By Brad Beck
Student Multimedia Reporter
|Update Below: Michael David's crossword was published in the April 23 edition of the New York Times.
As a child, Michael David loved unraveling word problems. Recently, what began as a childhood hobby has turned into an outright fixation of crossword puzzles.
Not just working crossword puzzles, but creating them. David, 31, a math education graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh will soon see not one, but two of his crossword creations in the hallowed halls of crossword aficionados: The New York Times.
The New York Times crossword puzzles, which appear daily in the newspaper, are regarded among the most prestigious crosswords in America. Monday puzzles are usually the easiest; Sundays are the most difficult.
Celebrities like former President Clinton, TV host Jon Stewart, and ex-New York Yankee Mike Mussina are avid fans of the Times crossword puzzles.
David credits his math background for his success and interest in crossword puzzles. He graduated from Ripon College with a bachelor’s degree in math and French and now teaches math at Portage High School in Portage, Wis.
“Many of the top solvers are people who work in math or music or any kind of profession where there are patterns involved,” said David, who was inspired to construct his own puzzle after watching Wordplay, a 2006 documentary that focuses on the world of crossword puzzles.
Once David has workable idea and theme, he uses a computer program called Crossword Compiler to design a grid for the crossword puzzle. Once the grid is created, he can then place the letters in the squares.
For David, one puzzle could take up to 10 hours to construct, over the span of a few days.
Crossword creators, David said, always attempt to keep their puzzles current to make them more attractive to readers and puzzle solvers. They include quotes from The Simpsons and everyday language as well. “I always have theme ideas circling around in my head,” he said.
On March 16th, Michael David plans to attend the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. The tournament, which is directed by Will Shortz, The New York Times crossword editor, is the oldest and largest crossword competition in the country, attended by the best “word players” in the nation.
David downplayed his chances at the big crossword competition. “I’m just doing it for a kick this year,” he said.
In this audio-only podcast, student multimedia reporter Brad Beck
sits down with Michael David to discuss his venture into the world
of crossword puzzles.