Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor (#337)
The legendary New York Times crossword editor gives a few clues about how each week’s puzzles are constructed and talks about the joy of puzzling.
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Will Shortz, crossword editor for the New York Times and puzzle master for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday, is the guest for this edition of One to One with Bill Goodman. The program was taped on location at the Idea Festival in Louisville.
Shortz got a unique education thanks to the Indiana University’s individualized degree program. He created an entire curriculum based on puzzles and became the only person known to have a college degree in enigmatology, the study of puzzles. He lists some of the courses he took, with topics including the history of puzzles, math puzzles, logic puzzles, and the psychology of puzzles, and explains how he found professors willing to create a curriculum for him.
In the interview, Shortz also talks about his early career in creating and editing puzzles, his weekly schedule with the New York Times, and why he loves meeting other puzzle solvers. For each Times crossword puzzle, he edits for accuracy, difficulty, and freshness; decides what day of the week the puzzle should appear; and then passes it on to other fact checkers and solvers for their suggestions.
Shortz, founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the World Puzzle Championship, sold his first puzzle at age 14. He says the best puzzles should stretch the solver to the limit, but should not be so obscure that he or she cannot figure out the answer. Shortz insists that one should not have to use reference materials to find the answer to a clue in a crossword puzzle he edits.
The puzzle editor also discusses how a crossword puzzle is constructed; how puzzles exercise the brain; and the 2006 documentary Wordplay (aired on KET as part of the Independent Lens series), which features Shortz and the ACPT. He also owns up to one rare mistake in one of his puzzles involving famed Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp.