I've learned a lot by doing this blog, including the rather odd fact that I apparently enjoy writing mini-biographies of people I don't know anything about. I carry on that tradition today with this homage to Manny Nosowsky.
I spent most of the 1980s in Edmonton where I got to watch the young Wayne Gretzky (a name whose unfortunate combination of letters means he doesn't appear in the NYT database) make every other hockey player on the ice look like an amateur. He was so far to the right of the normal distribution curve that you lost all confidence in the science of statistics. Manny is the same in his arena.
Let's look at the stats. His 193 puzzles since Oct, 1996 is nearly 30% more than his closest rival, the prolific Elizabeth C. Gorski. More than that, if you followed that link you see that his creations are skewed toward the latter part of the week. He's a master of the difficult grids but his solutions are elegant and natural.
Here's a measure of the degree of difficulty involved. The fewer the number of blocks (black squares) the harder the fill. Of the 14 puzzles with the fewest blocks, 9 are Manny's!
In 2000, Manny and Chuck Menning both managed puzzles with 21 blocks. The next year, Joe DiPietro constructed one with only 20. That record stood for over four years until Manny took sole ownership of the Densest Constructor title with this amazing puzzle from March 11, 2005.
On April Fools Day, 2001, he created one of my favorites. I call it The Big Tease.
I did an analysis on what his favorite words are. AGE topped the list. According to his Wikipedia entry he turns 76 this month so maybe that's on his mind. ALE was second, so now I imagine him sipping a cool one as he fills in the boxes, but then again he's responsible for nearly half the ADAMS ALE entries (it means water) so maybe he's a teetotaler. Heck, I'm just making this up based on statistics so what do I know? Whatever his personal habits, he's one of my heroes and I look forward to many more years of great puzzles.
In other news, the Friday January 11 puzzle by Mike Nothnagel (answers here) is damn hard. I happened to know GODEL was responsible for those amazingly clever Incompleteness Theorems which provided no help at all for a while. I don't watch TV so Mad About You actress came very slowly, but I remembered seeing LISA KUDROW in Romy and Michele so I'm happy to see she's now having some success on the small screen too. Here's the clue that bugged me the most: "Historic capital of Scotland" (5). Hmmm. I seemed to recall that PERTH had been the capital and I was proud of myself for pulling that bit of arcana out of the deep corners of my brain, but the real answer turned out to be different. I'll save you the grief. It's SCONE. Yeah, whatever. Finally I got "Transition to a heliocentric model of the universe, e.g." (PARADIGM SHIFT) and the rest came together. Ok, I had to cheat and look stuff up. Sue me.