Picture this: In class, laptops swarm with those gritty New York Times jingles. The professor gawks in confusion. Students mute their volumes out of embarrassment. But they feel various things — accomplishment for cracking a puzzle, maybe momentary relief. The Mini felt good to play, didn’t it?
Starting Jan. 23, you can expect to see something similar online: five-by-five mini crossword puzzles on The Daily Pennsylvanian’s website — constructed in-house and published three times a week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In the future, if there is sufficient demand: full-size crossword puzzles, too.
Hi, I’m the DP, Inc.’s inaugural senior crosswords editor, Tyler. And I’m happy to bring this new project to you now as the news world meets an abrupt challenge of wrestling for readers’ attention. In our University City office of student staffers, we’ll create timely and engaging puzzles that detail campus-wide happenings, Penn-specific references, and the usual thought-provoking clues that always flutter at the corners of your brain.
It’s obvious that the ways in which we consume and approach media and news have changed since the start of the pandemic. As a result, students are more likely to view social media, shop online, and stream video than to open up the conventional newspaper or magazine. How we unite to understand the world has changed, with less reliance on analog connection. Technology has raised these concerns for us; where digital landscapes have brought us together, they’ve somehow lost their meaning. In this muddle, it’s clear that our minds are elsewhere and ablaze. But maybe crosswords — made for students, by students — can keep us all mulling over something worthwhile and fulfilling in the meantime.
I began believing in the power of crossword puzzles during quarantine when my first year at Penn fell out from under me. And when I realized that minis were a less brutish challenge than full-size crosswords, I completed them everyday. My gravitation to creative writing, wordforming, and languages melded together: Crosswords were for me to solve, and they kept me in the know. When the rest of my life had no pattern, I knew that, at least, the NYT and Los Angeles Times clues that I confronted did.
Last year in February, when I served as design editor for the DP, I became enthralled with the idea of assembling a team of crossword constructors. I had just stumbled upon The Daily Princetonian’s crossword content and web player a few weeks prior. With fervor and pep in my step, I mentioned the Prince’s crosswords to my close friend and bygone DP editor-in-chief. And as coincidence or fate would have it, I learned that his high school buddy was the Prince’s crosswords editor and original creator. In that moment, I knew that I had to step up and make it happen for Penn.
Here we are, cruciverbalizing.
Following in its footsteps, the DP is now the second Ivy League student newspaper to pursue original crossword content, after the Prince in 2021. Other student-led crossword teams are mobilizing across the country, too, like The Michigan Daily only weeks ago. In today’s age of information overload and digital communication malaise, I imagine that college media organizations releasing crossword content — like us — are doing so not only out of excitement but necessity, as attention spans are on the decline, at Penn and elsewhere. That is, the introduction of student-made crosswords is spreading with every moment. But media organizations have to be careful in ensuring these new services don’t become part of students’ current media fatigue.
Student journalists, then, must address the gap between disseminating information and unlocking readers’ creativity and agency. Because if there’s anything that we all can control of the many things we can’t, it’s unwinding through games and gaiety — both significant to crosswords and how they’re made.
I’m not telling you to stop reading our important coverage on McDonald’s recent closure, 34th Street’s feature on the Netter Center’s 30th anniversary, or Under the Button’s feverish jabs at McClelland Sushi & Market. Instead, I think our crosswords can complement these stories and voices, moving people to bond over clues in Williams Cafe or before the start of English classes. So, when the news and the world seem overwhelming, let the crossword do the talking.
This new service will give us, as a student body, another mode of sharing something special. We can form a buzz at our own pace. If you’ve never had a knack for crosswords, let now be your moment. Your brain becomes sharper as a regular crossword player, after all, and you’ll become a more informed reader without realizing it. Without us taking a stab at a clue or two, how we perceive challenges wouldn’t be the same.
Maybe, even, a DP crossword to enjoy with someone else will get you hitched, like the two Penn Medicine residents — and crossword lovers — who proposed with one in 2018.
I invite you now to visit the DP’s website often (and soon, in print) to peruse our crossword puzzle selection. This is history in the making! And as you make your way through these puzzles on your own or with a friend, remember that you’ll always find a pattern, across and down, wherever you go.
TYLER KLIEM is a College junior studying comparative literature and design from Hamilton, N.J. He is also the inaugural senior crosswords editor and former design editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. His email is email@example.com.