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General Discussion.
2/27/2009 10:44:47 PM

Posts: 17
I hope that you will announce some of the trends in the survey which I've seen in a number of your publications recently. One of the things I hope some of your subscribers and customers would like to see is some harder crossword magazines within the Penny Press family. There are a disproportionate number of EASY crosswords. Even a mixture of medium and hard would be nice, but those easy puzzles get old too fast.

3/3/2009 12:29:50 PM

The Editors
The Editors
Posts: 118
Thanks again for your post! We can see from your post in another thread that you’re already familiar with Good Time Crosswords. If you’re looking for more even more challenging crosswords in the Penny Press family, you might also want to check out Classic Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords:

Classic Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords features Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert crosswords.

The Editors

6/5/2009 4:14:47 PM

Posts: 30
I think it is great the the editors are asking for feedback, so I thought I would give some of mine.

First regarding the Dell vs. Penny Press discussion, I like both! The both have some unique qualities that make them...well...unique. Dell does seem to have more variety with the puzzles (with slightly better crosswords) and I have to admit I really like that Dell publishes letters to the editor, I always enjoy reading them. Penny Press has always concentrated more on providing less flash and more of the puzzles I really like, and that has always given them a slight edge for me. Also I like the bigger issues PP provides from time to time. As for the paper...WAY to much discussion there...the magazines are only 4 bucks a piece...I would rather keep the price down and keep the current quality.

As to which publications I purchase...I actually purchase all titles of variety and crossword with variety for both brands. I travel extensively for work (usually 48/52 weeks a year) and use your publications as a source of great enjoyment. I don't subscribe for the reason that I never know exactly where I will be from month to month, so my purchases are usually at the airport; although it would benefit me from a cost perspective if I did subscribe. I purchase all of the levels from "Fast N' Easy" to Masters. I am not too proud to admit that I don't always get all of the higher level puzzles and the easy ones are a nice diversion.

Puzzles I like:

Penny Press:

Alphabet Soup
Anagram Magic Squares
Brick by Brick
Crytograms and Crypto Families
Codewords (probably my favorite)
Places, Please
Word Game Puzzles

(and yes I will admit to always liking Match-Up and Simon Says)


Cryptograms and Crypto Quizzes

Puzzles I don't do:

Corss Sums
Bible Corsswords
Any of the mazes
Any of the Skill-O-Grams in either publications

Logic problems I do depending on the difficulty level. Some of them are too least for me. As for the never-ending Suduko debate.....I can take them or leave them. They are fun and I do most of them, but if I never saw another one, I would be fine.

I love that the site has daily puzzles and I usually print them out and do them. I would seriously consider a subscription to an on-line version of a magazine.

My suggestions??

1. I would love a digest size variety magazine. I used to remember one, but that seems long gone.
2. I love your value packs. I have ordered them even though I buy most of case I missed issues. Some type of custom orders would be nice..even if the price is higher.
3. Spread apart the crostic puzzles! I can't understand why in both publications you don't do that!
4. Continue with the great work you guys do. You usually hit the target 100% of the time. Great job.

Signed a very satisfied customer....

6/5/2009 9:29:29 PM

Posts: 712
Hi PuzzleFan!

You say you like Brick by Brick puzzles but don't do Diagramless [Crosswords].

I enjoy Brick by Brick, too, but found that, in time, as I became more proficient, I was consulting the 'bricks' less and less. Now I do them similarly to Diagramless (which I like solving also), and rarely look at the 'bricks'.

You might want to try this and perhaps grow to like Diagramless Crosswords. Just a thought.


6/8/2009 1:18:12 AM

Posts: 30
Thanks for the advice Frances. I will give it a try. I believe you said you construct puzzles in a previous post. I am curious as to how you got started, and what your process is. I admire your ability. As I said before, I greatly enjoy soving and the hobby relaxes me. I personally can't imagine constructing, but I am glad there are people out there who do.

6/8/2009 3:41:01 PM

Posts: 712
Hi PuzzleFan,

Thanks for your interest in my puzzlemaking.

My mother introduced me to puzzles. Her favorites were crosswords and what years ago Official called Crosspatches (Frameworks to Penny Press, Kriss Kross to Dell.) Then I discovered there were magazines with all kinds of puzzles in them: variety! I was hooked right away.

It was on a whim that I made a puzzle in 1979 and sent it in to a magazine. They accepted it! I got a check for a whopping $3! And so started a new hobby for me---one that combined the fun of puzzles and my love of words. (I can lose track of time reading the dictionary. "Now, what was I supposed to be looking up?")

When making a puzzle, first I study previous published examples of it. How difficult should it be? If it has clues, are they short, long, easy, hard? If the word count varies, what seems to be the range of the count? What must stay constant, and what can I change at my discretion? Even with puzzles I've made many times, occasionally I'll wonder something new about them. I try to figure out most of it myself---but if I'm stumped, I'll ask an editor for clarification.

Then, I have a go at it. ( How I exactly construct a specific puzzle contains what I guess you'd call my 'tricks of the trade,' and I prefer to keep mum on that.) When it seems satisfactorily done, it's time to test-solve. Every puzzle has to be checked to make sure it's solvable; and, if it is required, has only one solution.

Next, it's typed up (neatly) with any hand drawing, lettering, or artwork added. Those with static diagrams, such as Masterwords, are started with a Xerox of an empty diagram to shorten my hand work. Empty diagrams or unsolved grids are sent to the editors so they can be test-solved at Penny Press, too. The answer, of course, is provided. Then, time to proofread. And if all appears good, off they're mailed.

Now, just sit back and wait 1 to 6 or 7 years, and when the puzzle gets published, I get paid. Unless I goofed it up in some way. In which case, it's sent back to me to fix.

By the way, the longest lag time between a puzzle I've sent in and it's published date was--------15 years, 2 months! The quickest was 6 months, but that's the exception.

As a constructor, I toil alone and have had no contact with other constructors, or those who solve my puzzles. Editorial contact is minimal. So, it was nice to yak about it with you, PuzzleFan (and you, too, Zotmeister.)


6/9/2009 12:10:17 AM

Posts: 293
Frances, I've been constructing variety puzzles since the late 1990s, and there's at least one other constructor on this forum. For me, the interval between submission and payment has ranged from 4 or 5 months to about 10 years. As "a whopping $3" hasn't changed much, I limit myself now to a few kinds of puzzles, mostly ones featuring words or logic, although I also made up Stepping Stones and continue to provide it.

6/9/2009 12:44:02 PM

Posts: 712
Hi Semipro,

Yes, I remember a post of yours last year about puzzlemaking. I just wasn't sure what was appropriate to discuss with you on a forum for solvers.
Wish we had one for constructors (with specs!). But, what the hey---here we are.

You're sure right about the low payment. Got to think of it just as a hobby that pays a little, and do it for fun.

Oh, and, 4 months. Not bad.
<em>edited by Frances on 6/19/2009</em>

6/11/2009 12:37:39 PM

Posts: 30
Thanks for the insight into your world, Frances! it is almost like meeting a celebrity!

The next time I do a Framework or a Secret Word, I will think of you. I am at the airport now and just started a new issue of "Family VP&G". Maybe I will encouter your work.

Keep on going with your work. You have many appreciative fans.

6/11/2009 6:03:52 PM

Posts: 712
Hi PuzzleFan,

Well, you certainly made my day---probably my week! Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.

If you are working on either the September issue of Family Variety Puzzles & Games or the August issue of Family Variety Puzzles & Games Plus Crosswords, I'll be able to tell you exactly which puzzles are mine, if you are interested.

Happy solving!

6/12/2009 1:10:01 PM

Posts: 25
I was debating whether or not to ask Frances privately about puzzlesmithing experiences, but I see someone has already beaten me to it publicly! For those who don't know, I am also a puzzlesmith; I specialize in new puzzle designs. I've been making puzzles as a hobby ever since I was a kid, but it took the Internet (and my LiveJournal) for me to be discovered. I've never actually submitted puzzles to any magazines (I don't even know how...), but they find their way in anyhow. I make a lot more than $3 a puzzle, but I only get one or two puzzles contracted a year, so I probably make a lot less doing it than, well, anyone who makes puzzles for magazines. I've been wondering if I should try to diversify (or undiversify, depending on the puzzles I make) and make puzzle construction a regular affair/source of (little) income for myself, or stick to just the creative ideals.

I'm not even sure there IS a puzzlesmithing forum on the Internet. Perhaps I should talk to some people and see if one can be made. What I'd REALLY like to see is a non-word-puzzle version of the NPL... you know, something for the WPC crowd....

@PuzzleFan: I actually like how the Crostics are all bunched together - it makes it easier to tear them out and hand them all to my mother, who actually likes to suffer the accursed things. smile But I see your point.

@Frances: Crosspatches! I remember that name fondly - it was my favorite. (I recently learned it was a pun: a 'crosspatch' is a crotchety old person.) I still have a mag of those from 1989 (!); there's a Five-Letter Web in there that I've spent hours on and still have only a single letter filled in to show for it. (But BOY have I proven that letter!) Anyway, I'd certainly love to know if any Perfect Fit puzzles you've made are on the newsstand now. - ZM

Darkness lessons learned/Avenging golden tresses/Yellow flower blooms
- "(dedicated to Millia Rage)", original haiku

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