The Rackenfaction: Will Nediger, The Professional

A tip of our hat someone who encourages us to be wilder.

We start so many of these anecdotes with "long ago" that, to be honest, we're starting to feel old. But long ago, JM and his beloved were working on an old-school GAMES Magazine Calculatrivia contest written by the late, great Bob Lodge, and made mention of it on their blog. (Calculatrivia, a stalwart GAMES contest perfected by Lodge, is a series of bonkers trivia questions with numerical answers plugged into an equation producing the one "answer" which is then to be submitted. The opportunities to go awry are innumerable.)

In an attempt to stop a one-off blog post from getting swamped with comments, they spun up a dedicated blog, The Unofficial Calculatrivia Discussion Place, where JM would post puzzles of his own design or those submitted by the community. It marked an amazing period when blogging and puzzling overlapped and drew in, to put it delicately, a bunch of cool people. Even Mr. Lodge himself would post a new puzzle there, and answers would pop in from solvers such as @TheTweetOfGod, back when he was only the head writer of The Daily Show.

JM's favorite puzzle that he posted there, cowritten with John Sams, was "What's Missing." Community reaction to the puzzle was excellent, and (now we arrive at the actual star of this story) who were the winners?

Less than a month prior to this, Will's first New York Times crossword puzzle was published (today, he's fast approaching his 50th), and less than a year after, he and his team won nationals in the Reach for the Top Ontario quiz bowl competition.

(checks notes) Which is a high school quiz bowl competition.

So, if you don't know what he's done since then, you can imagine it, and you'd be right — trivia competitions vanquished everywhere, puzzles published everywhere (including, of course, great cryptics) — but: He had a long stint as a trivia writer (to the terror and delight of quiz bowls everywhere) and has long been a force for good in the crossworld, co-founding the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory, expanding the vocabulary (and thus inclusiveness) of the daily crossword, and sharing wisdom in indie constructing forums when wisdom is requested. (Not to mention hosting a monthly salon with Hayley Gold on Twitch that celebrates our favorite form, the variety cryptic.)

We didn't reconnect with Will until the "indie constructing forum" days. We were thrilled when he accepted the editorship of our Out of Shape series, and from the warm feedback the series has gotten, we trust you agree. We're not shy about pushing envelopes when we have a firm hand pushing back, and Will is an excellent foil in that regard, so when you come across a clue that feels particularly spicy, you can trust (a) that it has been deeply considered and (b) that you were spared from much worse. But also, when you come across a clue that's neat and clean and just so, there's a good chance that Will had the coup de grâce insight that brought it all together.

For our money, the puzzles at his blog Bewilderingly can't be beat — it's where Will gets to indulge ideas too (a)cute for general audiences. This suite is a stunner, bookmarked especially for fans of Word▶️ that like to see deep (and loving) pop culture theming — it's just banger after banger and banger — but that applies to all of Will's output, frankly. We're so very glad to have him on board.

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