August 26: Will Shortz Day

Today is the birthday of Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times.

Shortz was born in 1952 in Indiana and attended Indiana University, studying Enigmatology, the study of puzzles. To earn his degree, Shortz had to persuade his professors that puzzles were a legitimate course of study. Once he got the go ahead, he then designed his own curriculum. Completing his degree in 1974, is the only person in the world with a degree in the field.

Shortz’s studies did not go to waste. He is the former editor of Games magazine and the current director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which he founded in 1978. In addition to his work with The New York Times, Shortz has been heard each week on National Public Radio stations since 1987, where he is known as the Puzzle-Master (1).

In 2006 a documentary called Wordplay profiled Shortz and his passion for crossword puzzles.

The following synopsis of the film is from the Wordplay movie site:

WORDPLAY focuses on the man most associated with crossword puzzles, New York Times puzzle editor and NPR puzzle-master Will Shortz. Director Patrick Creadon introduces us to this passionate hero, and to the inner workings of his brilliant and often hilarious contributors, including syndicated puzzle creator Merl Reagle.

Along the way, the film presents interviews with celebrity crossword puzzlers such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina and the Indigo Girls, who reveal their process, insight and the allure of the game. In addition to deconstructing this uniquely American institution, Wordplay takes us though the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where almost five hundred competitors battled it out for the title “Crossword Champ” and showed their true colors along the way (1).

Today’s Challenge: Crosswords Shortz-cuts
Below are definitions of words that commonly appear in crossword puzzles, but they are not necessarily common in everyday speech. Given the clues below, see if you can come up with the words.

1. 4 letters: A solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment, as in an opera.

2. 5 letters: The main trunk of the systemic arteries carrying blood from the left side of the heart to the arteries of all limbs and organs except the lungs.

3. 3 letters: A gradual decline or the outward flow of the tide.

4. 4 letters: A mild, yellow Dutch cheese, pressed into balls and usually covered with red wax.

5. 5 letters: Any of several large sea ducks especially of the genus Somateria of northern regions, having soft, commercially valuable down and predominantly black and white plumage in the male.

6. 3 letters: An indefinitely long period of time; an age.

7. 4 letters: A fencing sword with a bowl-shaped guard and a long, narrow fluted blade that has no cutting edge or tapers to a blunted point.

8. 3 letters: A female sheep, especially when full grown.

9. 4 letters: A pitcher, especially a decorative one with a base, an oval body, and a flaring spout.

10. 4 letters: A very small amount; a bit.

11. 3 letters: A strong desire or inclination; a yearning or craving (1).

Quote of the Day: We try to do a Shakespeare play every year, because I feel that it provides the best tool for actor training. It’s challenging in performance and language, physicality, analytical skills, and this particular one is along the serious lines, which seemed to fit the bill in terms of the kind of genre we wanted to explore. I call this the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle for actors. —Jack Cirillo

Answers: 1. aria 2. aorta 3. ebb 4. edam 5. eider 6. eon 7. epee 8. ewe 9. ewer 10. iota 11. yen

1 – “Will Shortz Biography.” NPR.

2 –