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Clever Clue of the Month

The Cruciverbalist


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October 2, 2005


During the Great American Puzzle Craze of 1924 New York City commuter trains provided a dictionary in each one of their cars so riders wouldn't have to lug one to work every day. The New York City Library had a five minute limit on borrowing reference works lest the waiting crowds get unruly. Two crossword-themed musicals appeared on Broadway. Dozens of pieces of crossword sheet music were published between October 1924 and May 1925. I don't know if any crossword-related music is being written anymore, but Marc Romano, a writer for the Boston Globe and the Village Voice, has written a very satisfying book about America's crossword obsession.

His book is mostly about his experience at, and preparation for, the 2004 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut, but it also covers the whole crossword world – thus the title: Crossworld. I discovered that the 500 people or so that show up every year at the Stamford tournament are in a completely different class from myself. Mr. Romano, a puzzler who regularly completes the New York Times puzzle in four to ten minutes finished slightly above the middle of the pack.

We also learn about Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times, and the only person, as far as I know, with a college degree in puzzling. One of the things I never realized was how involved a crossword puzzle editor gets with the puzzles that get published. I assumed the editor simply checked the puzzle to make sure it was up to his standards and made sure there weren't any mistakes. Not Will Shortz. He personally provides half the clues, on average, for any given puzzle. Realizing this, I'm going to have to make an adjustment on my Clever Clue of the Month page. From now on I'll list not only the author of the puzzle but also the editor.

Mr. Romano also discusses “crosswordese” a little bit. He points out that Shortz is attempting to weed out some of it from crosswords that end up in the New York Times. Anoa and Adit will no longer appear in his puzzles. Lest you think a steady diet of Crosswordese Words of the Day is a vain pursuit, don't worry – as long as there are crossword puzzles there will be crosswordese.

One last point Romano makes that I need to comment on. If you've been bitten by the crossword puzzle bug, you need never be bored again. Personally, I bring puzzles everywhere I go – long trips, short trips, swimming meets... I could go on and on. And, speaking of boredom, if on your next trip you forget your puzzles, you'll be okay if you have a copy of Crossworld to read.

August 20, 2005 Crosswordese and the Arts

June 26, 2005 Alzheimer’s and Crossword Puzzles

May 26, 2005 Sudoku

May 1, 2005 Spell-check

April 16, 2005 Frequency

April 7, 2005 Keyhole

March 19, 2005 A New Champion

March 12, 2005 More Great Links

March 1, 2005 Chicken Strata ala King

February 23, 2005 Solution!

February 21, 2005 Letter Rip?

February 12, 2005 Spelling Bee

February 1, 2005 A 75th Anniversary

January 29, 2005 Video Google

January 22, 2005 Unexpected Pleasures

January 4, 2005 Invisible Ink

January 1, 2005 Let The Adventure Begin

Paul Stynsberg, © 2004