Monday, June 23, 2014

Everybody’s a Winner, or Why I’m Giving Away a Crossword Collection

This June marks a very special anniversary for me. Twenty years ago, I constructed and submitted my very first crossword puzzle—about a year later, I actually got paid for one.

It all started in August 1991, when my daughter was born, and I decided I wanted to be home to take care of her. My husband and I left our home in New Hampshire, and moved to Ohio to be near my family, and for about two years, I was a moderately happy stay-at-home mommy.

But I could feel my brain turning to cottage cheese. I’d always been active, and I’d been working a steady job of one kind or another since I was 14 years old.  I needed something to do to fill the naptime/preschool hours, and I turned to solving crossword puzzles. I filled up dozens of crossword puzzle books, and my mother suggested that I try to construct a puzzle.

Armed with a stack of dictionaries, graph paper, pencils, and erasers, I finally managed to construct a reasonably interesting 15x15 puzzle in about a week. I typed it on a typewriter and filled in the black spaces with a Sharpie marker, and mailed it. Then, I set to work on the next one. I’d spend hours at the library, researching and looking things up. Eventually, I got pretty good, and it only took me a few days to make a 15x15 puzzle; but it still took more than a week to make a 21x21.

I saved up the checks I received, and bought a computer. The first thing I did was create a clue database. The second thing I did was create a template for the grids. And then I started making more puzzles.

These days, thanks to Crossword Compiler and the Internet, I can whip together a reasonably interesting 21x21 puzzle in less than an hour. I’ve long since given up the stacks of dictionaries in favor of The Free Dictionary and Wikipedia.

So, that’s why I’m giving away this collection of crosswords to anyone who enters my contest this week. It’s an anniversary present, from me to crossword lovers.

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