March 13th, 2011


Happy birthday, Ucaoimhu!

Here is what I said last night at ucaoimhu's birthday party:

[In the style of Tom Lehrer] I never forget the first time I meet the great Ucaoimhu. In one word, he told me secret of success in writing puzzles. Unfortunately, that word was in Ugartic, and I still don't know what he said.

Uc's brilliance is exceeded only by his menschlichkeit. Whether I'm solving one of his puzzles, cosolving with him, or just hanging out, I'm never made to feel stupid by comparison; instead, I'm made to feel smart by association.

Collapse ) Happy birthday, Uc!

Ucaoimhu received a hand-bound hardcover commemorative presentation copy; everyone at the party got solving copies; you can download your own. There are some great cryptics in there, if I may say so.


Uc party solving report

I haven't had time to look at any of the other cryptics that were distributed at Uc's party. I did thoroughly enjoy solving foggyb's miniganza with, inter alia, tahnan, Jennie H., DNess, and Uc's brother and sister-in-law. I hope Foggy publishes this online Edited: Foggy has now published this online; I heartily recommend it. There's a Set-based puzzle that stood out as a lot of fun, but many of the other puzzles were also noteworthy.

One aspect that I want to highlight is that when we were dividing up into teams, Uc's sister-in-law insisted "Oh, don't count me; I'm no good at puzzles." Two minutes later, she was fully engaged in the Set puzzle, coming up with great ideas and clearly having a ball. This just demonstrates two things: (1) People who think they're "no good at puzzles" often mean "I don't enjoy crossword puzzles so I don't do them enough to get efficient at them" and don't realize that there are a lot of great sui generis puzzles that they will be good at and enjoy. I wonder if we'd get more participants if we stopped calling them "puzzles" and started calling them "games." And (2) Foggy writes some awesomely fun and engaging puzzles games.

And for the first and possibly the only time in my life, I was the first person to solve the meta. Woot!

What interesting times

Saturday morning, during the early service at shul, a Newton police officer came in. (No big deal; it turns out someone made a mistake and they sent him on detail duty, but we weren't having a special event.) But I was struck by the fact that I live in a time and place where the local police can walk into a synagogue with a (holstered) gun during Lent, and our response isn't a panicked evacuation (or simply getting shot and killed) but a polite "How can we help you?"

The flip side of the irony was reading the news from Israel after Shabbat. No, we're not dying in pogroms in Newton; the place where men, women, children and babies are stabbed dead in their sleep for being Jewish is Eretz Yisrael.

May wickedness disappear speedily from under the sovereignty of the Almighty, and may the One who makes peace on high forge peace for us, for all Israel, and for the world.