April 27, 2017

Are you a Puzzler?

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine 

As writers, we are told to read, read and then read some more. Have you ever wondered if being a "puzzler" would help when the words escape you? I watched last Friday's Harry Smith interview editor, Will Shortz in celebration of 75 years of the somewhat elusive, NYTimes Crossword Puzzle. Shortz is the world's only enigmatologist, a specialty degree he created at Indiana University. As editor, Shortz goes through each and every puzzle submission to the Times. If you missed the interview, here is the video link to the story. Did you know there are puzzler contests? Did you know there are professional crossword authors?

I did a Wikipedia search and discovered Shortz "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.
I was mesmerized by the piece on puzzling. Personally, I sporadically work the crossword puzzle in our local paper, but it's not on the level of the NY Times. The Shortz piece gave me an aha moment. What if as writers, when the words won't flow, we take a break and work a crossword puzzle for 5 minutes. 
I tried it yesterday, when I hit a snag while plotting a short story. It was amazing how working a crossword puzzle for 5 minutes helped jump start my writing. If you would like, you can download a number of free crossword puzzle apps including The New York Times. You can find them by searching the App Store.

Another upside to working crossword puzzles is science says it helps keep your brain engaged and healthy. Meg Seling, wrote this fascinating article for Psychology  Today, titled "How is Doing a Crossword Puzzle Like Changing a Habit?"

Join me, make a new habit of working a crossword puzzle and give it a whirl. Be sure to let us know your experience. 

So, I ask y'all, are you a puzzler? 


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