Not to be outdone by the recent New Yorker piece on cheating in bridge, FiveThirtyEight has written about allegations of plagiarism by a prominent crossword puzzle editor. Much like in the pro bridge case, an online repository of games has led to people uncovering inconsistencies in dozens of Timothy Parker's crossword puzzles that would not have been otherwise noticed.
There are two types of Parker's puzzle duplications that the database has laid bare: what I'm calling the "shady" and the "shoddy." The shady are puzzles that appeared in Universal or USA Today with themes and theme answers identical to puzzles published earlier and in separate, unrelated publications, most often The New York Times and occasionally the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. In every such case I saw - roughly 100 cases - the theme answers were in identical locations within the grid, and in many cases, the later puzzle also replicated the earlier puzzle's grid and some of its clues.
No one can solve this. Not Ken Jennings. Not Marilyn vos Savant. Not Alan Turing. Not Ada Lovelace. Not Watson. Not even Richard Feynman. (Ok, maybe Feynman.)
Update: Here's the answer to the puzzle, presumably by some time traveling super-being from the future. (via @grimmelm)
This is a surprisingly helpful activity for learning about regular expressions. (via @bdeskin)
Long-time crossword puzzle builder John Graham (aka Araucaria) is dying of esophageal cancer and used a crossword puzzle in the Guardian to reveal the news.
Above cryptic crossword No 25,842 sat a set of special instructions: "Araucaria," it said, "has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15".
Those who solved the puzzle found the answer to 18 was cancer, to 19 oesophagus, and to 13 15 palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.
Speaking from his home in Cambridgeshire, Araucaria said this particular puzzle had not taken him very long, adding that a crossword had seemed the most fitting way to make the announcement.
"It seemed the natural thing to do somehow," he said. "It just seemed right."
Over on Quartz, Zach Seward takes a neat look at the 14 year rise and fall of AOL through the zeitgeist-y lens of clues for that short, double vowel word being used in the New York Times crossword.
Mar. 29, 1998: Netcom competitor
Jun. 17, 1998: Chat room inits.
Oct. 4, 1998: Part of some E-mail addresses
On the day before the 1996 US presidential election, the NY Times ran a crossword puzzle that correctly predicted the winner.
Click through to see how they did it.
Dan Feyer can solve a NY Times crossword puzzle in as little as a minute and twenty-two seconds.
His brain is jammed with factoids: the names of songs and rock bands that lived and died before he was born, far-flung rivers and capitals, foreign sports equipment, dead astronomers, fallen monarchs, extinct cars, old movies, heroes of mythology, dusty novelists and the myriad other bevoweled wraiths that haunt the twisted minds of crossword constructors. He has learned their wily tricks and traps, like using "number" in a clue that most people would take to mean "numeral" but that really meant "more numb."
The article includes a sped-up video of Feyer solving the notoriously difficult Saturday NY Times puzzle in under six minutes.