Date: January 3, 2003
Byline: 60 Minutes
The Crossword KingFor the millions who try to solve the New York Times crossword each day, there may be no bigger enigma than the man whose name appears at the top of it. Little is known about Will Shortz, the puzzle editor whose clues confound so many, but Steve Kroft offers some clues in a profile to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m., ET/PT.
Shortz, 49, isn't a New Yorker, but a transplanted Midwesterner from Indiana. He's got the world's biggest library – over 20,000 books – containing, or about, puzzles. Ever heard of enigmatology? It's the study of puzzles and Shortz majored in it, receiving a B.A. from the University of Indiana.
He created his first crossword at the age of 6 and sold his first at 14. As the editor of the Times crossword, he rarely constructs the puzzle, but edits all the entries that do run, which he buys from a stable of freelance contributors. He re-writes many of the clues.
For those of you who take these puzzles personally, so does Shortz. "My name is on the puzzle every day, and so, the solver is matching wits with me," he tells Kroft. If you're doing the puzzle in a public place and a stranger sits beside you and begins to take ever-so-subtle notice of your progress, beware.
"Sometimes when I am taking the train, I will sit near somebody who is solving the New York Times crossword, just to keep an eye on them, see how they're doing," says Shortz.
If you are a good solver of crosswords, you just might meet Shortz some day. "If they do well, I introduce myself. If they don't do well, then I keep it my little secret," says Shortz.