Arts and Culture

How the Crossword Comes to be

Crosswords are one of the purest forms of a puzzle, one of the originals. Dating back to Arthur Wynne in 1913, crosswords were first born in diamond shape. Now, they look all sorts of funky. In a way, crossword puzzles are like people: they can come in every shape and any size, and while most have a theme and some sort of direction, many crosswords turn out very random and frazzled.

Crosswords could take a participant less than a minute to complete, while some take groups of friends hours to fill in all the squares—and the same could be said for the puzzle master.

Imagine a cold rainy morning, a chai in my hand and my buttocks in a chair in Emerson Dining Hall. Laptop open. Headphones on. I’m listening to the Rolling Stones. Beast of Burden Remastered 1994. Or perhaps it’s sunny out. The birds are chirping. The chai and buttocks still remain the same – frozen in their places of crossword creation. Eyes scan for inspiration, but usually end up dry despite overuse of eye-drops. The hamster in my head is whirring on its wheel but still nothing. It’s out of breath. Perhaps another day.

One day turns into night, and while the sun is setting the answer comes. A theme. I see it on the horizon of my page. I watch it bolden the top of the document and dictate orders to the clues. Fifteen down, fifteen across. The crossword seems quite simple. Another round of chai is needed. Maybe a Yerba Mate this time.

The clues have character – a product of the puzzle master’s deliberate attempt at humor. Some become a mouthful and hard to chew, they’re sticky and tough, but not so bad that it’s impossible. Most become a variation of a play on words, or the clue is part of the answer.

Thirty clues and thirty answers. Have wit, but be polite. Don’t give away the answer, but don’t hide it from them. Inside jokes won’t work, and not everyone will understand. Just because I know the answer doesn’t mean other people will. How niche

is niche enough? How niche is too much? Eventually, the right balance is mixed together.

There’s always a warm sense of pride when I pick up the newspaper on my way out of Balfour. There’s always a specific sense of satisfaction when doing your own crossword. Something so nice about already knowing all the answers. It’s calming, relaxing, easy. With my pen gracing the page and filling in the small boxes with a scribbled rush of letters, I feel for once what everyone else does: the sunny glow of doing a puzzle.

Signed, The Puzzle Master