Walt's Vanity License Plate
by Walter Fadness

"The prize is the good feeling of solving the puzzle without looking in the solutions at the end of the puzzle book."

Fadness understands puzzles. After all, when much of one's career is spent working as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, a necessary job skill is being able to figure out the daily mysteries associated with how some people creatively address their correspondence. Perhaps this proclivity is what partially drove him to begin logging vanity license plates in his retirement, eventually accumulating a whopping 3,000 of them in his personal collection. He has now decided to share some of these with others but in a format as unique and challenging as the plates themselves.

Word searches have long been a staple of puzzle ponderers, but one of the criticisms leveled at them by some is that they are often too quickly solved when one uses the right techniques. The author changes that dynamic in his book. Each entry in his 100 puzzle collection includes twenty license plate clues below a 14 x 22 grid of 308 letters or numbers. Rather than simply seeing a word and then searching for it in the grid above, the reader must first figure out the phrase the vanity plate clue is referring to before hunting it down. And like the best word searches, the phrases are not always placed straight across or up and down. Words can take off at odd angles, intersect with other answers, and even be written backwards or upside down.

The author's book does need some editing, however. For example, occasionally a clue bank will accidentally be placed under the wrong puzzle as is the case with puzzles 53 and 58. Still, the book's concept is fun and innovative. Fadness just might have started a new fad.

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