Will Shortz (born August 26, 1952 in Crawfordsville, Indiana) is an American puzzle creator and editor, and currently the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times.
Early life and education
Will Shortz was born and raised on an Arabian horse farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana. From an early age he was drawn to wordplay, and at 13 wrote to Language on Vacation author Dmitri Borgmann for advice on how to pursue a career in puzzles. Graduating from Indiana University in 1974, he is the only person known to hold a college degree in enigmatology, the study of puzzles. Shortz achieved this feat by designing his own curriculum through Indiana University's Individualized Major Program. He also earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law (1977), though he forewent the bar exam and began a career in puzzles instead. He is a brother in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Shortz began his career at Penny Press Magazines, then moved to Games magazine for 15 years, serving as its editor from 1989–1993. He has been the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times since 1993 (the fourth in the paper's history, following Eugene Thomas Maleska), and has been the puzzle master on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday since the program was started in 1987. He is the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (1978), and has served as its director since that time. He founded the World Puzzle Championship in 1992 and is a director of the U.S. Puzzle Team.
Shortz is the author or editor of more than 100 books and owns over 20,000 puzzle books and magazines dating back to 1545, reportedly the world's largest private library on the subject. Shortz is a member of the National Puzzlers' League. He is currently the league historian.
Shortz provided the puzzle clues which The Riddler (Jim Carrey) leaves for Batman (Val Kilmer) in the film Batman Forever.
On his 50th birthday, Shortz received a personal note from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is a fan of The New York Times crossword puzzle.
As crossword editor of the New York Times, Shortz has said that his favorite crossword of all time is the Election Day crossword of November 5, 1996, designed by Jeremiah Farrell. It had two correct solutions with the same set of clues, one saying that the "Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper (!)" would be "BOB DOLE ELECTED", and the other correct solution saying "CLINTON ELECTED". His favourite individual clue is "It might turn into a different story" (whose solution is SPIRAL STAIRCASE).
Shortz currently resides in Pleasantville, New York, where he works from home. Shortz is an avid table tennis player; in May 2011, with Barbadian champion (and his long-time friend) Robert Roberts, he opened one of the largest table tennis clubs in the Northeast in Pleasantville. In 2012, Shortz set a goal for himself to play table tennis every day for a year, but surpassed his goal, playing for 1000 consecutive days.
In February 2009, Shortz helped introduce the KenKen puzzle into The New York Times.
In 2013, Shortz lent his name and talents in both puzzle writing and editing to a new bimonthly publication entitled Will Shortz' WordPlay, published by PennyPress.
In March 2016, FiveThirtyEight reported on allegations of plagiarism regarding USA Today editor Timothy Parker's use of themes, clues, and grids previously published in the New York Times. The Times also reported on the story, in which Shortz is quoted as saying: “When the same theme answers appear in the same order from one publication to the next, that makes you look closer. When they appear with the same clues, that looks suspicious. And when it happens repeatedly, then you know it’s plagiarism.”
The 2006 documentary Wordplay by Patrick Creadon focuses on Shortz and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Various famous fans of his puzzles such as Bill Clinton, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart, Daniel Okrent, Indigo Girls and Mike Mussina appear in the film.
Shortz has been a guest on a number of TV shows, including Martha Stewart Living, Oprah, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. He has also appeared on Millionaire as an expert for the "Ask the Expert" lifeline.
He appeared on an episode of The Simpsons titled "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words", which first aired on November 16, 2008.
He appeared in Dinner: Impossible as himself, challenging the chef to create dishes that mimic common English idioms at the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The episode aired on May 6, 2009.
He also appeared on an episode of How I Met Your Mother titled "Robots Versus Wrestlers", which first aired on May 10, 2010 during season 5. He appeared as himself at an upscale dinner party that included Arianna Huffington and Peter Bogdanovich, also playing themselves.
Shortz is a weekly guest on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday where he hosts the Sunday Puzzle, a cooperative game between the show's host and one of the show's listeners. The lucky player is picked randomly from a group of submissions containing the correct answer to a qualifier puzzle issued the week before.
Honors and awards
Shortz gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Indiana University, in May 2008.
In May 2010, Shortz was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wabash College in Indiana.