One truly fascinating book arrived on the BEQ.com doorstop the other day: Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder's "Puzzlecraft." Its subtitle is "The Ultimate Guide On How To Construct Every Kind of Puzzle," and boy they're aren't kidding. Easy peasy stuff like word searches and connect the dots, all the way through to bat crap hard stuff like hedgehogs & worms and fences. The book is comprehensive, funny, and well-written. Heck, its example puzzles are worth the cover price alone. When I said "truly fascinating," I'm not sure I really sold how impressive this book is. Selinker's a puzzle impresario (no doubt you saw his stellar recent Kickstarter bid), and Snyders' one of my all-time favorite puzzlemakers, so I knew this book was going to rule. Let me put it this way: the first time I flipped through it, I stood in rapt silence, delicately moving the pages as if I were holding some treasure that Indiana Jones would have gone looking for. Truly crazy stuff. So yeah, this gets a huge co-sign
Now I've been making puzzles professionally for a while now, this being my eighteenth year. And yeah, I've made a healthy amount of the puzzles described in this book, typically the ones handled by Mike as he discusses a majority of the wordy puzzles. I found it intriguing because in some instances (namely crosswords and marching bands), Mike's lessons are not how I'd tackle making either puzzle, or how I'd explain to newbs how to do them. Not like there's anything wrong with that. I'm sure if we held a seance and asked the ghosts of Clarence Clemons and John Coltrane how to play the saxophone, we'd get two completely different answers, both totally correct. Still, in "Puzzlecraft" Mike tackles effortlessly page after page of some truly rule-bending variant puzzle making. Today's crossword is at least partially in homage to some of the every which way word weaving described in Chapter 2C.
The lesson almost constantly repeated throughout the book is that solvers should be having fun while doing your puzzles. Snyder takes that a step further and makes the case every puzzle should tell a story. It's truly amazing how much humanity Thomas crams into what appears to the naked eye as "just another batch of logic puzzles." I will probably never ever attempt to make anything Snyder details in the book, but don't quote me on this. Because there was a while when I said I'd never do cryptics and we all know how that turned out. Anyway, with the grace that Thomas details how he approached each puzzle, it's like Houdini ruining the trick as he doing it. That is to say: stufuckingpendous.
Buy the book. Share the puzzle. New one on Monday.