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the mia list does create a bit of a pang -- but it's a relief to know that karen is part of the sunday washington post team (and, in fact, has the 1/1 puzzle!).

great wrap-up, jim. and huzzah for defending your preference for a delightful theme. i'm right there with ya!

happy 2012!!


Patrick Merrell

Nice write-up, Jim.

Cyn Morris

Thanks for the great year-end content analysis and commentary, Jim. It's interesting to see that chocolate was on so many constructors' minds this year. I think I may have used it in a puzzle once myself.

Glad to see Emily and Henry remain the most prolific constructors. Please keep those acrostic puzzles coming!

Oh, and like you, I don't mind a few Oonas and ollas in the interest of a clever puzzle theme....

john farmer

Hi, Jim. Thanks for the recap of 2011. Nice work.

No surprise, I will agree with you on the PB pick for crossword event of the year. Lots of other great puzzles, and I haven't take a look back for favorites, but one I noticed, noted by Evan K. in comments on Deb's post, was the Ode to Joy puzzle from Jeremy Newton. ( http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=3/15/2011 ) That was a beaut.

Interesting comment about the rise of conservatism. At times I've had similar thoughts, that maybe the adventurous puzzles don't come out quite as often as they used to. Maybe, maybe not.

Without a doubt, I'd say crosswords are changing, and in positive ways. Puzzles on average now are technically stronger than a few years ago. The fill is cleaner, the vocab more lively. Partly that comes from wider use of constructing software, which makes good grids easier to construct, and also may account for some new (and younger) constructors getting started. As expectations are adjusted, standards are raised -- which is all good -- but solvers seem to have less tolerance for the kind of compromise that may be needed for an ambitious puzzle. Maybe the trade-off is that puzzles get less daring.

The online community has changed. It's a lot different than when I first got into puzzles about a decade ago. Then things were more free form, everyone had an equal say, and it seemed more constructors were in on the discussion. With today's blogs fewer voices have a big impact. The focus is on solving, often speed solving, with plenty of attention paid to pop culture. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it's not quite the same conversation. Imo, gimmick puzzles and early-week themes are often given short shrift, and there's too much focus on short fill. It's an obsession I just don't get. Relative to the past, constructors seem less a part of the daily discussion. Feedback is sometimes merciless, so that's no surprise. Anyway, blogs have helped steer puzzles in better directions, but the environment today is not an invitation to take risks but to play it safe.

What I like to get in a puzzle is a surprise. Flawless execution is always desirable but if I have to choose that or a good aha, I'll take the latter, thank you very much.

Joe Krozel

The Jeremy Newton "Ode to Joy" puzzle was one of my favorites of the year 2011. I told him so when it first came out, and I'm glad others agree. The central musical concept is brilliant, and it's worth taking a second look at how elegantly the supporting theme entries fit into that masterpiece.

Richard E

Hi Jim,

Totally off-topic, sorry. Could you tell me what it means when xwordinfo.com says "This is puzzle 6 of 6 for Mr. Chen"? What would "6 of 7" or "6 of 4" mean? Thanks! Love your site!

Jim Horne

6 of 7 would mean that Mr. Chen has a total of 7 puzzles published in the NYT and the one you are looking at is his 6th.

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