From Ashland to The New York Times: The Journey of an Amateur Cruciverbalist

In the old town of Ashland resides a crossword creator extraordinaire, Steve Weyer. With a heart full of lexicon love and a mind bubbling with wordplay, Steve has been on a quiet quest. His journey of crafting crosswords, which began as a humble hobby, recently culminated in a grand achievement that caught the eye of The New York Times and its crossword editor, Will Shortz. Steve got the November 1 Puzzle published on New York Times.

The world of crosswords goes beyond a simple pastime. It’s an art, a science, and, for many, a daily ritual. The crème de la crème of this world is having one’s creation featured in The New York Times crossword section. On a bright Wednesday morning, the Ashland amateur crossword creator, Steve Weyer found his creation among the prestigious pages of The New York Times. His name, although usually an overlooked aspect by the everyday cruciverbalist, became a symbol of aspiration for amateur puzzle constructors far and wide.

For decades, Steve has been meticulously weaving words together, creating puzzles that tickle the brain. His patience and perseverance gave its fruits after a year-long wait, putting him into the limelight under the shelter of Will Shortz, a name synonymous with crosswords in the New York Times and a familiar voice on National Public Radio as a puzzle master.

The journey to this point wasn’t a cakewalk. The New York Times receives over 200 crossword submissions weekly, with a year’s worth of puzzles already lined up. The competition is fierce, and the criteria are strict, requiring a blend of originality, puns, invented words, and ambiguous clues that dance on the fine line between confusion and revelation. Despite the odds, Steve’s passion for crosswords never faded. At 74, he found the practice of creating and solving crosswords a stimulating endeavor that kept his mind sharp and victorious.

Steve, a retired website and software developer with a career spanning Stanford University, Xerox PARC, Atari, HP (Hewlett-Packard), and Apple, found solace and a sense of accomplishment in his crossword adventures. His fondness for wordplay wasn’t merely a personal quest for mental agility; it was a journey of discovery and creativity. Scientists, too, have promoted the benefits of engaging in wordplay games like crosswords, linking them to improved mental flexibility, memory, concentration, and mood.

Unlike the direct question-and-answer format in shows like “Jeopardy,” crossword puzzles have a vague and playful nature. They are a space for playful word tricks, where mixing up letters, words that sound alike but have different meanings, and reading letters backward are common. Every puzzle Steve created told a new story, with a unique theme waiting to be discovered by the person solving it.

The thematic essence of Steve’s puzzles often begins with a captivating word sequence or phrase. The theme remains a mystery to the solver, and the construction process is a detailed task. Checking crossword databases for originality, Steve ensures his themes stay fresh and unique. His submission to The New York Times in June 2022 was proof of his craftsmanship. After a few rounds of revisions and anticipation, the magical acceptance email arrived on November 1, 2022, marking the beginning of a new chapter in Steve’s crossword journey.

A year later, his crossword puzzle graced the pages of The New York Times, making a lifelong dream come true. Maria Geigel, Steve’s partner of 45 years, and their family rejoiced at this achievement, happy that Steve’s passion found recognition at such a prestigious platform.

The humble crossword creator from Ashland, however, remains grounded in the newfound recognition. “Not everyone is a crossword fan; only some solvers may try a Wednesday puzzle, and even fewer notice the constructor’s title,” Steve jokes. But for the crossword community, Steve Weyer’s story is an inspiration, a tale of persistence, passion, and the profound joy of seeing one’s creation acknowledged in the world’s most esteemed crossword column.

Thus, the tale of Ashland’s amateur cruciverbalist serves as a beacon of hope for many with a lexicon dream, reminding us that with patience, passion, and a tad bit of wordplay, dreams do find their way from the quiet corners of creativity to the columns of The New York Times.

Steve Weyer