Will Shortz

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Will Shortz
Shortz at the 2011 Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Born (1952-08-26) August 26, 1952 (age 67)
Other namesThe Puzzlemaster
EducationB.A. in Enigmatology, 1974
Indiana University Bloomington,
J.D., 1977 University of Virginia
OccupationCrossword editor
table tennis center owner
Notable credit(s)
New York Times Puzzle Editor (since 1993), NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle master (since 1987)

William F. Shortz (born August 26, 1952) is an American puzzle creator and editor and crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times.

Early life and education[edit]

Will Shortz was born and raised on an Arabian horse farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana.[1] He was drawn to puzzles at an early age; in eighth grade he wrote a paper titled “Puzzles as a Profession.”[2] (The paper earned him a B+.)[3] At age 13, Shortz wrote to Language on Vacation author Dmitri Borgmann for advice on how to pursue a career in puzzles.[4] He graduated from Indiana University in 1974,[5] and is the only person known to hold a college degree in enigmatology,[6] the study of puzzles. Shortz achieved this by designing his own curriculum through Indiana University's Individualized Major Program.[7] He also earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law (1977), but did not sit for the bar exam and began a career in puzzles instead.[8]


Shortz began his career at Penny Press Magazines,[8] 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.[9] He is a member and historian of the National Puzzlers' League.

Shortz provided the puzzle clues which The Riddler (Jim Carrey) leaves for Batman (Val Kilmer) in the film Batman Forever.[10]

He 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".[11] His favorite individual clue is "It might turn into a different story" (whose solution is SPIRAL STAIRCASE).[12]

Shortz resides in Pleasantville, New York, where he works from home.[citation needed] He is an avid table tennis player.[citation needed] In May 2011, with Barbadian champion (and his long-time friend) Robert Roberts,[13] he opened one of the largest table tennis clubs in the Northeast in Pleasantville.[14] 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.[15]

In February 2009, Shortz helped introduce the KenKen puzzle into The New York Times.[16]

In 2013, Shortz lent his name and talents in puzzle writing and editing to a new bimonthly publication entitled Will Shortz' WordPlay, published by PennyPress.[17]

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."[18]


Shortz in 2006

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.[19]

Shortz has been a guest on a number of TV shows, including Martha Stewart Living, Oprah,[20] The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. He has also appeared on Millionaire as an expert for the "Ask the Expert" lifeline.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24]

On December 18, 2015 he presented the answers on Jeopardy! in the category "The New York Times Crossword".[25]

Shortz was featured on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (ep. 254, May 2018).[26] Also in 2018, Shortz appeared in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "The Puzzle Master" as Sam Jepson, a rival puzzler to Vin Stermley.[27]

Honors and awards[edit]

Shortz gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Indiana University, in May 2008.[citation needed]

In May 2010, Shortz was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.[28]

In May 2018, Shortz was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Indiana University, his alma mater.


  1. ^ "About Will Shortz". NPR.
  2. ^ Hiltner, Stephen (August 1, 2017). "Will Shortz: A Profile of a Lifelong Puzzle Master". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  3. ^ Hiltner, Stephen (August 1, 2017). "Will Shortz: A Profile of a Lifelong Puzzle Master". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  4. ^ Simmons, Mark (Winter 2006). "NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz". Games Quarterly: 24.
  5. ^ "Puzzlemaster Will Shortz to present IU's 2008 commencement address". April 1, 2008.
  6. ^ "New York Times crossword editor to give "puzzling" lecture at IU". Indiana University Bloomington. March 29, 2000. Archived from the original on October 26, 2005. Retrieved July 25, 2005.
  7. ^ "Individualized Major Program". Indiana.edu. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  8. ^ a b "University of Virginia news item". Virginia.edu. April 3, 2008. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "Puzzle pundit has a word", Australian Courier-Mail, 28 October 2006
  10. ^ IMDB Entry for "Batman Forever"
  11. ^ American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: "Business Unusual: Will Shortz"
  12. ^ Thompson, Clive. "New York Magazine". Nymag.com. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  13. ^ Dewi Cooke; Chitrangada Choudhury. "Double Happiness".
  14. ^ Reilly, Kathleen. "Weschester Table Tennis Center Debuts in Pleasantville". AOL Patch. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  15. ^ Schwartz, Casey. "Puzzle Master Will Shortz Played Ping-Pong for 1,000 Days in a Row". Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  16. ^ Stephey, M. J., "Puzzle Guru Will Shortz.". Time March 2, 2009. June 15, 2009.
  17. ^ PennyPress official page for WILL SHORTZ' WORDPLAY
  18. ^ Rosenberg, Eli (March 5, 2016). "Crosswords Seemingly Copied From The New York Times Questioned". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Wordplay on IMDb
  20. ^ The Oprah Winfrey Show: "How'd They Do That?"
  21. ^ "Will on Millionaire Wednesday". YouTube. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  22. ^ TV.com (May 6, 2009). "TV.com". TV.com. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "Listings | TheFutonCritic.com – The Web's Best Television Resource". TheFutonCritic.com. May 10, 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  24. ^ "Sunday Puzzle". Npr.org. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  25. ^ "We asked: NYT crossword editor Will Shortz". Jeopardy.com. December 18, 2015. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  26. ^ "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – May 2018".
  27. ^ ""Brooklyn Nine-Nine" the Puzzle Master (TV Episode 2018)".
  28. ^ "Wabash College: News Crawfordsville, Indiana". Wabash.edu. May 16, 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2013.

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