How Will Shortz makes a Crossword

While it is not like drugs Will admits that it is an addiction. And it is in fact a beneficial addiction because it is going to make your brain bigger, form new neural paths especially for the part of the brain related to linguistics. And it can very well happen to make you more capable of tackling life challenges you face.

He confesses that he has always been a puzzle head who solved puzzles ever since he was a kid. An interesting fact about him as that he created a whole CV in puzzles and he has the World’s only CD in enigmatology. Enigmatology is a term devised by Shortz himself. While he is not a magician or a talented singer, his ability to craft a puzzle and write clues that will engage people is a special talent too. Tickling the cruciverbal center in your brain is what he jokingly calls it.

While everyday would be a little different for him as the editor of the NYT Crossword, his typical day consists of reviewing the submissions he receives. Generally about 70 to 110 puzzles are submitted in a given week, all of which need to be carefully looked at by Will. As a very hands-on editor who is very much in touch with the puzzle publishing process, half the clues are edited by him. Putting an emphasis on accuracy because obviously everything has to be correct.

He consults his most used reference books: World Almanac, A Collegiate Dictionary, Movie Guides, Proper names, Literature Books. He often needs to find out how common is a word or a phrase thus figuring out if it would make a good crossword entry. Google has a feature that will tell you how common a word is, and let you can see its popularity over time.

When Will decides a puzzle is good enough and accepts it for publication, the first thing he does is choose which day of the week it will be published on. Monday is the easiest puzzle and everyday the difficulty increases with Friday and Saturday being very difficult. After the puzzle is edited they are typeset and sent to 3 or 4 test players, who conduct another test and if necessary provide corrections or comments, so that Shortz will polish the puzzle for publication in The Times Crossword. Every times crossword puzzle is seen, reviewed and played by a lot of people before it is finally published.