I keep being asked when I'm going to run another in my famous series Mini Biographies of People I Don't Know Anything About. They're fun to write, so let me introduce my next subject: Peter Collins. If you're new to this blog, the basic guideline is that since I have no actual knowledge, I just make stuff up. Previous bios have featured Elizabeth Gorski, Manny Nosowsky, and Rex Parker, and there are several more in the works.
The Tuesday HERB puzzle that I blogged about at the end of yesterday's post was, by Peter Collins's own admission, not his best. Does that mean it's all over for this man we all assumed just a few weeks ago was a rising star?
The schizophrenic Mr. Collins can't decide if he's a numbers guy or a word guy, and it's starting to show. By day, he's a mild mannered (they're all mild mannered) teacher in Ann Arbor, MI. In fact, and this is a little-known fact, he's a Mathematics Department Chair. All his students are arranged in a neat grid across and down and they all must not only master the binomial theorem, but also find anagrams of binomial theorem. It's a tough class.
He has eleven published NYT puzzles and they include some of my recent favorites. I've already blogged about the maximum G-Force EGGS. Before that was the wonderful SAME FIRST LETTER puzzle. Read the three long clues to see the trick. Before that was OCTOPUS which was great fun. And do you remember this one from last year? The long answers were clued with only an equals sign. (See? Schizophrenic.) So, what happened with HERBS?
You're not going to hit a home run every time, that's all. He remains one of my favorite constructors. In conversations with Peter, I learned that when a puzzle gets accepted at the Times, it sits in a queue waiting for publication. When it's something extraordinary like EGGS it scrambles off the stack in a couple of weeks. HERBS languished in the compost bin for six months. It's a subtle form of feedback from the editor. Ok, not so subtle. Other publications work differently. Peter Gordon (NY Sun) and Timothy Parker (USA Today and Universal) give firm dates — usually two to five months out — when they accept.
The Wednesday February 6 puzzle (answers) is the third from Larry Shearer. It's cute but not as clever as his previous SUPERBOWL effort. I'm pleased to see there's been a lot of particle physics lately. PION showed up on Sunday, and today Larry Shearer sticks in the "Quark-binding particle" GLUON. "Hi-___" turned out to be FIS which, until I realized it was a plural, completely perplexed me. I'm so used to seeing RES there that I couldn't get past that answer. ARISTO and YIPE seem awkward, but the theme clue 70 Across was great.
PS. Orange notes that Wednesday is her day to appear on a TV game show called Merv Griffin's Crosswords. Not a program I've ever seen, but I'm tuning in tomorrow to cheer on a fellow blogger. I looked it up on the web. In Seattle, it shows at 6:30 on a station with the call letters of, believe it or not, KONG. Now there's an ape wrestler!