Quick, solve the following trivia: What major newspaper is famous for its Sunday crossword puzzle? _ h _ _ e _ _ _ r_ T _ _ e _.
Have you guessed it? A certain Oakwood resident is very familiar with them, as she has had 13 puzzles accepted by the publishing giant. Mary Lou Guizzo is a cruciverbalist. That is, she is highly skillful in the art of creating crossword puzzles.
Guizzo started out, as most do, solving crossword puzzles. She got into the hobby about eight years ago, starting with the easiest ones on Monday, and progressing to the harder ones throughout the week.
“I used to go out to see my brother who lived on Long Island,” Guizzo said. “I thought, these (crossword puzzles) in the NYT are kind of neat, and I started solving them and then studying the themes. About two or three years ago I got curious about constructing them.”
She started putting puzzles together with the help of mentors. She worked with Nancy Salomon from Rochester, New York, and then teamed up with Jeff Chen, who lives in Seattle.
“I found out about mentors by reading blogs,” said Guizzo. “Constructing crosswords gives you a real appreciation for the work involved in making a quality puzzle.”
So far, Guizzo has had 35 crossword puzzles accepted by seven different publishing outlets, and some by major papers such as the New York Times. She got the go-ahead nod for 13 of them from NYT; there are still eight in the queue. The Los Angeles Times, which is syndicated in the Dayton Daily News, has accepted eight of them. The Wall Street Journal has OK’d four of her puzzles.
Others include the Orange County Register, BuzzFeed, Chronicle of Higher Education, and independents such as the CrossWord Club.
Her first crossword puzzle accepted, “Inflation,” was co-created with Chen and published on June 7, 2013, in the Wall Street Journal. Her first solo puzzle accepted was published by the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 13, 2013.
“I really enjoy working with Mary Lou. She’s a hard worker who isn’t afraid to brainstorm, create, and revise as much as is necessary to produce a strong crossword,” said Chen. “It’s been so great watching how she’s transformed herself from a total beginner into an experienced crossword constructor in such a short period of time.”
Guizzo says it takes many hours, weeks, even months to construct a good puzzle, depending upon the complexity of the wordplay grid.
New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz said that the payment for an accepted NYT puzzle is $300 for a Monday to Saturday puzzle, and $1,000 for a Sunday puzzle. He chooses seven from an average of 75 to 100 submissions a week.
“I’m a big fan of Mary Lou Guizzo, who has had five crosswords published in the New York Times so far, with more on the way,” said Shortz. “Two of these puzzles have been ‘themeless’ Friday ones, featuring wide-open white spaces and few black squares. This is a domain usually dominated by male constructors. Mary Lou’s work ranks with the best.”
The puzzle had words and phrases such as “clean sweep,” “mister president,” “Elizabeth Warren,” “Hostess Twinkies,” “A stroke of genius” and “on intimate terms.”
“Almost nothing was obscure or forced in the grid. That’s professional work that’s just flat-out fun to solve,” said Shortz.
And referring to solving, you’ve got the one in the first paragraph, right?
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Contact this contributing writer at PamDillon@woh.rr.com.