If you haven't seen the YouTube episodes of "Crossword Race," let me tell you you're missing out on some high-concept puzzle comedy. Granted, that market for high-concept puzzle comedy is pretty specific, but still. In each clip, layman solver/occasional constructor Alex Boisvert challenges legend Tyler Hinman to a speed-solving competition. Only Tyler is given substantial handicaps. To wit:
- Tyler had to enter the answers in one grid backwards.
- He had to solve another as a diagramless.
- Random words in the clues were swapped out for the otherwise meaningless "turtle".
- Clues were translated into Korean and back again.
- And lastly, random clues were substituted with rhymes.
And now for the electrifying conclusion: Alex challenged Tyler to a puzzle that Mr. Boisvert himself wrote. He asked me to post the puzzle here, which I have above. (Oh, and while I'm here, I'd like to thank Alex's daughter Charlotte for that lovely candid shot of the author that I've posted as well.) When you're done with the puzzle, click here to see how the race turned out.
Alex took a little bit of time out of his busy to day to answer some questions, and this is how it went down.
BEQ: What was the idea behind the Crossword Race?
Alex: I actually don't remember! I guess I thought it might be entertaining to show Tyler getting frustrated with insane constraints on his puzzle-solving, and then having him beat me (or come close) anyway. I also thought they would be fun to make (and they have been!). There isn't a whole lot of crossword presence on YouTube -- maybe this will start to change that.
BEQ: I bet when you were setting "Crossword Race" up, you probably felt resolving one of your own puzzles the only realistic shot you had of beating Tyler.
Alex: I definitely thought it was my best shot, because, I mean, come on! I thought I had a reasonable shot at some of the others too, of course, but it turns out Tyler is really, really good at this kind of thing.
BEQ: Surely you've improved after this series.
Alex: I learned a lot about his puzzle-solving approach from doing this. I don't think he ever reads the whole clues, instead looking for keywords in the clues. And he's obviously done enough puzzles that those keywords quickly translate into answers. Heck, on the turtle puzzle, he immediately (and correctly!) filled in AETNA for the clue [Turtle turtle in Hartford]. I mean, come on, how am I going to compete with that?
BEQ: Hey, when you made another BEQ guest puz, it, too, was about video games. Coincidence?
Alex: Yeah, let's go with coincidence. Neither of these puzzles is publishable in a traditional venue, so there's a little bit of selection bias in the puzzles I send you. If I end up sending you a third video game-themed puzzle, I think we can stop calling it a coincidence.