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Puzzling Appearance

Will Shortz (Law ’77) keeps them guessing

Will Shortz Chris Sabatini

In the spring of 1977, the Law School’s placement office noticed what looked like a problem for a member of its graduating class.

“They saw that I was the only person in my class who had never interviewed for a job,” says Will Shortz, crossword editor for the New York Times. “It didn’t look good. The head of the placement office called me in and asked me what I was going to do when I graduated. I told her I had a job at Penny Press, and I saw her write down in her book ‘Penny, Press,’ waiting for the rest of the [law firm’s] name. I had to break it to her that it was a crossword magazine company.”

Shortz’s career has flourished, and he says his years at UVA were well spent. “Law is great training for the mind for almost any career,” he says. “It was good for me because the thinking skills you get from law school are important in puzzle-solving and puzzle-making. To be able to take a complex issue or problem, separate it into its component parts and deal with each part individually is valuable.”

The author and editor of more than 150 books, founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and subject of the 2006 documentary Wordplay, Shortz returned to Grounds on April 3 to deliver a lecture and challenge his audience with puzzles, including one in honor of his alma mater—”‘VA’ is for Word Lovers.”

Shortz also shared that puzzle on Weekend Edition Sunday on National Public Radio. An NPR podcast of that puzzle is available here.