William F. Shortz (born August 26, 1952) is an American puzzle creator and editor who is the crossword editor for The New York Times. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in the invented field of enigmatology. After starting his career at Penny Press and Games magazine, he was hired by The New York Times in 1993. Shortz's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is the country's oldest and largest crossword tournament.

Will Shortz
Shortz in March 2023
William F. Shortz[1]

(1952-08-26) August 26, 1952 (age 71)[2]
Other namesThe Puzzlemaster
EducationIndiana University Bloomington (B.A.)
University of Virginia (J.D.)
Occupation(s)Crossword editor
Table tennis center owner
Notable credit(s)New York Times puzzle editor (since 1993), NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday puzzlemaster (since 1987)

Early life and education


Shortz was born and raised on an Arabian horse farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana.[3] He was drawn to puzzles at an early age; in eighth grade he wrote a paper titled "Puzzles as a Profession".[4] (The paper earned him a B+.)[4] At age 13, Shortz wrote to Language on Vacation author Dmitri Borgmann for advice on how to pursue a career in puzzles.[5] At age 16, Shortz began regularly contributing crossword puzzles to Dell publications.[6] He eventually graduated from Indiana University in 1974,[7] and is the only person known to hold a college degree in enigmatology,[8] the study of puzzles. Shortz wrote his thesis about the history of American word puzzles.[9] Shortz achieved this by designing his own curriculum through Indiana University's Individualized Major Program.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] He is a member and historian of the National Puzzlers' League.



Shortz began his career at Penny Press Magazines,[11] then moved to Games magazine for 15 years, and was its editor from 1989 to 1990, when the magazine temporarily folded. He was rehired in late 1991, then let go in August 1993.[13] A few months later he became the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, the fourth in the paper's history, following Eugene Thomas Maleska.[14]

Shortz 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 been 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 also 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.[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 Penny Press.[17] 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".[18] His favorite individual clue is "It might turn into a different story" (whose solution is SPIRAL STAIRCASE).[19]



In 2017, Shortz published a Times crossword by a prisoner named Lonnie Burton who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old boy, in addition to having burglary and robbery charges, prompting backlash from some solvers.[20] Shortz did not include the reason for Burton's imprisonment in his accompanying blog post. Burton had previously had crosswords published in the Los Angeles Times.[21] The Times public editor Liz Spayd wrote in an article on the decision, "What I question is the decision not to tell readers what Burton did. [...] I understand Shortz’ reflex to hold back such dark information given the levity of a puzzle, but not doing so may have made matters worse. It left some readers with the feeling of being tricked."[21]

At various times in his career Shortz has apologized for cluing decisions that sparked public backlash for being racist, sexist or offensive.[22][23]

In 2019, The New York Times issued an apology after Shortz chose to publish the racial slur "BEANER" in the crossword, cluing it as "Pitch to the head, informally".[24] Shortz admitted that he saw the derogatory definition when he researched the word, but claimed he had never personally heard it, and explained that as long as a word also has a "benign" meaning, it meets his editorial standards for publication. Shortz defended his use of "BEANER" and noted he has published and stands by the benign meanings of the terms "CHINK" and "GO OK" (or "GOOK"), both slurs for people of Asian descent.[25]

In 2020, more than 600 crossword constructors and solvers signed an open letter to the executive director of Times puzzles asking for changes and expressing concerns regarding the diversity within the puzzle department at the Times and the puzzle itself.[26][27] The letter also described the resignation of Claire Muscat, a woman who was hired as a test-solver, who resigned because of what she described as being hired to provide a perfunctory token female perspective.[28][29][26]

Honors and awards

  • On May 3, 2008, Shortz gave the commencement speech for his alma mater, Indiana University. As an introduction to his speech, Shortz quizzed the audience on well-known IU graduates and their unconventional majors. He advised recent graduates to pick a career in which they "don't mind the least interesting parts." Shortz apparently also wrote brainteasers and a hidden message that were included in the printed commencement program.[9]
  • In May 2010, he was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.[30]
  • In 2012, he received the Sam Loyd Award from the Association for Games & Puzzles International for creating interest in mechanical puzzles.[31]
  • In May 2016, he gave the commencement speech at the University of Virginia Law School Commencement.[32]
  • In May 2018, Shortz was given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Indiana University.[33]
Shortz in 2006

Television appearances


Movie appearances


Personal life


Shortz resides in Pleasantville, New York, where he works from home.[45] He is an avid table tennis player. In May 2011, with Barbadian champion (and his long-time friend) Robert Roberts,[46] he opened one of the largest table tennis clubs in the Northeast in Pleasantville.[47] 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,[48] and then eventually reaching a streak of 10 years in 2022.[49]

In his free time, Shortz also enjoys biking, reading, traveling, and collecting antique puzzle books.[50]

Shortz stated in a February 2023 interview that he had a male partner and that they intended to get married.[51] On the August 13, 2023, episode of the Sunday Puzzle, Shortz said that he and his partner had been legally married the previous Tuesday (August 8, 2023) and that their ceremony would take place on August 19.[52]

Shortz had a stroke on February 4, 2024, and has been in rehabilitation.[53][54]


  1. ^ Shortz, William F. (1973). "British Word Puzzles (1700–1800)". Word Ways. Vol. 6, no. 3.
  2. ^ New York Times Games [@NYTGames] (August 26, 2022). "A big happy 70th birthday to Will Shortz!" (Tweet). Retrieved May 4, 2024 – via Twitter.
  3. ^ Ksander, Yaël (June 4, 2007). "Hoosier Puzzlemaster II". Indiana Public Media. Retrieved May 4, 2024.
  4. ^ a b 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.
  5. ^ Simmons, Mark (Winter 2006). "NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz". Games Quarterly: 24.
  6. ^ "Will Shortz". NPR.org. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  7. ^ "Puzzlemaster Will Shortz to present IU's 2008 commencement address". April 1, 2008.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ a b "Indiana University Commencement Address | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  10. ^ "IMP: Individualized Major Program: Indiana University Bloomington". Indiana University Bloomington. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  11. ^ a b "University of Virginia news item". Virginia.edu. April 3, 2008. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  12. ^ "Puzzle pundit has a word", Australian Courier-Mail, 28 October 2006
  13. ^ Marbella, Jean (November 22, 1993). "Crossword editor opens the door to innovation across the board Shortz story". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  14. ^ "The Times Names A New Puzzle Editor". The New York Times. October 11, 1993. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  15. ^ "Sunday Puzzle". Npr.org. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  16. ^ Stephey, M. J., "Puzzle Guru Will Shortz.". Time March 2, 2009. June 15, 2009.
  17. ^ PennyPress official page for WILL SHORTZ' WORDPLAY
  18. ^ American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: "Business Unusual: Will Shortz"
  19. ^ Thompson, Clive. "New York Magazine". Nymag.com. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Person, Daniel (April 17, 2017). "Crossword fans get cross over a Washington inmate's puzzle". HeraldNet.com. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Spayd, Liz (April 11, 2017). "A Crossword as a Second Chance Troubles Many Readers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  22. ^ Jeffries, Adrianne. "The NYT crossword is old and kind of racist". The Outline. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  23. ^ Graham, Ruth (June 28, 2016). "Tuesday's New York Times Crossword Has a "Hateful" 31 Down. Why So Clueless?". Slate. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  24. ^ "NY Times Crossword Editor Apologizes for 'Slur' in New Year's Day Puzzle". TheWrap. January 2, 2019. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  25. ^ Amlen, Deb (January 1, 2019). "Barely Adequate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  26. ^ a b "Letter to the Executive Director of Puzzles at the New York Times". Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  27. ^ Cole, Samantha. "New York Times Crossword Constructors Are Fighting Against its Systemic Bias". www.vice.com. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  28. ^ "We Should Smash the Crossword Patriarchy". NWLC. May 28, 2020. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  29. ^ Last, Natan (March 18, 2020). "The Hidden Bigotry of Crosswords". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  30. ^ "Wabash College: News Crawfordsville, Indiana". Wabash.edu. May 16, 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  31. ^ Association Awards: Sam Loyd Award Association for Games & Puzzles International
  32. ^ "Graduation Speaker Will Shortz '77 Says UVA Law Students Smart Enough to Fill in Blanks". University of Virginia School of Law. October 27, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  33. ^ "Will Shortz: University Honors and Awards: Indiana University". University Honors & Awards. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  34. ^ The Oprah Winfrey Show: "How'd They Do That?"
  35. ^ "Will on Millionaire Wednesday". YouTube. November 26, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  36. ^ TV.com (May 6, 2009). "TV.com". TV.com. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  37. ^ "Listings | TheFutonCritic.com – The Web's Best Television Resource". TheFutonCritic.com. May 10, 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  38. ^ "We asked: NYT crossword editor Will Shortz". Jeopardy.com. December 18, 2015. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  39. ^ "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" The Mattress (TV Episode 2015) - IMDb, retrieved October 25, 2020
  40. ^ ""Brooklyn Nine-Nine" the Puzzle Master (TV Episode 2018)". IMDb.
  41. ^ "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – May 2018".
  42. ^ Various (May 22, 2020). "Did Supergirl Suit Overdo It? Why Did Soaps Story Snub Santa Barbara? What the 'Fork, Killing Eve? And More TV Qs". TV Line. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  43. ^ IMDB Entry for "Batman Forever"
  44. ^ Wordplay at IMDb  
  45. ^ Perez, Jade (January 17, 2020). "Will Shortz, A Lifelong Ping Pong and Puzzle Enthusiast". Pleasantville Press. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  46. ^ Dewi Cooke; Chitrangada Choudhury. "Double Happiness".
  47. ^ Reilly, Kathleen. "Westchester Table Tennis Center Debuts in Pleasantville". AOL Patch. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  48. ^ Schwartz, Casey. "Puzzle Master Will Shortz Played Ping-Pong for 1,000 Days in a Row". Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  49. ^ Wilbur, Martin. "Shortz's Table Tennis Iron Man Streak Reaches 10 Years". Retrieved December 20, 2022.
  50. ^ "Will Shortz". NPR.org. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  51. ^ Maynes-Aminzade, Liz (February 15, 2023). "Will Shortz's Life in Crosswords". The New Yorker Interview. The New Yorker. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  52. ^ "Sunday Puzzle". Npr.org. August 13, 2023. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  53. ^ "Sunday Puzzle: [MO]untain [HO]use getaway" (Podcast). NPR. March 3, 2024. Announced at 6:20. Retrieved March 3, 2024.
  54. ^ Albeck-Ripka, Livia (March 4, 2024). "Will Shortz, New York Times Crossword Editor, Says He Is Recovering From a Stroke". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2024.