World Report: April 27, 2007 Vol. #12 Iss. #25

This Issue:
Table of Contents
Cover Story
Cover Story - Spanish Version
Comprehension Quiz
Teacher's Guide and Worksheets

A Passion for Puzzles

Claudia Atticot

What's a 12-letter word for someone whose job is to have fun with words? Stumped? The answer is "puzzlemaster," and he is Will Shortz.

Shortz, 54, started making crossword puzzles when he was about 8 years old. "I just picked it up on my own one day," he told TFK. "No one else in my family was interested in puzzles." Shortz sold his first crossword when he was 14 years old. Two years later, he became a regular contributor to Dell magazines, one of the biggest puzzle publishers in the country.

In 1974, Shortz became the first person to get a college degree in enigmatology, the study of puzzles. His childhood ambition was to study puzzles. So, at Indiana University, in Bloomington, he created his own program of study. "When I was a kid, I used to joke about majoring in puzzles, because that is what I loved to do," he says. "I just never dreamed it would be possible."

For the past 30 years, Shortz has hosted the American Crossword Challenge, a national competition that he created. The wordsmith has edited the New York Times crossword puzzle for more than 13 years. Every Sunday, he can be heard on National Public Radio, where he creates puzzles for listeners to solve.

The current craze in the world of puzzles is Sudoku, a number puzzle in a nine-by-nine grid. "I am fanatical about Sudoku," says Shortz. "One of the great things about this kind of puzzle is that you can be a pretty good solver when you're 10, because you don't need to know too much."

This October, Shortz will host the first Sudoku National Championship, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Don't be surprised if the winner is a good solver who knows quite a lot.