Monday, July 28, 2008

Please Answer Me One Question

I am not making this up. My wife and I were flipping through radio stations in the rental car and we heard this:

"Sixty-nine thousand people were killed in the Chinese earthquake. Millions of people are homeless. But there is good news: five thousand people have found Christ."
And I had thought that Weird Al Yankovic's "Why Does This Always Happen To Me?" was over the top:
I was watching my TV one night when they broke in with a special report
About some devastating earthquake in Peru.
There were thirty thousand crushed to death, even more were buried alive.
On the Richter scale it measured 8.2.

And I said, "God, please answer me one question:
Why'd they have to interrupt 'The Simpsons' just for this?"
I've heard of life imitating art, but life imitating parody? Who are these idiots? And why haven't the Christians kicked them out of the religion?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (Wrapup)

It's been fun presenting these puzzles. I'd love to hear feedback if you thought they were fun for you. If you enjoy this sort of wordplay in puzzles, I recommend you check out the NPL at

Yesterday's answer: The words LABOR TIME anagram to BALTIMORE, which is where the NPL convention will be in July, 2009. At this year's con, the Washington State krewe bid for and won the right to host the convention in Seattle in 2010. It'll be a lot of work, but we're looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#6)

Today's puzzle:

Anagram the letters in the words LABOR TIME to find out where next year's NPL convention will be.

Yesterday's answer: A 4-letter word that means OFF, THIN, or BROKE is FLAT. The "native" puzzle type of the NPL is the Flat, so called because the answer is a single, flat line of letters. Described simply, flats are poems with words omitted. The poem provides clues to guess the missing words. There are also variants such as the picture flat, the video flat, and, this year, diorama flats. The NPL's mini-sample (PDF) contains a much better description and some great example puzzles to get you started.

BTW, most of Western Kansas that we drove through to get to the con is also flat. At one point, the GPS locked onto twelve satellites at the same time. I can't recall ever seeing more than six or seven before.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#5)

Today's puzzle:

Name a 4-letter word meaning OFF, THIN, or BROKE.

Yesterday's answer: A 4-letter word that can follow HOME, END, or WORD is GAME. In addition to the scheduled activities at the con, people stay up until dawn playing after-hours games of all sorts, including many that have been created by NPL members. An alternate answer could be the 5-letter word GAMES, but plurals are considered less pure as puzzle bases if the non-plural form will work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#4)

Today's puzzle:

Find a 4-letter word that can follow HOME, END, or WORD.

Yesterday's answer: IMAGINE (John Lennon song) - remove one of the I's and rearrange => ENIGMA (a puzzle). The monthly publication of the NPL is called The Enigma.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#3)

Today's puzzle:

Take the name of a John Lennon song. Remove one letter and rearrange the rest to get a puzzle.

Yesterday's answer: GUZZLER (a car you don't want to drive today) => PUZZLER (somebody you'd find at the NPL convention). We're driving to the NPL con from Kansas, fortunately not in a gas guzzler.

This puzzle also contains TETCBN, an NPLism meaning The Error That Cannot Be Named. One of the words in the puzzle (where it said "Today's puzzle") overlapped with the answer PUZZLER. The error can't be named because simply pointing out that it exists provides a big clue as to the answer. Of course, PUZZLER is also the P in NPL, so it's a double TETCBN! Sometimes, particularly in April, errors are intentional. Here, I felt changing "Today's puzzle" to something else would have called more attention to it, so I just left it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#2)

Today's puzzle:

Take a 7-letter word for a car that you don't want to drive today. Change the first letter to get somebody you'd find at an NPL convention.

Yesterday's answer: COLOR ("hue") + ADO ("hue") => COLORADO. This year's convention is in Englewood, CO, outside Denver. There's another well-known convention in Denver this summer, the Democratic National Convention.

Note: I changed this puzzle. It was originally COLOR ("influence") + ADO ("fuss"), but I thought of the better version right after I shut down my laptop.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Puzzle A Day (#1)

The annual convention of the National Puzzlers' League is this week, so, I'm going to present a puzzle a day during the con. Here's today's puzzle:

Take a word meaning "hue" and tack on another word meaning "hue" and find out the name of the state where this year's NPL convention is.

Updated 7/9 1:42 AM (see answer tomorrow for details)

Monday, July 7, 2008

National Puzzlers' League 2008 Convention

I'm off to Denver for the 2008 convention of the National Puzzlers' League. The NPL is the world's oldest puzzle organization and both the convention and the League itself are a blast. The League is for aficionados of word puzzles and has it's own native puzzle type that you'll see nowhere else -- the flat, which is a puzzle in the form of a poem, sort of a modern version of Anglo-Saxon riddles. They're an acquired taste, but I really enjoy both solving and constructing them, though I'm much better at the latter.

In most circles, I'm one of the best, if not the best, puzzle solver and perhaps game player. But the NPL is different. I'm positively middle-of-the-road. There are NPL members who solve the Saturday crossword from the New York Times (the hardest of the week) in less time than it takes me to solve a Monday (the easiest). My record time for a Saturday (under 20 minutes, which I happen to be proud of -- can't you tell?) is slow in this crowd.

This year's convention is in Denver. It rotates around -- it was Ann Arbor last year and will be in Baltimore next year, and we're hoping to bring it to Seattle for 2010. Tour the country and solve puzzles! The convention agenda varies from year to year, but always includes healthy does of word games and puzzle competitions, and even a panel discussion of experts on a relevant topic, such as constructing cryptic crosswords or trivia quizzes, games, and TV shows (this year's topic). Plus, great people, great discussions, and after-hours games until dawn.

I do hold my own in some areas -- I'm a pretty good constructor, after all. But, overall, it's a humbling experience. And a hell of a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lines and More Lines

Yesterday, my daughter asked:

When do you have to wait in line for something you don't want?
And the answer is ...

At the airport, for security. She's only 12 and already she knows she doesn't want "security," or at least the current version of what we see at the airport. The airport was a mess yesterday -- we didn't know why. My son adds that we also had to wait in a line to wait in another line to wait in a third line just to check our bags (which was actually a fourth line). And we already had boarding passes.

After that, we went to security, where we only waited in one line before we waited in the next line. I almost had my eye medication (which I'm using every few hours) confiscated because I forgot to pull it out of my carry-on. Fortunately, I realized it before the screen even saw the bag (but too late to grab it back off the conveyor belt) and the screener agreed to re-run my bag through the scanner.

Are we really any safer because of this "security"?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Waiting in Lines

Question from my daughter:

When do you have to wait in line for something you don't want?
Answer tomorrow.