JH: I don’t think there’s anything necessarily odd about…
JH: And like Gould quitting his concert career at the height of his success, you’re dumping the blog that made your name just when you’re on a roll.
JH: That’s rather stretching the point. I’m moving to a new label, that’s all.
JH: Selling out, I think is what you’re trying to say.
JH: That’s somewhat harsh. I’m very proud of having a chance to write for the Times and I’m excited about where this experiment might take us. I’m sure it will evolve in directions we can’t yet imagine.
JH: What have you learned by writing about crosswords during the past year?
JH: Good question.
JH: I used to think of myself as a good solver but it turns out the world is full of people who are smarter, faster, and more knowledgeable than me. Never sit right behind Tyler Hinman at the ACPT, that’s my advice. I admire the great solvers and I’m in awe of the best constructors.
JH: Why did you create your blog?
JH: Like all bloggers, I suffer from the twin delusions that I have unique insights and that other people might care to hear them. When you start a blog, there’s no way to tell if that’s true and feedback comes slowly at first, especially in an established field like crosswords. The other bloggers have been great, by the way. Amy and Rex and Linda and Donald were early linkers. Much of my traffic comes via links from Rex's blog. Amy has been a great help, gently noting bugs and typos. I wish she’d make more mistakes so I could return the favor. The other person who most helped was PhillySolver, aka Michael Smith. Sometimes it’s hard to get that first comment before others roll in and PS was brave and persistent and was an early supporter.
JH: What about the constructors? What do they think of someone like you opining on their art?
JH: The ones who have contacted me have been universally supportive. Some of my favorite posts are the constructor interviews. Often those come after a long series of exchanges about puzzle philosophy or the practical aspects of their craft. The women and men who create and edit crosswords make magic inside small boxes, literally and figuratively.
JH: Oh, never mind.
JH: Have you become a better solver by writing this blog?
JH: Oh, probably, but not much. I’m having more fun, though, because I’m learning more about it.
JH: What will happen to the stats site XWord Info?
JH: Well, it will get a new visual design, some of the internals will be rewritten to use ASP.NET 3.5 and LINQ (sorry, geek talk) but the capabilities will be similar. Updating the code is part of the reason I’m taking some time off before starting the new blog. Also, at the request of The Times, I’m going to stop revealing full solutions before they do, usually 24 hours after publication. I realize there are other places on the web where answers can be found quickly if you’re stuck. Commenters will be free to say anything they like.
JH: What other constraints will you be under?
JH: Writing for the Times carries some new responsibilities. I need to learn their style guide, I can’t use copyrighted images or text, I should probably avoid subjecting the paper to legal jeopardy, and so on. On the other hand, I get to work with an editor!
JH: What do all those stats you track have to do with anything?
JH: For me, it’s another layer on top of the solving experience that often reveals something interesting but I realize many people don’t care about the numbers. Some constructors find it helpful.
JH: Will your style change?
JH: Not intentionally, although I hope my writing continues to improve. According to the Will Shortz announcement, I’m supposed to be lively, insightful, and amusing. I’ll start with just one of those at a time, move up to two, and see how it goes from there.
JH: You said something about a special guest coming to this blog?
JH: That's still to come. The cat's out of the bag but you'll want to check back here over the next few days.
JH: Ok, I will. When are you publishing your promised Critique of Crossword Blogs?
JH: Several people have asked me that but it turns out I was kidding.
JH: What? You bastard!
JH: Hey! You can’t say that on the new site, so start being careful, ok?
JH: Sorry. But thanks for chatting.