Solving crosswords can be a solitary undertaking, but even the most hard-core enthusiasts often like to talk and compare notes once the solving is over. For thousands of cruciverbalists, the gathering place for that is Diary of a Crossword Fiend (www.crosswordfiend.com), the aptly named blog of Amy Reynaldo.
Every day, Reynaldo and the more than a dozen bloggers who make up “Team Fiend” weigh in on the latest puzzles in print and online—rating each one, weighing the pros and cons of the theme and the fill, and inviting a large community of commenters to add their own reactions. The result is a forum for lively and sometimes even contentious conversation and debate.
How far back does the blog go, and how did it begin?
I started the blog in 2005 because the only place, really, to chat about American crosswords online was the old New York Times “Cru” Forum. And many of the people, back in those pre-Twitter days, were averse to spoilers, and wanted to be able to hang out on the site without encountering any spoilers before they’d done the puzzle. We couldn’t discuss any of the specifics until the next morning, by which time I’d moved on to a few other puzzles and the NYT was no longer fresh in my mind. So I launched Diary of a Crossword Fiend to have somewhere to talk about the crosswords as early as I felt like it.
How and why did the site become a team venture?
I’m not sure. Initially, I think I had the occasional vacation coverage. Later, Joon Pahk was hankering for a write-up of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest and volunteered for it. Then several others—mainly people whose comments I liked and whom I’d become friendly with—proved to be willing to join the venture.
As my professional work shifted from medical editing to crossword editing, my inclination to Solve All the Puzzles! and Blog All the Puzzles! really waned. I love the team approach, bringing different voices, different kit bags of knowledge, different tastes, and a range of solving speeds to the site. Team Fiend has so much more energy than I ever could!
How concerned are you (if at all) about ruffled feathers and hurt feelings among constructors? Do you have guidelines for bloggers and/or commenters?
The unofficial guidelines are that we don’t make personal attacks on constructors—we largely keep the write-up about the puzzle before us. We also run an inclusive shop, and have precious little tolerance for sexist, racist or homophobic viewpoints. If the puzzle contains something that can be hurtful or exclusionary, we like to point it out.
How have you settled on the corps of puzzles that get covered regularly? Any chance of expanding to include discussion of cryptic crosswords as well as regular ones?
I don’t have the inclination to expand coverage much at all, as it’s not uncommon for a blogger to get burned out and step back. Which leaves me in the position of needing to find someone else to join Team Fiend, because I am at Peak Puzzle. I do very few of the crosswords I don’t blog these days. (I am working through my Nation cryptics backlog, though! I’m up to May now.) I’m happy to promote newer puzzle venues via blog mentions and the Today’s Puzzles downloads page, but 150+ reviews in a month is already a lot to wrangle.
What’s your preferred chocolate, and are you okay with people sending you some?
I like semisweet to dark chocolate, preferably no more than 60 percent cacao. Send plenty! But not in the summertime, because melting is sad.
This week’s clueing challenge: BLOGGER. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen. And now, four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our puzzle-solving guidelines | PDF
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail. This is also where you can post quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle, as well as ask for hints.