The Rackenfaction: John Sams, fairness cop

Who's your best defense from excessive Rackenfracking? The guy who's put up with us the longest.

For us at the Rackenfracker, writing about John Sams is a bit like writing about air – hard to communicate what it is, harder still to imagine our lives without. John was the one who introduced dadgumituh to jmsr525 in 1993, having struck the appropriate conversations. We once again all live in the same metro area, and John is a co-owner of My First LLC, our game and puzzle design studio.

Born during the Ford presidency in Tennessee, John moved to the high school where JM was a complete social misfit. Sean followed the next year and together three of them made game adaptations; baroquely unkind levels for Lode Runner; puzzles and allegedly humorous articles for the high school newspaper; and camcorder masterpieces for their own amusement (a qualifier we verified by sharing them with others).

When JM got into cryptics, Sean and John both agreed to give it a try. John was a machine at designing grids at a time when the best tool at hand was paper, but otherwise found he much preferred solving to being between your overcranked authors as they worked on outré bait & switch machinations. We three soon pivoted to working together on board game design, an avocation that brought the best out of us all.

When the pandemic forced us into pods and we began sowing the seeds of The Rackenfracker, we told John to HMU if he wanted in, but he opted for DIY instead, having gone full bore into home improvement mode. (Seriously, you should see his house.)

But he's still making his mark on The Rackenfracker: He definitely approved of the name (which is rooted in long-ago shenanigans) and his test solves are always especially sensitive to fairness — he's not afraid to call us out when we have traded square dealing for being a little too arch. And in real life, he was recently promoted to game development supervisor for the Wisconsin Lottery. Congrats, John, and thanks.

Subscribe to The Rackenfracker

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.