Even though we sign all our puzzles and blog posts with a double byline, we are of course different people, with distinct histories and approaches to puzzling. Last week, Henri interviewed Joshua. This week we turn the tables.
JK: You grew up in Lebanon, a native French speaker. How did you first discover cryptic crosswords?
HP: As a teenager, I enjoyed crosswords in French, including some fairly challenging ones. Like American crosswords, French crosswords are definition-based, and the more challenging puzzles rely on clever and unexpected use of the language. I mostly found crosswords in paperback collections. Alas, those are now too hard for me! While I am of course still a fluent speaker of French, my command of the language has slipped when it comes to puzzle-solving. Anyone interested in French crosswords might enjoy my translation of novelist Georges Perec’s introduction to his books of puzzles.
Later, my British brother-in-law, a songwriter, introduced me to cryptics. Still later, in the US, I started solving Hex, Maltby and Frank Lewis. In fact, I launched a weekend breakfast Frank Lewis co-solving group. The group went on for decades, and through it I introduced many people to cryptics.
JK: And that group still meets!
HP: Yes, but now I just watch, as they test-solve Kosman-Picciotto puzzles.
JK: …which brings us to your career as a constructor. Tell us about that.
HP: I met Rebecca Kornbluh (Arachne in the National Puzzlers’ League) at an NPL convention. We found out that we both owned a book of cryptics by Azed, the diabolical setter for The Observer in the UK. Neither of us was able to finish those puzzles alone, so we decided to work on them together by mail. (This was long before e-mail.) It went really well, and she suggested we collaborate on constructing puzzles for the NPL. That was the start of a twenty-year constructors’ collaboration, which I may recount in a future post. Some time after that, you and I were asked to jointly edit the cryptics for The Enigma, and that was the start of the fifteen-year collaboration which morphed into our current project.