Trifecta Talk: Hejman


We’ve been waiting a long time for this interview, of court.

Hello everybody, we are back with another Trifecta Talk for this lovely October day.  And since we did LTH two weeks ago, I find it only fitting that today’s subject is the one and only Hejman.  He has been Miscellaneous Editor for quite a while now, and he’s been at the forefront of quizmaking since it was opened to the public.  He also gave me my first EP, which I found as amazing as I find it now :-D.

When did you first start quiz making and how long did it take you to earn the Big Three?
The first quiz I made was ‘Repeat Vowel Starters‘ on January 2, 2010. It stinks. I’ve even tried to pretty it up since, but it’s still awful! It only took me 9 months to earn the Dean’s List badge- I got that in October of 2010. I’m not sure when Curator’s Picks became a thing, but I got the Honor Roll on October 13, 2015. I earned the Crazy Ivan on December 6, 2010, so it took me 11 months to get there. I think I was 4th to get it. I just got the Crazy Ivan x10.

What was your first ever pick and what was your reaction? What about your first publish?
My first published quiz was ‘Movie Villain by Crimes’ on February 27, 2010. Having been a prosecutor early in my career, it was a fun and easy quiz to put together. I remember noticing that it was locked for editing and wondering if that meant that it was going to be published. When it hit the front page at midnight, I was so excited I ran upstairs and woke my wife up to tell her. (She was not as excited as I was…).  My first editor’s pick was History as We Heard It II.  It was really that series that got me noticed on Sporcle. Audio quizzes were new at that time, and there were very, very few of them- and even fewer that weren’t based on music.

What category did you struggle with the most? Which one was the easiest?
My hardest category is Gaming. I love board games and puzzles, but I was never much of a video game player beyond when I was kid in the late 80s and early 90s playing the NES and the original SEGA. We had an Atari and even had the original Pong! TV, Movies and History have always been my easiest.

Who helped you, or inspired you, the most to earn these badges?
Early on I was inspired by sproutcm, LTH, rockgolf, davidr, booger, henryfieldstone and mrchewypoo. And, of course, Matt and Derek. I actually originally thought that Chris, Luke and Pat (sprout, LTH and rockgolf) ran the site, so many of the quizzes were theirs when I first started playing. It was Luke who emailed me to tell me that there was a new designation on the site called an ‘editor’ and to ask if I was interested in being one.

Did you actively try to earn any of the badges? If so, when and why did you start?
I was totally disinterested in badges until earlier this year when I decided that I should probably try to get some. In one month I earned something like 350 of them.

What is the most rewarding part of making quizzes?
The most rewarding part of making quizzes is seeing the fun that people have with them. Some of my published quizzes are almost 9 years old now and I still get comments from people about how much they enjoyed them. Many of my quizzes feature my…. ‘unique’ sense of humor, and I love it when people tell me they’ve enjoyed my awful jokes and puns.

Which of your published quizzes are you the proudest of?
With 730 published quizzes, it’s hard to point to a single one that I’m proudest of. It’s like having more than one child- they’re all different, but you love them all the same.

Any advice for would-be badge earners/quizmakers?
My advice for would-be quiz makers is to make quizzes for fun and education only. Make what you love and what you enjoy. And if other people enjoy them too, well then all the better.

Thank you for the interview, Hejman!  What is perhaps most impressive is how many inspirations you listed, despite joining earlier than the vast majority of people ;-).  Yet, unlike LTH, you couldn’t choose a favorite quiz, which is understandable.  I guess Hejman is just an all-inclusive guy, which is pretty cool.

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In the Mind of a Cruciverbalist – Part 2

Hi there! Last time I wrote about some strategies that I use most of the time when I’m making a crossword, and I mentioned I would be taking a look at how I made my puzzle, so here we go!

NOTE: This post contains spoilers for my quiz Two-Word Hint Mega Crossword 2 (since this post is specifically about my thought process of how I went about making this quiz).

This template currently has 441 squares – 121 black squares = 320 white squares.

  • I started with a template grid similar to the one I had posted in my previous post, though I shifted the black squares so that there were fewer lines of answers (I did this because I was worried about the 300-answer limit – each letter is an individual answer, so there can’t be more than 300 letters). In this case I used the “place black squares as I go along” strategy (and surely I would place at least 20 black squares along the way, on top of what’s already on this template).
  • This crossword has a hidden theme, although not many people noticed it. While it was easy to notice the “shooting star” and “crescent moon” near the middle, the actual theme wasn’t actually related to space. It was actually “things in Sporclers’ profile icons”. As “shooting star” (my own profile pic) and “crescent moon” (for MoMosMoProblems) were both 12 letters long, I used those as my starting words and placed both of them close to the middle of the crossword. There were some other theme words I knew I wanted to include, and while I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a reference to every Sporclers’ icon, I did try to fit in as many as I could (and whenever I thought of one that I could add in while building contiguously, I tried to include it).
  • I then noticed that the positions where I placed my starting words gives me room to put the “volcano” on the right side, with just enough room for some “snow” on top of it (for fellow cruciverbalist hockeystix3 – luckily, just prior to the making of this, she told me that the mountain was a volcano). Then the positioning of the volcano gave me room to place a “dragonfly” (at least that’s what ZYX said it was). At that point, I saw that “dragonfly” and “crescent moon” were fairly close to each other – so that’s when I looked at the checked letters and made some decisions on where to place black squares around that area, depending on which positions I felt like I could place words in easily. Note that as I place black squares at the beginning and end of words I add here, I also have to black out the same pattern on the left side for when I get to filling in that section later. (I didn’t initially have the three-letter word at 30-down there. That one I had to put in later when I was making adjustments — I’ll get to this part later — but there was originally a longer word in that place that did intersect both words, and the word at the position of 6-Down used to be shorter.)
  • From there, I filled in the area in between the two words I had mentioned (including “meridian”, which the great caseyw690 decided was close enough to being related to his profile picture of a map), and then after that started working on the upper right area, making my way to the upper left area. It was smooth sailing for a bit, and I didn’t encounter too much trouble (and I also found an opportunity to include a “kitten”, for various other feline Sporclers out there).
  • Sometimes though, I have to think for a few minutes before finding a word that fits. At this point, I had just filled in “nobody” (a word partially related to the theme – I knew I had to put “doubts” somewhere else in the puzzle later on because “Nobody Doubts El_Dandy“), but one of the letters was part of a longer word that also intersected with the “shooting star” I placed at the beginning. I was looking at this:
    [?] _ _ O _ _ _ _ _ O
    The question mark is a space that I could have chosen to black out (I had freedom to decide that because I hadn’t touched the lower right area yet – I could have also separated them by placing a black square somewhere in the middle of this word but I wanted to connect them if possible)… then I decided to dig into my years of piano playing to come up with “sforzando” – yes, it’s quite evil, but it fits. Of course, it leaves a Z in a checked position, so that’s why I was forced to use a word like “seizable” to connect it with the E that I already had at the end of that word there (unless I wanted to add another black square to separate it into shorter words).
  • After filling in some remaining spaces in the upper left area (including “Paws”, the name of needapausebutton‘s cat), I was (essentially) done with the top half of the grid. That meant that the pattern of black squares was locked in on the bottom half (or more specifically, I couldn’t easily change the pattern without having to make adjustments in the top half).
  • From there on, while there were a few tough spots, I was still able to pull through – as I had already finished the alphabet by that point, I didn’t have to worry about having to include hard letters, but I still generally tried to focus on planning ahead to make sure I don’t get stuck. Since the pattern of black squares was already decided as the top half was filled out, options for me to place in more theme words was a bit more limited, but I still got a few in there (including a “rat” and a “teddy” bear).

However, one thing that happened in this crossword that doesn’t usually happen with non-themed crosswords is that sometimes I’d think of another word I should add after I already filled in the grid. This is where things get tough, because I may have to remake a whole section. I’d have to find the place where I can rework the new word in with the least trouble, erase some words in the surrounding area, and fill them in with new words. Luckily I was able to get some reworking done (and this is the point I had to even change the layout as mentioned before to include those three-letter words in the middle), but for future advice… try not to end up in positions where you have to do this (and I’ll admit that “quartzite” was another difficult word that got added during this reworking; I originally had “quintuple” in its place but had to change things when I couldn’t make other words fit). If you have theme ideas in mind, it’s better to prepare a fairly big list of things that fit the theme. While you may not fit all of them in the grid, you’ll be less likely to end up in a state of trying to rework the grid because you thought of something you desperately wanted to include after finishing. (There are several themed entries that I didn’t list in this post, but one of the more obscure references that made its way in was “forbidden”, which is a reference to the character Exodia the Forbidden One – I’ll admit that I looked that one up prior to putting it in.) And… of course, there are many other words that fit the theme, so I can keep including more of them as cameo appearances in my later crosswords. :)

So… that’s the story of how I made this crossword. (Note that once again, this is for British-style crosswords… I can’t begin to think about how much effort it would take to assemble an American-style crossword!) This will conclude this installment, but I will write one more post with some less in-depth stories of the inspiration of a few of my other crosswords. Take care! :)

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Seven Comments, Seven Days (10/15)

You can truly find anything across Sporcle’s discussion platforms. Quiz comments, Groups and Bulletins are all home to some of the greatest comments on the internet. Each week, we will select seven comments from across Sporcle that will (hopefully!) brighten up your Monday.

Topic: Study Hall Badge
queenshaniqua: “The Study Hall badge should be renamed The Unemployed Badge.”

Quiz: ‘W’ in Geography
Happ_Hazzard: “There is no state shown, just a white rectangle. Please Cheyennge this.”

Quiz: Miscellaneous Anagrams
Brendinater: “Clasher is such a cooler name than Charles.”

Quiz: Nahuatl Words You Probably Know
podpod: “I would call this quiz ’17 Nahuatl words you probably know and 3 that you have a 33% chance at guessing correctly’.”

Quiz: Presidents by Ending 4 to 1
dancastro: “Monroe, Pierce, Coolidge… I’d like to fill more boxes, but I don’t remember the fourth president ending in ‘e’.”

Quiz: Famous Native Americans
gingersnap: “I celebrated Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house and telling them I live there now.

It didn’t go over as well as it did in 1492.”

Quiz: Avoid the Antagonists
rwoodard: “I don’t care what any of you say – Dora’s an antagonist to many of us with kids of a certain age.”

Thanks for reading! If you catch a funny or interesting comment anywhere on Sporcle, please message caseyw690 onsite. Until next week, sayonara.

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In the Mind of a Cruciverbalist

Crosswords. A common type of puzzle, seen in newspapers very often. They always look intimidating to solve, with so many words to fill in, and sometimes a bit of confusing wordplay that can take some time to get used to. However, some of you might start to wonder how things go on the other side of things… how do people make a crossword? Here is where I will explain my methods, although other people may have different ways of going about this.

Before I get into this, I have to clarify the difference between two types of crosswords: American-style and British-style crosswords. In an American-style crossword, every letter in the grid is a part of two answers (one across and one down). This is not true in British-style crosswords; British-style crosswords can have letters that are only part of one word. However, British-style crosswords have a more strict rule on what kinds of answers are allowed (for example, no abbreviations or acronyms, which show up frequently in American-style crosswords). Multi-word phrases can appear in British-style crosswords, but usually not as frequently.

As my crosswords are of the British-style variety, I should first list some rules for British-style crossword design:
1) The grid shape (the pattern of black squares) must have 180-degree rotational symmetry. That is, if you ignored all the letters and numbers, then the shape of the grid must remain the same if you rotate it 180 degrees.
2) Every answer is three or more letters long.
3) For the most part, all words should have at least half of their letters checked (intersecting another word). This is more of a guideline than a rule, and sometimes it’s okay to round down if necessary, but the existence of this guideline is to give people a chance of solving a word by having more letters checked, at least in regular crosswords. (Note that this rule is not as important for Code Cracker puzzles, because the process of solving words in those puzzles is not highly dependent on having checked letters. On a related side note, these Code Crackers were a big inspiration for why I decided to make crosswords here!)

So now we get to the actual process: How do I make a British-style crossword? Usually, I start with at least one of these two steps:

A) Design a grid layout.
B) Think of a crossword theme, or at least a few words you want to include for inspiration.

You could do these in either order. A typical British-style crossword usually has words going across every other row, and words going down every other column.
A “simple” grid like the one on the left side here is the basis of many British-style crosswords. You can start with a grid like this and black out more squares to make word lengths shorter (for example, the Code Cracker linked above is formed with this template; see the grid on the right side, with the extra black squares shaded in). Alternatively, you can start by placing words on the grid and filling in black squares as you go along (while making sure to follow symmetry rules). Note that this grid layout may still not be easy to fill as there are a high number of words with 9-10 letters; most of the time, word lengths will usually average at approximately 7 letters per word.crossword_grid_ExampleTemplate2
In these grids, there are more black squares and fewer long words. The one on the right has more words in total, but many of them are short words, so this kind of grid is easier to fill.

If you want, you can shift the pattern of black squares up and/or left one space (in which case you’d have an extra row or column of black squares arranged similarly, and fewer lines of answers in the grid).

A few of my guidelines and strategies:

– I usually try to build the crossword “contiguously” (always place words intersecting with words you already have); one exception is when I start with a theme, I may place the longest theme words first even if they’re not intersecting, and then build from there.

– I usually look at least one step ahead before placing a word. That is, I look at which letters end up in checked positions to determine if there are any spots that may be hard to fill. If a word looks like it may end up creating too many problematic spots, I may try to think of a different word.

– When building contiguously, I usually try to fill in the most difficult spots first. Usually, the first priority is words that have the most checked letters already filled in, but also look out for long words, rare letters (Q, etc.), or unusual word endings (for example, even a letter like O or I can be difficult to find if it’s the last letter of a word).

– Most of the time, I try to include every letter of the alphabet at least once in a crossword. Usually, I would do an “alphabet check” after every ~25% of the crossword I fill in in order to see how many letters I’m missing, and if possible, I usually try to find words that cause the rare letters fall on unchecked spaces (the obvious troublemakers most often being J, Q, X, and Z).

– If you find out something doesn’t work early on (before you have too much of it filled up), feel free to modify the pattern of black squares to fit your needs. Just make sure the change works symmetrically as well.

– Sometimes, if you just think of a word that you think is really interesting that fits with some letters that you have on the grid, feel free to go ahead and put it in and hope for the best that it works out… I once did put the elusive tuatara in one of my crosswords… ;)

I’ll end this here as this post is getting long, but feel free to check out my latest puzzle (and I apologize in advance to anyone who struggles with 11-Down). In my next installment, I will go through a more in-depth analysis of how I went about making that puzzle. Until next time… mwahahahaha. ;)

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The Art of Curating: daisy67pet

Art of curating banner

The Art of Curating is a continuation of the Curator Knows Best blog series on the Sporcle Blog. The series features opinions, top-notch quizzes and quizmakers, bits of trivia, and even a joke at the end from Sporcle’s great curators.


This week, we feature daisy67pet, curator of State.

How did you first get involved with Sporcle?
My cousin introduced it to me when I was 5-ish or so. However, I didn’t create an account until after then. I never thought I would be playing it for 7 years, though!

Why did you decide to be a curator for your subcategory?
I picked my subcategory because I had been applying for curatorships for a long time, and I knew a good amount about geography, so I took my chances!

What’s your favourite trivia fact having to do with you subcategory?
Alaska is the size of over 500 Rhode Islands!

What are some of your favourite published quizzes from your subcategory?
Find the US States – No Outline Minefield
It’s the most popular quiz of all time, and it’s that for a reason! It’s just so darn clever.

What are some of your favourite contributed quizzes from your subcategory?
There’s too many contributed quizzes to pick! I love all of them the same. *Though I will say for some reason there are a lot of sports quizzes in the State subcategory for no reason.*

What are your favourite quizzes from an entirely different category?
Games by Cupcake
I’ve always been a gamer, and I love cupcakes, so this is an obvious like for me.

Which Sporcle Group do you frequent most often?
The Game Room. I host a game there from time to time called Tune it, which is a music game. Other than that, Sporcle News. You gotta stay fresh with all the Sporcle news!

How can Sporclers in your subcategory best contact you?
Send me a message, and take my criticisms. Some people message me, I give them feedback, and they don’t change! It angers me, and I’ll definitely not pick your quiz now!

Are there any Sporclers whose quizzes you think merit more attention than they get?
So many. But there’s too many quizzes, I will say that the more publishes/CPs/EPs you get the more you are likely to get more publishes/CPs/EPs. Don’t give up!

Haiku or favourite Dad Joke (or both):
Had the formula
For invisibility
But it vanished

Thanks for the interview daisy67pet!
Enjoyed the read? Stay up to date on Sporcleverse blog posts by checking the topic on Sporcle Groups or 
following us on Twitter. Stay tuned!

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Seven Comments, Seven Days (10/8)

You can truly find anything across Sporcle’s discussion platforms. Quiz comments, Groups and Bulletins are all home to some of the greatest comments on the internet. Each week, we will select seven comments from across Sporcle that will (hopefully!) brighten up your Monday.

Quiz: Clickable Mammals (Redux)
podpod: “I think it goes Zubat –> Golbat –> Numbat?”

Quiz: European Capitals by First and Last Letters
McNeal: “Surprised you left off Italy’s capital.”

Quiz: US Presidents Playing Sports
bigpond1966: “Enjoyed!!! Clinton says ‘George Clinton’ lol….a little funky archery”

Quiz: Stop, Collaborate and Listen
hhwhat: “I thought it was ‘stop, collaborate and listen.'”

Quiz: Scrambled City Sets
brimtown: “UBERMELON and NEARCRAB would make great city names. And I was really hoping there was a GOLD TACOS in Australia.”

Quiz: Missing Alphabet: Video Games
BigBadBlue458: “Ocarina of Tim – Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail gives a young adventurer the power of music to brave the Cave of Caerbannog to best the Killer Rabbit and slay the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghhh.”

Quiz: Middle Members!
Eskimoed: “The pretty colors distracted me from the ticking clock. 5 Globes!”

Thanks for reading! If you catch a funny or interesting comment anywhere on Sporcle, please message caseyw690 onsite. Until next week, sayonara.

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Trifecta Talk: LTH


Sporclers are friends, not food

TGIF to everyone who may be reading this, welcome to Trifecta Talk number 13! While it’s stated that 13 is an unlucky number, our interviewee of today more than makes up for it. Site moderator, former editor and ambiguously acronymed user LTH is the subject of today’s Trifecta Talk!

When did you first start quiz making and how long did it take you to earn the Big Three?
I’ve never forgotten the date that I first started making quizzes because it was the day the Quiz Lab was first launched: September 23, 2009. Back then it had the unfortunate title of “User Contributed Section”. Really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? That was a very happy day for me because I had been wanting to make quizzes on the site for some time and now I could do so to my heart’s content… well, up to the 7 quiz per month limit anyway :)

I earned the Big Three badges in reverse because my time on the site predates badges, and curator’s picks and even curators for that matter. So the last badge I earned was the Honor Roll and I got it on October 20, 2015.

What was your first ever pick and what was your reaction? What about your first publish?
I honestly don’t remember my first editor’s pick. However, I certainly remember my first publish. It was called Actor Movie Chain II and it’s a dreadful quiz. Still my lowest rated published quiz so it was all uphill from there! I’ve been published many times over the years but I can still say it is quite a thrill every time I get that email.

What category did you struggle with the most? Which one was the easiest?
Gaming was a tough one and still is. It always helps when you come up with a quiz idea that can transcend the categories. For instance, I got a lot of mileage out of this series in the early days.  Movies has always been my easiest category, hence all the content I’ve poured into that category over the years.

Who helped you, or inspired you, the most to earn these badges?
The people who helped me most were the folks at HQ who published my games, and then the editors and curators who enjoyed playing my quizzes. It really takes a community to earn the Big Three.

Did you actively try to earn any of the badges? If so, when and why did you start?
I do recall early on setting out to get a publish in every category even before Crazy Ivan was a thing. It took me 15 months to get there. Fun fact: Hejman and I got our Crazy Ivans on the same day. If you don’t count HQ, we were the 2nd and 3rd users to get the Ivan behind Ben. If you don’t know who Ben is, you need to visit his profile.

What is the most rewarding part of making quizzes?
Oh, where to begin. I get a lot of enrichment from the quiz creation process itself. If no one played my quizzes, I would still make quizzes for myself. But to be able to create something educational, creative but most of all fun and to have others enjoy that creation is incredibly rewarding. And to have others join in on that process either as collaborators or inspirers makes it even better. So I find all of it rewarding.

Which of your published quizzes are you the proudest of?
This is like asking me to choose my favorite child. Well, I suppose I will go with this one. As some of your readers may know, I am a Disney enthusiast and at the time I had just returned from Disneyland with a suitcase full of quiz ideas. One of them was this slideshow and it was a ton of fun finding all the famous people that had visited the park over the decades.  Ask me the same question tomorrow, and I’d probably give you a different answer.

Any advice for would-be badge earners/quizmakers?
Don’t do it unless you enjoy it.

Thanks for the interview LTH (and if you’re reading this, care to tell us your favorite published quiz of today?)!  The great thing about users that have been around since the beginning of the “User Contributed Section” (and I count myself lucky to be able to interview them!) is that they always provide such interesting stories and insights into the development of the site :-)

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