Penn hosts NYT crossword editor, Will Shortz
Shortz spoke in Irvine Auditorium Tuesday night as part of Year of Games
January 24, 2012, 10:02 pm·
Ciara Stein | DP
Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, is the only individual to ever major in enigmatalogy, the study of puzzles.
Last night, Penn hosted Shortz at Irvine Auditorium as part of the Year of Games. As part of his presentation, Shortz staged an auditorium-wide game of “Beat the Champ,” pitting the audience members against each other in mini-puzzle challenges.
Shortz said he has been “a puzzle head his whole life.” He sold his first puzzle when he was 14 years old and has since worked at Games Magazine and has been the puzzle master on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” since it started in 1987.
In addition to being the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, Shortz is now the founder of both the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the World Puzzle Championship.
Solving puzzles “makes us feel in control of our lives because we can see a challenge through from start to end and for a few seconds, you feel on top of the world,” Shortz said.
For this reason, Shortz has dedicated a large portion of his life to his passion for games and puzzles.
His goal as an enigmatologist is to move crosswords in a direction where there is “less obscurity and [crosswords] speak everyone’s language.”
Penn faculty and students expressed a desire to hear Shortz speak as soon as Penn announced it would be having a theme year centered around games.
David Fox, director of the Penn Reading Project and New Student Orientation, was thrilled to announce that Will Shortz would be coming to speak at Penn because he encourages Penn students to remember that there are “many paths to success and happiness” and not all of them come with business or engineering degrees.
“If you love something deeply,” he said, “you can forge your own education around it.”
Shortz has accomplished what many hope to achieve: he has turned work into a game.
“As a kid, I dreamed about a career with puzzles but never thought it was possible,” Shortz said. “Yet I’ve somehow managed to make a living out of it.”
Andrew Hill, a 2008 College graduate and writer for the Penn alumni blog, Frankly Penn, said, “This is a cool thing [because Shortz is a reminder that] you can do whatever you want if you really like something.”
Fellow 2008 College graduate Stephanie Yee highlighted how Shortz has transformed crossword puzzles from “something individually-focused into a community.”