-New York Magazine
What's an enigmatologist? It's Will Shortz, the world’s only academically accredited puzzle master. He designed his own major program at Indiana University, which in 1974 led to his one-of-a-kind degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles.
Will has been the puzzle master for NPR's “Weekend Edition Sunday” since the program's start in 1987, crossword editor of The New York Times since 1993, editor of Games magazine for 15 years, and the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which has been held annually since 1978. He also founded the World Puzzle Championship in 1992, and he co-founded the World Puzzle Federation in 1999.
Will sold his first puzzle professionally when he was just 14 years old to Venture, a denominational youth magazine. At age 16, he became a regular contributor to Dell puzzle publications. To date Will is the author or editor of more than 500 puzzle books!
Having received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1977, Will originally entered law school with the intention of practicing law for ten years. By then he estimated he would make enough money to retire and do what he really wanted—create puzzles. However ten years proved to be a daunting length of time for a young Will Shortz, and following graduation he skipped the bar exam to began his career in puzzles immediately.
Today, Will relishes his position at the Times because he believes the publication garners the most intelligent, educated group of solvers in the country. This allows him to presume a level of culture and solving skill that he could not anyplace else.
Upon starting at the Times, Will made modest modifications to the crosswords. Constructor bylines were added to the daily puzzles; previously the contributors had labored anonymously. He had the puzzles become increasingly harder each day of the week to provide something for every skill level. And finally, the cultural references were broadened to include movies, television, and rock music.
The puzzle that Will created which elicited the most response appeared on Election Day, 1996. The clue to the middle answer across the grid was “Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper.” The answer appeared to be “CLINTON ELECTED.” Because of intentional ambiguity in the crossing clues, however, the answer could also have been “BOB DOLE ELECTED”—either fit.
Will wrote the riddles for the film Batman Forever and has guest-starred in episodes of The Simpsons and How I Met Your Mother, in each case playing himself. He was also the subject of the 2006 award-winning documentary film Wordplay.
An avid table tennis player, Will is the owner and director of the Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville, New York, the largest table tennis facility in the United States. He also happens to own the world's largest puzzle library, numbering more than 25,000 puzzle books and magazines dating back to 1533!