Each week, at the end of our regular blog post, we include a link to The Nation Cryptic Crossword Forum, a blog that serves as a helpful companion to our puzzle. And not only ours—the blog is a vehicle for commentary on a range of other cryptic crosswords and variety puzzles as well.
The proprietor is Braze (a k a Matt Mitchell), from Glenside, Pennsylvania. By day, Braze does research and writing for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, but his main extra-puzzling activity is as a hockey referee. Hence his puzzler’s nom: Braze is “zebra, with two twists.” We talked to him once before for this blog, asking about his judgments on the level of difficulty in the Nation puzzles. Today, we find out more about him.
What made you think of starting a blog about our puzzle?
When The Nation held its competition to select a successor to Frank Lewis, I solved all the puzzles, and sent a rather detailed note to the editors making the case for the constructors who eventually won that competition. That made me realize that while I don’t have the time to commit to creating puzzles, commentary could be a way to get more involved in the pastime.
Tell us more about your blog.
The Nation Cryptic Crossword Forum is a place where solvers can get a complete explanation of each clue, and find other new puzzles they might enjoy. Solutions are posted Monday or Tuesday, following the online release of each week’s puzzle. Whereas the solution published in the magazine tells you how each answer is put together, I go deeper to explain where the pieces came from in the clue and how the clue indicates the type of wordplay. I call out features of the clue like misdirection, and comment on clues I particularly like or disagree with. On Thursdays, I post a link to the new puzzle and to the discussion at Word Salad, and a quick review of the degree of difficulty and themework, but no spoilers until the following week!
Not long after I started the blog, I added a feature called Sunday Brunch, in which I share links to new cryptic and variety puzzles each weekend. It’s a one-stop shop for those puzzles, like Diary of a Crossword Fiend is for straight crosswords.
There’s usually something extra coupled to each post: the Thursday comments are always puzzle- or wordplay-related, while the weekend and Monday posts can be more eclectic: anecdotes from the hockey rink, an interesting piece of music I heard or maybe something about my family (two figure skaters and a fencer).