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Our new puzzle graphic novel LETTERS TO MARGARET is now on Kickstarter

Our new puzzle graphic novel LETTERS TO MARGARET is now on Kickstarter

Fans of our puzzle novel The Maze of Games and our guidebook Puzzlecraft: How to Make Every Kind of Puzzle should love our newest foray into puzzle fiction: the crossword comic Letters to Margaret.

If you thought the world of crosswords was black and white, you’d be… mostly right. They, like all of us, are caught in a highly polarized imbroglio between sides stuck in their black and white thinking. Well, maybe it’s time to consider how the other side sees things. So, author and artist Hayley Gold made a similarly polarized comic. It’s so polarized that it’s literally divided in half. The same series of events are twice-told, each from a different character’s perspective, and each packing a different set of solvable crosswords by Mike Selinker and Andy Kravis. You can solve along and take the puzzles apart with the characters, maybe gaining new perspectives on things as you work your way through each side.

One side’s protagonist, Derry Down, believes that the New York Times crossword reinforces stereotypes, is non-inclusive, and uses offensive clues. Across the aisle (and the bookbinding) is Margaret “Maggie” A. Cross, who’s maddened by blogger critiques that call for stemming the choice of words and topics broached in the crossword in the name of sensitivity. The twosome’s opinions clash on the web, in the crossword blogosphere, and IRL on the campus of Columbia University — but to complicate things, Maggie is visited by the voice of puzzles past: Margaret Farrar. The first editor of the Times crossword emerges in the form of letters, as Ms. Farrar attempts to edit Maggie’s amateur puzzle with a 1960s sensibility.

Letters to Margaret offers a closer look at the issues facing crosswords today from multiple perspectives and multiple time periods, and all sugar-coated with a healthy dose of romcom antics and puzzles for the reader to solve alongside the protagonists. So, in a crossword landscape — and a sociopolitical landscape — that’s so strictly divided, can two sides meet to create a whole? That’s a puzzle that is literally for you to solve.

Letters to Margaret is a graphic novel split in two parts, one facing the opposite direction from the other. You can read Maggie’s tale first or Derry’s tale first and your reading experience will be different each time. But that’s not all you can do. Letters to Margaret is the first comic book you can solve.

If you’re a fan of Lone Shark’s interactive novel The Maze of Games, you may have a clue where this is going. But “having a clue” is the whole point of the book. The book is loaded with crossword puzzles that you can solve before they appear in the characters’ hands. Several are puzzles of the kind you’d find in the New York Times — in fact, in the story, they are NYT crosswords ranging from Wednesday to Saturday in difficulty. Others are the crosswords that Maggie, an up-and-coming cruciverbalist (that’s a fancy term for a crossword constructor), submits to the New York Times — and then gets a few edits from its long-passed editor, Margaret Farrar.

The crosswords are constructed by Andy Kravis, a puzzle editor at the New Yorker, and Mike Selinker, who wrote and constructed The Maze of Games among many other puzzle projects. But of course, the crosswords are characters too. Each has a personality that Mike and Andy brought to life. As you solve the crosswords, you’ll reveal more of the story that Derry and Maggie experience and blog about.

Thank you for asking! You can read the first chapter of Maggie’s book on this page. Or you can just look at the sample pages and images below. Here you can see the adventures of Maggie, Derry, Amanda, Prof. Dodgson, and our two arrows, Ebony and Irony, who provide narration throughout.

Letters to Margaret is a 128-page premium graphic novel. You can get the printed book at the $24 Letters to Margaret Graphic Novel level. Each physical book comes with a PDF so you can print off the crossword pages and solve them without writing in your book, if you so choose. For crossword aficionados, we’ll also provide the puzzles in the .puz format, which allows solving in apps such as AcrossLite.

You can get just the digital book at the $10 Letters to Margaret Digital Comic level. The digital files will come with a PDF and the .puz crossword files, as well as anything we add to it during the campaign.

If you want some pencils to solve the book, we’ve got the pencils for you. At the $63 Solver’s Bundle level you’ll get the physical and digital books and our hand-crafted code pencils, with a host of solving tools printed on the sides. We haven’t sold code pencils for six years, so we’re thrilled to bring them back. Designer Eric Harshbarger has created six unique Letters to Margaret code pencils, each of which provides a set of tools for solving puzzles. On each pencil’s six faces are six codes or sequences critical for puzzle solving (though you don’t need them for the crosswords in this book). In each dozen, you get two each of the following:

  • Pencil #1: Alphabet, numbers (1-26), Braille, Morse code, semaphore, binary
  • Pencil #2: Alphabet, trinary, American Sign Language, nautical flags, QWERTY, Dvorak
  • Pencil #3: Numbers, Roman numerals, telephone keypad letters, keyboard shift numbers, people on U.S. paper money, people on U.S. coins
  • Pencil #4: Months, days in months, birthstones, Western zodiac, zodiac symbols, Chinese zodiac
  • Pencil #5: Numbers, prime numbers, square numbers, cubic numbers, powers of two, Fibonacci sequence
  • Pencil #6: Powers of ten, metric prefixes, metric symbols, large number names, imperial ruler in inches, metric ruler in millimeters

Finally, you collectors can get a signed book with signatures from the creative team at $75 Signed Graphic Novel level. Or you can add to that a set of pencils at the $99 Signed Solver’s Bundle level. Finally, you can get that Solver’s Bundle plus all our other books—including everything for The Maze of Games, Puzzlecraft, Dealer’s Choice, and Game Theory in the Age of Chaos—at the $200 Every Lone Shark Book level, or get it all signed at the limited $600 Every Lone Shark Book Signed level.

There are no shipping costs listed, because you’ll add those on in Lone Shark’s pledge manager after the campaign ends. Shipping costs will be approximately $10 to $12 in the United States and $14 to $16 in Canada. We’re sad to say that puzzle books cannot be shipped Media Mail, because the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t like fun. The physical goods can only be sent to the U.S. and Canada, because the shipping cost elsewhere is insane. If you’re interested outside North America, please fill out this interest-gauging page.

C’mon, this is us we’re talking about. Of course there are. Hop to the campaign page and try out our candy heart crosswords. You can get some sweet badges like these.

We’d love it if you checked out the Letters to Margaret Kickstarter campaign. Let us know what you think of it. And thanks for being our fans!

The Sharks

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