Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Enigmatology

Will Shortz is answering questions at the NYT website this week. I love the answer about his coursework in enigmatology:
For my major in enigmatology at Indiana University, I took courses on "Word Puzzles of the 20th Century," "Construction of Crossword Puzzles," "Popular Mathematical Puzzles," "Logic Puzzles," "The Psychology of Puzzles," "Crossword Magazines," and related subjects. Not surprisingly Indiana had no existing courses on puzzles, so I made them all up myself. In each case I'd find a professor willing to work with me one on one on the topic I proposed. For my course on crossword construction, for example, every two or three weeks I'd take a new puzzle I'd created to my professor's office and sit at his side while he solved and critiqued it. This was my first experience creating professional quality crosswords. For my course on the psychology of puzzles, I studied how the brain works as well as why people feel driven to solve puzzles. My thesis was on "The History of American Word Puzzles Before 1860," in which I traced original American puzzles back to 1647 — almost the beginning of printing history in the colonies.

Last month I found a whole set of crossword puzzles I made a few years ago with the intention of sending them to Will Shortz; strangely enough, I didn't write clues for all the answers of the completed puzzles, so the solving process is going to be difficult. I would also love to read this thesis.

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