Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quite A Puzzle! And A Prize Awaits!

Click on the image to enlarge.

I received a belated -- but very special -- 50th birthday gift a few days ago. A crossword puzzle, with my life as the clues!

And not only that, the puzzle was created by none other than Merl Reagle, world famous puzzlemaster extraordinaire.

How famous is he?

Sure, he's got his own puzzle syndicate and website. OK, he sells a popular line of puzzle books. Granted, he stars in the movie "Wordplay," which explores the fascinating world of crossword puzzles and crossword puzzlers (such as Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart).

But the true measure of his success, the achievement at the top of his resume, is that he voiced a cartoon character version of himself on "The Simpsons," in an episode from the 20th season in which Lisa enters a crossword tournament, only to discover that Homer bet against her. (That's him on the left.)

How cool is that??

Why did Merl Reagle create a crossword puzzle based on my life?

Back in the early 1990s, when I was the features editor at the Syracuse Herald-Journal in Syracuse, NY, Merl -- who was then, I believe, at the start of syndicating his own puzzles -- contacted me about buying his work for our games page. I was intrigued by his puzzles, which were an obvious cut above the usual fare that comes across a features editor's desk.

We had a few phone conversations, and I ended up buying his puzzles for the Herald-Journal. Reader response was enthusiastic, to say the least.

Jump ahead to just a few years ago, when after all those years I contacted Merl (that's him in real life, at right) through his website to see whether he would autograph one of his puzzle books as a gift for Paul Sindelar, Daisy's father, who is a keen crossword puzzler. In fact, Paul hosts an annual tournament in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida. I didn't know whether Merl would remember me, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had a soft spot for a certain editor who helped him get started in syndication (or so he says).

So Paul returned the favor when he and his wife, Alyson Adams, and her daughter, Hannah Sholar, visited us in Prague a few weeks ago. He had contacted Merl about making a puzzle for my 50th birthday that contained clues from my life, my blogs, my career. For some crazy reason, Merl agreed.

I was, and still am, so tickled by this wonderful gift. Thank you, again, Paul and Alyson, and thank you, Merl Reagle.

In celebration, I'm going to award $25 via PayPal to the first person who returns a completed puzzle back to me, with all the answers right (family and friends not eligible).

You can send it to my e-mail at, post it on my Facebook page, send it to me on Twitter at @grantpodelco, or mail it to Grant Podelco, Za Cihelnou 198a, Statenice-Cerny Vul 252 62 Czech Republic.

If there's a tie, I'll randomly select a winner from the correct entries.

Paul Sindelar, Alyson Adams, and Hannah Sholar. Thank you, folks!