A Crossword Puzzle Editor Minted at Penn State

DailyCollegianLogoWall Street Journal crossword editor Mike Shenk, who tends to a wide variety of additional clients through his small company Puzzability, sometimes likes to use pseudonymous bylines. Earlier this fall for example, he signed a puzzle with the pen name Colin Gale, an anagram nod to his Alma Mater Penn State and the school’s student newspaper The Daily Collegian.

It was at Penn State in the late 1970s that Shenk first proved his puzzle mettle. Per a nice profile by current PSU student Carley Mossbrook, it was that prolific student output that caught the attention of Games magazine editor Will Shortz in 1981:

[At Penn State], Shenk went on to make five daily puzzles each week over the next three years. That output far exceeds that of professional crossword-puzzle creators. Today, in an average week Shenk creates three to four crosswords and edits about three more.

Shortz, who is now the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times and puzzle master on NPR’s Weekend Edition, is still amazed by Shenk’s puzzle production as a college student. “There have been lots of people over the years that make crosswords for their college newspapers, but it’s usually been weekly or less frequently,” Shortz said. “Mike is the only person I’ve ever known to do it daily. It’s astonishing.”

Shenk’s puzzle total, buoyed by 16 years at the Journal, now sits north of 10,000, aided by a progressively sequenced computer list of some 390,000 words. Read the rest of Mossbrook’s piece, originally done for one of her Communications classes, here.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.