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Out of Left Field

With Joshua Kosman, I construct the Out of Left Field cryptic crosswords.
For almost nine years, our puzzles appeared in The Nation.
Now, they are available by subscription over the Internet.

Read more about all this on our website, where you can also

  • download an introduction to cryptics
  • watch an introductory slide show
  • learn about Word Salad, our comprehensive guide to cryptics
  • download sample puzzles
  • find out about our puzzle books and e-books

With the late Arthur Schulman, I translated Georges Perec's article on crossword construction. The translation was deemed "a triumph" by Harry Mathews, who placed a copy in the Perec archive in Paris. It was published in The Believer in September 2006.

I contributed The Ambidextrous Puzzle, a cryptic crossword, to the 13th Gathering for Gardner. The puzzle was later published in The Enigma, where it earned a Golden Sphinx award for best cryptic of 2018.

Hot's Puzzle Page

Sphinx, courtesy of Manx

As Hot, I'm a member of the National Puzzlers' League.

It's more than a hobby: it's something to do!

Cryptics of The Enigma

With Trazom, I edited hundreds of cryptic crosswords for the NPL's monthly magazine The Enigma. Some of the best among those puzzles are in the book National Puzzlers' League Cryptic Crosswords (edited by Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto; Random House, November 2005 -- now available for free on the NPL Web site.)

cryptics book

NPL members who would like to construct cryptics for The Enigma should heed these guidelines.

I challenged US cryptic conventions in this article I wrote for The Enigma (January 2016).

From the Guide to the Enigma, read:
Trazom on solving cryptic crosswords
Sibyl on constructing cryptic crosswords for The Enigma
me on Sharing the Fun
The best part of my (now somewhat dated) 1992 thoughts on cryptic crosswords was excerpted here.


Between 1988 to 2014, I constructed dozens of cryptic crosswords with the late Arachne (aka Rebecca Kornbluh. Not to be confused with the British setter with the same nom.) We were both fans of Ursula K. LeGuin's science fiction. Our combinom, Harth, was the name of a genderless character from the novel The Left Hand of Darkness, who lived on the planet Winter, in the Milky Way.


As Harth, we were the first US constructors to create cryptics where the clues were tampered with, the first to have city-themed cryptics at NPL conventions, and the first to submit variety cryptics in large numbers to The Enigma. Since then, constructors of enormous ingenuity have burst onto the NPL scene, and no US cryptic fan should be without a subscription to The Enigma.

Variety cryptics by Harth (and solutions, in most cases)
Advice to Solvers (sol) | Alf-Normal (sol) | Base Fiddles (sol) | Big Sky (sol)
Conventional Wisdom (sol) | Drawn and Quartered (sol) | Election | Gone with the Wind (sol)
Hell! (sol) | Items We Found (sol) | Just the Opposite! (sol) | Laconic Sections (sol)
Musical Recreation (sol) | Pangram (sol) | Party! (sol) | Perfectly K. Lear (sol) | Police Raid (sol)
Roman VIII (sol) | San Diego! (sol) | Slightly Damaged (sol) | Team Effort (sol) | The Big Apple (sol)
This and That (sol) | Universal Product Code (sol) | User-Friendly (sol) | Vancouver Pattern (sol)
What Am I? (sol) | Word, Chain, Letter, Change (sol) | You Must Re-Member This (sol)

Picture Puzzles

In 1999, I made a presentation on cryptic crosswords to the joint meeting of the 58th National Congress of Classical Puzzling and the 20th Convention of the Italian Rebus Association, in Verona, Italy:
I cruciverba enigmistici
(English translation by Serendipity ← a good introduction to cryptics for beginners)
Soon afterwards, I made a presentation to the NPL convention on Italian puzzling. The text of that presentation was published in The Enigma. I updated it in 2024: Enigmistica: Word Puzzles in Italy. I am happy to have helped bring picture puzzles to the NPL.

Here is a picture rebus illustrated by Crax (enumeration: 6 6)


Mouse over here for the answer.for E, strange R → forest ranger

In 2008, I started a "nom photos" page on the NPL Web site.