Questions is simply that: five individual questions answered by our guest. But this time around, we’ve ditched the 5 Q format in lieu of a more relaxed, conversational interview. I hope you enjoy!


Last weekend marked the seventh edition of Lollapuzzoola, a crossword puzzle tournament held in New York City and hosted by people who love puzzles for people who love puzzles.

The brainchild of Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet, Lollapuzzoola has quickly become a beloved yearly tradition for top constructors and solvers, and I’m pleased to announce that friend of the blog and Crossword Goddess Patti Varol won the Locals division this year!

Patti is Puzzle Editor for The Uptown Puzzle Club and Acquisitions Editor for both Uptown and The Crosswords Club, as well as Assistant Editor for the Los Angeles Times Crossword.

Patti was gracious enough to take some time out to talk about her experience at Lollapuzzoola, so without further ado, let’s get to it in a very special edition of 5 Questions!


Tell us a little about Lollapuzzoola.

My favorite description of LPZ is from the organizers: it’s the best tournament held in New York on a Saturday in August.

How does it differ from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament?

It’s much more casual and laid-back, smaller, 150ish competitors versus 600ish.

All crosswords?

All crosswords. There’s usually a theme to the day — last year was birds (… I think) and this year it was baseball. There’s a meta puzzle that everyone solves to pass the time between the last puzzle and the Finals.

How many times have you participated?

This is my second year.

What do you look forward to most when heading into the tournament?

Now? Winning!

I’m kidding. I talk to crossword people all day long, but it’s always over IM or email. It’s great to see them in person.

[Tournament directors and pro puzzlers
Patrick Blindauer and Brian Cimmet]

And the crosswords at LPZ are fantastic — the clues are clever and current, the themes are fun and tricky. There is usually one puzzle with an off-the-page gimmick.

Last year there was a very fun puzzle with picture clues. This year there was one with audio clues (for the theme entries, not the whole puzzle).

How do they determine which three solvers in each division go into the final solve?

Ugh, math.

There are two divisions. Express and Local. If you’re in Express, you’re one of the solving gods – you’re in the top 20% at ACPT. Local is everyone else, the mere mortals who happen to be pretty good at crosswords.

[Glenn's note: There is also a Rookie division, a Pairs division (where you solve with a partner) and an At-Home division, where anyone can purchase the puzzles for a very reasonable $10 and compete from the comfort of home.]

Scoring is a reflection of speed and accuracy. The scoring is way simpler at LPZ than it is at ACPT, but it’s still math, so…

The way they [Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer] write it all up, you really get a sense of how playful the whole event is. They are there to have fun, and so the day is lots of fun for everyone. They are relaxed and we are relaxed… unless we have to stand on tiptoe in front of 200 people.

Oh, and you’re allowed to cheat.

You’re allowed to cheat?

They have a system with Google tickets. Once the allowed puzzle time reaches the halfway point, you can write a clue number on the back of a Google ticket, and signal to a judge. The judge comes over and writes the correct answer on your ticket. 25 points are deducted from your score, and you forfeit the 100-point perfect puzzle bonus.

But the penalty for multiple wrong letters can be worse than -25 for the ticket. I used 2 of them on puzzle 4, and I still had 6 letters wrong! That puzzle was a beast.

[Some of the trophies awarded at Lollapuzzoola 6 last year.]

So, can you take us through what it’s like to solve the final puzzle?

After everyone has solved the first five puzzles, the standings are announced and the top three in each division go into the final puzzle, which is solved on whiteboards in front of all the solvers.

When Brian Cimmet called my name for second place of the Local division, I was stunned. And then it turned out that the first place person really belonged in the Express division, so I was bumped up to first place.

They took us into this room in the back so they could set up the grids and distribute the puzzles to the crowd. Sara [Nies, ranked 47th overall, but a finalist in the Local division], Simon [McAndrews, 48th overall], and I were a blur of nervous, giggly energy, but Francis [Heaney], Jon [Delfin], and Scott [Weiss], the Express gods, were all chill.

They bring us out, and there were two immediate problems: I couldn’t get the noise-canceling headphones to stay on my head – they were too big and I was shaking so hard from nerves. And then I couldn’t really reach the top line of the dry-erase board. I was a nervous, shaking, flustered mess. We were all joking about finding me a phone book or a dictionary for me to stand on, but they couldn’t find one, and they had me test it out – I could reach, barely, on my tiptoes.

[Several solvers tackling the final puzzle
at a previous Lollapuzzoola event.]

I was on the far right of the stage. I could see Simon, but not Sara. I was shaking so hard at first that I couldn’t read the clues on the paper. And the board seemed so big and the puzzle seemed to be in German… I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and didn’t throw up on my shoes. I started solving in the lower right corner, because it was right in front of my face. Ultimately, I solved from the bottom up.

Simon finished solving first, and once he stepped away from the stage, I calmed down – I knew I couldn’t win, so I just wanted a clean grid. I slowed down, I read more carefully, I started to enjoy the puzzle. I was sure Sara had finished already, too. I finished the puzzle and started checking the grid, line by line, very carefully, and then I took a step back … and saw Sara was still solving! I turned around and took off my headset as quickly as I could, and there was this huge collective sigh of relief – Sara had only two letters left when I turned around.

My friends were on the edges of their seats, telling me to stop checking the grid and turn around. I finished a good 20 seconds ahead of her, but officially, it’s only 3 seconds because I took so damn long to check the grid. Doug [Peterson, crossword gentleman] told me later that he had been trying to get Brian and Patrick’s attention because they hadn’t noticed I was done – they were busy reviewing Simon’s grid.

Heartbreak for Simon, who finished more than a minute before me: he left a square blank and placed 3rd. But as soon as I finished, Simon thumbsed-up to me and whispered, “It’s you!” because of his wrong letter. Big smile, really gracious.

And, it turns out – had Erin [Milligan-Milburn, who has a cheating trophy named for her after winning Rookie of the Year when she wasn't a rookie] and Angela [Halsted, Locals finalist last year] remained in the Local division, it would have been an all-girls Local final! And I still would have been in first place going into the finals. How cool is that?

And I got the greatest trophy.

And a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and a puzzle book. A bunch of us agreed it would have been funnier if a dude got the bikini-clad musclewoman trophy… but I’m not giving it back.

(It didn’t sink in that I’d actually won until Oscar, Brian’s two-year-old son, handed me the musclewoman.)

After everything was over, I asked Doug, “How did this happen?” And Doug, laconic as ever, shrugged and said, “You’re good at crosswords?”

So you’ll be back next year to defend your title?

If I understand correctly, I will be in the Express division next year. But I will be there. And they just announced the date — Lollapuzzoola 8 will be on 8/8.

What advice would you give a first-time Lollapuzzoola-er?

Solve puzzles. Have fun. Stay for pizza.


Many thanks to Patti for her time and insight into the Lollapuzzoola experience. You can check out her work at The Uptown Puzzle Club, The Crosswords Club, and the Los Angeles Times Crossword. Can’t wait to see what she cooks up next.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions: Alumni Edition!

Welcome to a special edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

Normally, I’d be posting a new interview with a puzzle constructor, game designer, puzzle enthusiast, or a member of any other creative field that enriches the world in a puzzly way.

But instead, today I thought I’d reach out to our 5 Questions alumni and bring you news on what they’ve been up to since their sessions of 5 Questions.

First off, puzzle constructor Trip Payne’s new Puzzle Extravaganza launches tomorrow, August 1! You can still sign up through the end of August, and the extravaganza is only $10 (a little more for bonus puzzles).

Put your puzzly skills to the test against a topnotch constructor who has contributed to dozens of newspapers, outlets, and puzzle books, including Will Shortz’s WordPlay!

[To check out Trip's session of 5 Questions, click here!]

Next up, the dynamic duo of Aubrey and Angela, better known as The Doubleclicks, are continuing to fulfill all the promises made in the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for their newest album, Dimetrodon!

And they’re currently touring across the Midwest and East Coast! Their ambitious schedule of venues includes Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, and plenty of other cities, many that will experience the Doubleclicks live for the very first time!

In addition, they’ve just completed their Weekly Song Wednesday project, where they posted a new song and video every Wednesday for ten weeks. You can visit their YouTube page to explore all sorts of delightful content fit for puzzlers and game fans of all ages.

[To check out Angela and Aubrey's session of 5 Questions, click here!]

And lastly, I have some exciting updates from BaffleDazzle founder Rachel Happen.

After launching a tremendous Kickstarter campaign to fund BaffleDazzle’s first line of jigsaw-inspired puzzles, Rachel recently sent her Kickstarter backers an update on how the production phase is going.

So far, she’s on target to deliver all of her promised puzzles by the end of August!

As a one-woman puzzle-making machine, Rachel is exceeding expectations on all fronts, not only redesigning and improving every aspect of the looming delivery process, but designing brand new bonuses to include.

Just take a gander at these stacks of Codebreakers puzzles, freshly produced and awaiting happy homes and eager puzzlers:

[To check out Rachel's session of 5 Questions, click here! And for a spoiler-light review of the BaffleDazzle puzzle Cirkusu, click here!]

These are just a few examples of puzzly people doing amazing, entertaining, fascinating things, and I’m glad I’m lucky enough to share their work with you, my fellow puzzlers.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions with Board Game Designer Jim Deacove

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m excited to have Jim Deacove as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Jim, left, alongside his wife, Ruth.]

For more than 4 decades, Jim Deacove has been designing games for Family Pastimes, a Canadian board game company (and family business) dedicated to cooperative gaming. With over one hundred games to his credit, Jim is one of the most prolific and passionate game designers at work today.

Whether he has players teaming up to serve hungry customers (Bus Depot Diner), keep the livestock happy while predators lurk nearby (Coyote!), or pull off a flawless magic show while avoiding being trapped in their own tricks (Amazing Illusions), Jim’s games are bright, colorful, creative, and many are appropriate for all ages. And that’s not getting into his puzzlier efforts, like AARI (an acronym/abbreviation-themed scrabble variant) or Gridlock (a sliding-tile puzzle game about a monster traffic jam).

Jim was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Jim Deacove

1.) How did you first get into board games?

When I was about 5 years old, my mother says I began making up board games with paper, crayons and various items from my dad’s woodshop. My inspiration came from looking at pictures of games such as Sorry and Monopoly in what was a popular Christmas catalogue, Eaton’s. We were too poor to buy them, so I made imitations of what I thought the games were about. As they say, the rest is history.

2.) Family Pastimes is rare, in that the company focuses completely on cooperative games, whereas most board games are built around competing with other players, not working with them. How is designing cooperative games different from designing more traditional board games?

I used to design competitive games in high school, mostly strategy games, because I played Chess a lot until in university, I lost the taste for blood. I also designed competitive games on sport themes, largely for my and my friends’ enjoyment. I once designed a world political game that took three days to play and I agreed with a player who said that life was too short to spend so much time on a game, designing or playing one.

I have always found designing games to be easy, once I get in the mental space that lets the ideas flow, this is usually assisted by a warm bath or by keeping a notebook by my bedside, because some of my best ideas have come while I am asleep. I record them upon awakening.

3.) What, in your estimation, separates a great game from a run-of-the-mill game?

Probably time. Some games hold up, others don’t and it is difficult to judge even then, because what is one person’s run-of-the-mill is another person’s great game. But even time is suspect. I know this will enrage some folks, but Chess has held the interest of humans for a long time and could be described as a great game, while Checkers has also held up, but personally I think Checkers is a run-of-the-mill game.

4.) What’s next for Jim Deacove and Family Pastimes?

I thought of retiring and taking up other pursuits that have been just a hobby up to now — cartooning, jazz drumming, oil painting, running a live theatre, finishing a variety of writing projects, etc. — but the game ideas keep on coming. The real world is so full of inspiring themes. For example, one of my new designs, Moon Mission, was inspired by the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars and witnessing the expressions of joy in the NASA Control Room when it happened. Who says a collaborative effort can’t be exciting?

My plan is to keep on going with new designs. I can’t help it. It’s my work. As I say to folks who chide me saying, “You have to start getting out more. You are 75 years old and your expiry date is nearing.” Hey, I reply, never mind the expiry date, I still have room on my “Best Before” date.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make cooperative games. Please. We have enough of the other game experience. And, it’s selfish, I know, but I always enjoy playing someone else’s cooperative game for a change.

Oh, and keep your day job, and avoid having a garage, because that is where you will end up storing unsold cartons of your game.


Many thanks to Jim for his time. Check out Jim’s library of cooperative board games at Family Pastimes. I can’t wait to see what he cooks up next.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions with Constructor Trip Payne

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m excited to have Trip Payne as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

A freelance puzzle constructor for over twenty years, Trip Payne is one of the most prolific and respected names in puzzles. A multi-time champion at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, he’s been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Uptown Crossword Club, GAMES Magazine, Will Shortz’s WordPlay, and numerous other outlets.

On August 1, he’s launching his latest Puzzle Extravaganza, a collection of a dozen different puzzles (plus a special metapuzzle) for only $10! Previous extravaganzas have featured themes like the 2011-2012 television season and the Man of Steel himself, Superman, but this year’s theme is a closely guarded secret! Check out the details here, including an offer for three bonus crosswords!

Trip was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Trip Payne

1.) How did you get started with puzzles?

As a very young child, I was attracted to the black-and-white crossword patterns, and my parents noticed that interest and bought me children’s puzzle books. I was always into riddles, magic, games — everything sort of related to puzzles.

Eventually I started coming up with puzzles for my elementary and junior high school newspapers, and when I was 15 I had my first puzzle published nationally in GAMES Magazine.

2.) What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? What do you most enjoy — or try hardest to avoid — when constructing your own?

In terms of crosswords, my #1 rule has always been: It’s All About The Fill. Of course you want a great theme and clever clues, but the second you resort to weak entries, you’ve lost my interest. A lot of people are willing to “justify” weak entries because they’re “necessary” to pull off a wide-open grid or an ambitious theme; I don’t agree with that. With enough work, and perhaps a willingness to pull back a little from the original concept, you can pretty much always avoid poor fill.

Look at Patrick Berry: his themes are great, and you’d have to inspect his puzzles with a microscope to find a weak entry anywhere. That’s not magic — he just has high standards and a willingness to put in the work to make his puzzles as good as they can be.

A great puzzle is one that gives a satisfying “a-ha” at some point, that makes the solver glad that they’ve invested the time with it.  In a logic puzzle, it may be some clever leap that has to be taken; in a word puzzle, it may be an interesting anagram or misleading clue; it may be on a larger scale, as when you discover how the answers to various puzzles interact to solve an overall “metapuzzle.” 

3.) You’re a three-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champ and a perennial top 10 finisher. How does tournament solving differ from regular solving, and do you think your experiences with game show environments (like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Million Dollar Password, and Scrabble Showdown ) helped you thrive in the ACPT?

Well, not perennial, since I retired in 2011 (though I did compete one final time in Lollapuzzoola in 2013). My game show work all came after my ACPT championships, so there was no real connection there. But I do think that the fact that I was a professional puzzlemaker before I started competing in puzzle tournaments helped me; for one thing, you get a sense of letter patterns and a feel for how a puzzle constructor might have filled a corner.

4.) What’s next for Trip Payne?

I’m currently editing the Daily Celebrity Crossword for PuzzleSocial, and I have a few other regular assignments, such as the “wordoku” in TV Guide and my themeless crosswords for the Washington Post Puzzler.

I plan to continue making my annual extravaganzas and hope to completely overhaul my website, tripleplaypuzzles.com, within the year. And I also hope to continue doing work writing and researching for TV game shows, and perhaps pitching my own game show ideas to producers.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Enjoy the puzzles that you love, but experiment: there are all sorts of great innovative puzzles out there, and you might be surprised what you end up enjoying.

Also, buy my puzzle extravaganza!


Many thanks to Trip for his time. Check out his website for links to all his puzzly endeavors, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@PuzzleTrip) for the latest updates on his many irons in the fire! Can’t wait to see what puzzle fun he conjures next.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions with Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Brendan Emmett Quigley as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

A professional puzzle constructor for almost 20 years, Brendan is one of the top names when it comes to crosswords with strong craftsmanship and clever cluing. One of the most prolific contributors to The New York Times Crossword in the modern era, his puzzles have appeared everywhere from GAMES Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to Wired.com and The Crosswords Club.

In addition to the two puzzles he constructs every week for his website, he’s created many puzzle books of his own, and contributed puzzles to an American Red Cross fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy victims. (He also masterminded Puzzle #5 at this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the puzzle only a few dozen solvers managed to conquer in the time allotted.)

Brendan was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Brendan Emmett Quigley

1.) How did you get started with puzzles?

I started making puzzles at a very early age. In Kindergarten art class, specifically. We were given 11×17 sheets of paper and told we could draw anything. I drew mazes. Shortly after that, I realized I could make the puzzles more complicated if I eschewed crayons and used finely sharpened pencils. When I discovered GAMES Magazine, sometime in second grade, I was hooked and became a puzzler for life.

I didn’t get into crosswords until much later. It was a way to while away the hours at a miserable summer job in 1995. After a whole summer of dutifully attempting (and not necessarily succeeding) at solving the Times crossword, I was determined to make and sell one. Which I did by January of 1996. I haven’t stopped since.

2.) What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? (Other than your signature knack for stacking long entries.) What do you most enjoy — or most commonly avoid — when constructing your own? What do you think is the most common pitfall of constructors just starting out?

A good original and hopefully funny theme is all you need to make a great puzzle.

The most common pitfall for newbies is unoriginal themes, or ones that don’t employ enough wordplay. The English language is full of nuances, we should exploit them.

[Check out Brendan's latest collection, Sit & Solve® Marching Bands!
For more information on marching band puzzles, click here!]

3.) Will Shortz has credited you with bringing some hipness to the New York Times Crossword with your cluing and entry-word choices. Do you have any favorite clues or entries that have appeared there, either in your puzzles or puzzles by other constructors?

Mike Shenk once wrote the clue “Strips in a club” for BACON, and well, that’s a classic.

4.) What’s next for Brendan Emmett Quigley?

I think I’m going to have a beer.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t do drugs. Be drugs.


Many thanks to Brendan for his time. Check out his website for twice-weekly puzzles, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@fleetwoodwack) for updates on all things Quigley. I look forward to solving whatever he cooks up next.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!