Hello. I appreciate the fact that, in this world of aggregators and social media, you have taken the time to visit an actual website. Mine isn’t much at the moment, but it’s home. And it is a convenient place for me to direct your attention to some entertainments which I have produced or have helped to produce, some of which you might feel inspired to pay money for, and some of which are free from any inducements regarding matters financial. Starting with the former category, here are some things of which you might wish to be aware:
- I contribute puzzles regularly to the posh-yet-pottymouthed American Values Club Crossword (formerly the Onion AV Club Crossword, now available via subscription), which also features many other fine constructors besides me, some of whom I exchange daily IMs with about theme entries and 90s alternative rock reissues (okay, that’s really just Brendan).
- You like puzzle books? Because, friend, I tell you what: I write a lot of those. Some of my most recent ones (and some older ones that I’m particularly fond of) include Brain Games for Word Nerds, Sudoku in Space, Trivial Pursuit Crosswords, Boss Lady Word Search Puzzles, and more.
- Also my day job is editing puzzle books for Puzzlewright Press, and here are some books that I’ve edited which you would be flat-out crazy not to own: Patrick Berry’s Puzzle Masterpieces; Thomas Snyder and Wei-Hwa Huang’s Mutant Sudoku and Tight Fit Sudoku; Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder’s Puzzlecraft; Todd McClary and Patrick Berry’s Crowd-Pleasing Puzzles; and others which people will probably be offended I left off, but frankly it’s time I got back to talking about me.
- Custom puzzles: I will totally write those for you for money. I’ve been commissioned to write a wedding proposal puzzle, a wedding ceremony puzzle, and if you want one, I’ll write a serving-divorce-papers puzzle, because at that point you could probably stand to lighten the mood. How much? Depends! But probably more than your first guess. For instance, when Thomas Dolby was looking for someone to write a Thomas Dolby-themed puzzle, his first guess was “nothing” (as was his last guess). That was much, much too low! Anyway, e-mail me if that’s a thing you’re interested in.
- I also am a sometime humor writer. My collection of anagrammatic poetry and play pastiches, Holy Tango of Literature, is way the heck out of print but used copies are available in the places you would expect, or you can read it on Google Books or in the CC-licensed ebook version. That book began its life as a series on the vintage zombie website Modern Humorist, also featuring Hansel and Grendel, First Draft: Aphorisms, among other drolleries. And I wrote a few thingies for Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency back in “the day.”
- Oh and I’ve written cartoons and musicals and anagram songs and blog-type-things, my favorites of which will be archived here at some point but I’m still working on that. See the site directory over on the side of the thing and maybe there are links over there with stuff like that in them.
Please enjoy your stay.
I am loving this fresh, cool website with all of its content. The things you discuss are *exactly* what I have been thinking about for so long and the way you discuss them is poignant yet remarkable, and pognant. You should also check out me website, and I think we will have a lot to say to each other at freeonlinepharmacieperskriptions.edu chat with pognant russian girl in your town
Were you in Washington this weekend?
I have an ironclad alibi.
why is there so few cryptogram books. They are my favorite puzzles to do. Are there any books from many years ago that can still be purchased.
Puzzlewright has published a few cryptogram books recently, including Shawn Kennedy’s “Funnier Cryptograms” and a reprint of the National Puzzlers’ League’s very difficult cryptogram collection, entitled “Brain Aerobics Cryptograms” in its new edition. And I believe we have another one coming later this year.
I completed “The Sudoku Code” and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and immediately started looking for another. No luck. Is this the first and only one you have done? I would appreciate your reply. Thanks
Glad you enjoyed it! We talked about doing a sequel, but it didn’t happen, unfortunately. Both Frank Longo and I have worked on other sudoku books, though. You might like his “Brain Aerobics Wordoku,” which does not have the overarching meta structure of “The Sudoku Code,” but does have a hidden word in each grid; or if you want to try something different, I wrote a book of sci-fi-themed sudoku variants entitled “Sudoku in Space,” which I’m particularly proud of.
Please do another Sudoku Code. Its addictive.
I just read some of the Holy Tango poems online. I like them so much I am on my way to Amazon to find a paper copy to buy (if I can afford it) – I feel guilty enjoying myself so much without you benefiting at all. I don’t have the brainpower for the more challenging puzzles, but do like crosswords and will look for yours. You really ought to join the Oedilf project, the limerick dictionary: http://www.oedilf.com/db/Lim.php , no money but great fun, for those who can. May you enjoy great success and satisfaction, and may your wonderful talent delight people for at least another hundred years. JM
Please do a sequel to The Sudoku Code. It was the MOST fun!!!
I didn’t know what I was ‘infor’ when I bought your “Suduko Code” puzzle book. I have never been so challenged as I have been with your ‘cruel’ puzzles. Once I got used to using letters as place holders instead of making words; I had a great time; thankyou.
Hi Francis, I am slowly getting into the puzzle writing world with my new word puzzle Snakeword. Similar to a crossword but the answers change direction every time you use a vowel. Please give it a try. The website will be given a whole new look very soon to look less homemade. I love your guess the song from the lyrics game. I will try that as am a big music fan. We play a game of picking a subject and then matching song titles or bands/singers to it. They start of sensibly and then get into puns. On the subject of sleeping we had ‘tears on my pillow’, ‘bed of roses’ but my personal favourite was ‘Duvet know it’s Christmas’. I nearly crashed the car I was laughing so much!
Anyway shameless plug: Check out http://www.snakeword.com and as a puzzle guru any advice is greatly appreciated.
Hello Mr. Heaney, I looked you up after I read an article about you written by Noah Davis. I was watching a Sandra Bullock movie and her character was a puzzle/ brain teaser creator. I was curious about this particular hollywood made up profession, so I went online and behold it was not a hollywood made up profession for entertainment; it is a true profession. Had I not watched that movie I would have never known about this secret world.
I love crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, sudoku puzzles, etc. I am upset about this discovery the educational system I grew up in did a terrible job in regards to career choices. I had no idea about the profession, nor did I know that competitions and conventions are held for this activity. It’s really an eye opener, I would like to know, how does one get into this field in 2016? Do you have to have excellent drawing skills or is there computer software to help with the formatting? Do you have to live near a publishing company to work onsite or do you submit via postal mail or email?
I apologize for the long post and questions, but discovering this is very exciting after working years in an unsatisfactory job and settling is a drain on life, which is why I do my puzzles; but learning about this new world has restored some much needed excitement. I know I probably can’t transition into this field as a career change, but to make extra on the side would be nice, while still enjoying the activity. Thank You, for your time in advance.
You don’t need graphic skills unless you are hoping to self-publish puzzles, and even then, you can mostly get by with the automated output from a construction program like Crossword Compiler. For fancier stuff, I use Adobe Illustrator. Puzzle freelancing is done pretty exclusively via email (and sometimes analog mail). The only people working onsite are editors, and you need a track record of quality work to be considered for jobs like that, of which there aren’t all that many, really. But if your goal is to make some supplementary income while having the fun of writing puzzles, that is totally doable.
Thank You for the response. This is truly interesting, I’m going to do more research. Thank You.
Hello Mr. Heaney,
While doing some research I stumbled across some articles that discussed puzzle plagiarism; I would have never thought that would be an issue “it’s a puzzle for crying out loud”. I always assume that themes and puzzles from the past would always recirculate, just like everything else in life.
As a puzzle creator, do you have the rights to your puzzles after you submit them? or does the publisher have rights? After you create a puzzle, can you send it to multiple publishers? or is that not allowed in the publishing world?
How does a puzzle creator guard themselves against such accusations? I do puzzles, but I don’t go out a buy every puzzle book and newspaper that is on the market. I buy books based on how much time i have available during the week or month to do puzzles and how much of a challenge I want. Sometimes I complete 5 puzzles a day, sometimes 2 puzzles a week, or 1 puzzle every other week., it depends on my schedule.
As a newcomer to this field; if I was to create a puzzle that was sports themed and the answers are basic answers: basketball, baseball, golf. How would I protect myself from becoming accused of plagiarism, because a creator last month, 5 months ago, or 10 years ago did the same theme?
Subjects, themes, people and things that are popular will surely be used multiple times, by multiple people and creators; so on what grounds is plagiarism determined by in the puzzle world?
Thank You for you time.
Well, in general the argument “it’s only a puzzle” about much of anything is not gonna fly with me, and especially not “it’s only a puzzle, so why would anyone care about plagiarizing one?” Constructing puzzles is an art. If someone plagiarized the plot to a Neil Gaiman novella, say, you wouldn’t defend that by saying, “well, it’s only a story.”
That said, yes, naturally the same concepts come up in themes over and over — adding or deleting letters, making puns, using rebuses — and sometimes people will independently stumble upon the same idea or the same individual theme entry. But in general, none of us *want* to be repeating each other, and if we notice that we’ve inadvertently reused a theme entry that someone else already used, we’ll probably replace it. When a puzzle uses *all* the same theme entries as another puzzle, that is highly suspicious and is very likely deliberate plagiarism. (And, as in the recent case to which you are referring, if there is an ongoing pattern of such duplication, that is even more suspicious.)
Some themes are stumbled upon by many new constructors, and editors know those old chestnuts well and won’t accept them. (The fact that STATUE OF LIBERTY, INDEPENDENCE DAY, and STARS AND STRIPES all have 15 letters has been discovered umpteen times over the years, for instance.) If you want to check whether or not a theme has been done before, you can get a membership at cruciverb.com, which maintains an exhaustive database of old puzzles.
To answer your other question, what rights you retain as a constructor depends on the venue. Most newspapers and magazines buy all rights. The American Values Club crossword buys exclusive rights for a year, after which the rights become nonexclusive. The CrosSynergy constructors retain all their rights, I believe. As a new constructor, you would most likely to sell a puzzle to one of the venues that buys all rights, and would probably find more success at one of the smaller venues, like the LA Times, though there’s no particular downside to trying the NY Times first except the time spent waiting for a response. Which brings me to your other question: don’t submit the same puzzle to multiple publishers. Wait for a puzzle to be rejected before sending it to someone else.
I apologize for the late response. Thank You, for your response; it is very informative. Reading and researching about this industry is very fascinating, I can only imagine what it is like actually being apart of the industry. Thank You, enjoy the rest of the year.
I’ve just finished Large Print Acrostics and enjoyed it so very much. I can’t find any more. I have many puzzles but can no longer enjoy them, I need the large print. Where might they be available. Anyone know?
Sterling publishes many large-print puzzle books, but I’m sorry to say that’s the only large-print acrostic collection. (That’s why I wrote it — seemed like we should have one.)
I love your Holy Tango which I only recently discovered, and have blogged about it: http://formalverse.com/2019/11/16/review-holy-tango-of-literature-parodies-by
Now one of my favourite books!
I am very much enjoying your cryptics for AVCX. Please keep them coming!
Just got a couple of guffaws when perusing Holy Tango! A nice addition to our online book listings. Thanks! Deborah Williams, Gil’s Book Loft