Writers in the Park – a group categories puzzle

Yesterday I was privileged to spend an hour with the talented up and coming writers and puzzlers. I ran a puzzle workshop at St. Louis Writer’s Guild annual Writers in the Park event.

To begin the event the group created a community categories puzzle and here it is. Using the initial letters from the wolf can you fit in one answer for each category?


Here’s a link to the answers the group chose – yours may differ.

Categories in the Park answers

If you would like me to come to your classroom, scout troop, homeschool group or anything else, let me know. I run puzzle making workshops and puzzle hunts.

Posted in Puzzles | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Merl Reagle

Taking a break from our regular Puzzler’s Wednesday feature this week to remember Merl Reagle who was lost to the puzzle world  on Saturday in Tampa Fla.

Read the NY Times obituary of this very special puzzler here.

RIP Merl.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Puzzle #49: Freestyle 17


Puzzle in honor of Merl Reagle – enjoy!

Originally posted on The Grid Kid:

Puzzle #49: “Freestyle 17”

Difficulty: HARD…but the payoff should be nice

Downloads:     PUZ      PDF     Last Week’s Solution

Happy TUESDAY, everyone–

Forgive the almost-24-hour delay; I actually had a puzzle ready as normal, but decided to postpone it to this coming week. That’s right: the puzzle that you’re solving today was not part of the initial plan…in fact, it was only just conceived in the wee hours of these past two days. It may appear to be a 72-word freestyle, but you may notice that there are a few odd pieces–compromises, perhaps–in the fill. Could this mean that there is a veiled theme lurking in the grid? That’s for you all to find out! This took me many, many iterations to fully flesh out, and if I may say, the final result is one of my favorite puzzles I’ve ever made. May you enjoy solving it as…

View original 18 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Puzzler’s Wednesday – Nathan Curtis


  1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

I’m a recovering mathematician and composer with a nasty habit of solving and writing hard puzzles.

  1. When did you start solving and making puzzles?

I started solving casually by helping my parents finish the Sunday crossword in the Washington Post. Then when I was in college, I saw a link to the MIT Mystery Hunt from a friend’s web page. I had no idea how to solve any of the puzzles, but it looked like the best thing ever. I made it to my first Mystery Hunt in 2003 and got hooked.

As a constructor, I started out writing warm-up puzzles for my Mystery Hunt team in 2006 or so. Again, it was a casual thing for a while, until 2011, when I decided to try to write a puzzle a day for the month of June. After that, I started posting puzzles to my website on a regular basis. I got my first commercially published puzzles in the sadly short-lived Will Shortz’s WordPlay, and when that venture folded, I decided to keep going on my own.

  1. What is your favorite kind of puzzle to solve/create?

Oh, so many possible answers! I love solving puzzle hunts of all types: the MIT Mystery Hunt, DASH, BAPHL, P&A Magazine, and so on. But if I had to pick a single type, I’d probably go with variety cryptics. Or metapuzzles.

In constructing, I have gravitated towards variety crosswords. Pathfinder is probably my go-to puzzle type at this point, but I also love the mind-bending challenge of putting together a Some Assembly Required.

  1. Tell us a little bit about Tortoiseshell Studio?

Well, Tortoiseshell Studio started off as Tortoiseshell Music, when I was working as a freelance composer. As I said earlier, I started posting puzzles to my site in 2011, and soon I realized I was having more enjoyment and success writing puzzles than I was writing music. So, since music was no longer the primary focus of my creative energy, I relaunched the site as Tortoiseshell Studio earlier this year. At the same time, I started offering my puzzles through Patreon, which has been quite rewarding.

The name stems from my nickname “Tortoise,” which is a weak rhyme on my last name. I have adopted this nickname in many different guises: as a math teacher at a summer program, as a composer, and as my nom in the National Puzzlers’ League. I have come to identify with the tortoise in some ways: shy and retiring, apt to retreat into my shell when threatened, but persistently plodding.

  1. A cryptic clue that always stayed with you?

Hidden assassin in Japan! (5)*

  1. Favorite constructor?

I’m a big fan of the folks writing puzzles for the Wall Street Journal: Mike Shenk, Patrick Berry, and Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. I also love Kevin Wald’s ability to write a cryptic for any occasion.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not doing puzzles?

When I’m not doing puzzles? I guess that happens sometimes…I was a musician before I was a puzzler, and that’s still important to me. Primarily contemporary classical and jazz, but lots of other genres too. I don’t perform as often as I used to, but I still enjoy that from time to time; my instruments include bass trombone, piano, and clarinet. I’m eclectic.

  1. If you could have dinner with one famous person who would choose?

If we restrict it to living people, I’d say Stephen Sondheim. I’m a fan of his shows, and I’d love to ask him about his role in the early history of cryptic crosswords and puzzle hunts in America.

  1. If you had a superpower what would it be?

Hmm. If I did have a superpower, it would probably be the ability to learn things quickly. If I could have a superpower, I’d go for the ability to stop time. I always wanted more hours in the day.

  1. What’s your personal motto?

I’m not sure I have a motto, but I strive to be compassionate, and to constantly improve.

*Answer: NINJA. I’m a big sucker good for &lit clues. This one is from “Inner Tube,” a puzzle by Roger Barkan, Dan Katz, and Chris Morse, from the 2000 MIT Mystery Hunt.

You can find a sampling of Nathan’s puzzles at tortoiseshellstudio.com/puzzles, and if you like what you see there, check out www.patreon.com/nathancurtis for his weekly puzzle packs.

Posted in Puzzler's Wednesday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Puzzler’s Wednesday – Heidi Schroeder


1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence
I am peace-loving, more than a bit self-indulgent, and an eternal optimist.
2. How long have you been setting crosswords?
I created a handful of puzzles back in the late 1990s. My interest has been rekindled via the CCS and 1ACross groups!
3. Do you like to set / solve /do both?
I like both, but I most love the challenge of crafting a good clue.
4. Who’s your favorite setter/publication?
My gold standard would be the American-style cryptics by Hex (Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon), who have published in major US publications over the years.
5. One clue that has always stayed with you
Sorry to say, my long-term memory fails me. This fairly recent clue by Martin DeMello pleased me immensely: Imaginary childhood? (7) *
6. Your favorite place
The Hawaiian Islands, my birthplace and true home.
7. Your favorite movie
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
8. Your favorite person
I am a big fan of my generous and tolerant husband, Fred.
9. Something you love other than crosswords
I have been studying traditional hula for about ten years. It brings me great joy!
10. Something you believe in / your motto
I believe in looking outward, forward, and upward. Truly, there is magic out there!

Heidi is an admin in both the Cryptic Crossword Society and 1 Across on Facebook. She lives in Hawaii with her husband, Fred, and her kitty, Hoagy.


Want to solve a puzzle by Heidi?

Click here to solve the cryptic crossword she created for the first anniversary of the Facebook group, 1 Across.


Posted in Puzzler's Wednesday | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Puzzler’s Wednesday – Joey Kupfer


Welcome to week two of Puzzler’s Wednesday. Today I’m happy to welcome my son Joey Kupfer who collaborated with me in the creation of Paws 4 Logic and is also the inspiration behind the animagus kangaroo, Joey Marks in P.A.W.S.

  1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

I am weird, smart, and awesome.

  1. When did you start solving and making puzzles?

I don’t know  exactly when, but probably a few years ago.

  1. What is your favorite kind of puzzle?

Probably Logic Problems.

  1. Which are your favorite puzzles in Paws4Logic?

I liked making the math one (Do the Math), it was cool. I also liked making the planet world cup one (Galaxy Cup), which is a different type of logic problem.

  1. What’s your favorite food?

Macaroni and Cheese

  1. What’s your favorite color?


  1. What do you like to do when you’re not doing puzzles?

I like to play games on the computer like Minecraft.

  1. What’s your favorite school subject?


  1. If you had a superpower what would it be?

The power to answer this question. I know its an amazing power that nobody else has. (Maybe also that I’m only one that’s being asked this question as the 9th Question on a document named “Questions for Joey,” but hey. It’s my power so don’t ask any questions about it. Period.

10. Can you share one of your puzzles with us, Joey?

Sure, this is an early puzzle in Paws 4 Logic. It’s about a bunch of apprentice witches studying for their final spelling test. Click the witch to download the puzzle.


And pick up a copy of Paws 4 Logic today to solve all of mine and Joey’s puzzles!


Posted in Interviews, Logic, Puzzles | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Puzzler’s Wednesday – Debbie Manber Kupfer (AKA Paws)

Me with P4L

Hello everyone and welcome to our first Puzzler’s Wednesday. Each Wednesday I’m going to highlight a different puzzler. So let’s start off with a little about me.

  1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

Crazy writer, puzzle maker, cat lover, and tea drinker!

  1. How long have you been setting crosswords?

I’ve been setting all kinds of puzzles (not just crosswords) for around 18 years.

  1. Do you like to set / solve /do both

Definitely both. You can’t be a good writer without also being a wide reader and the same is true for puzzles, the more you solve, the better your puzzles and clues become.

  1. Who’s your favorite setter/publication

I have a fondness for Hex (Cox and Rathvon) and Patrick Berry.

  1. One cryptic clue that has always stayed with you

Mad passionate lovers (7)*

  1. Your favorite place

New York

  1. Your favorite movie

Blazing Saddles

  1. Your favorite person

The late and great Douglas Adams.

  1. Something you love other than crosswords

Books – particular fantasy and sci-fi

  1. Something you believe in / your motto

With enough tea and dark chocolate you can accomplish anything!


This interview originally appeared in the Souvenir puzzle collection put together to celebrate the one year anniversary of 1ACross on Facebook.

If you haven’t already pick up a copy of Paws 4 Logic today. 37 challenging puzzles from Debbie and her son, Joey.


*(dd – BONKERS – I think it was originally in the Telegraph.)

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments