Barrington resident building his own crossword puzzles

College student says he's open to suggestions for future puzzle themes

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/24/20

What is a four-letter word for "hymn clincher?"

Give up? Try "Amen."

Barrington resident and current college student Matt Zeleznik recently started creating his own crossword puzzles and is …

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Barrington resident building his own crossword puzzles

College student says he's open to suggestions for future puzzle themes

Posted

What is a four-letter word for "hymn clincher?"

Give up? Try "Amen."

Barrington resident and current college student Matt Zeleznik recently started creating his own crossword puzzles and is more than happy to help folks out if they get stumped. In fact, Matt also welcomes theme suggestions for future crossword puzzles he plans to share in the Barrington Times.

Matt, a sophomore at the Mass. College of Art in Boston, has long been interested in words. He started playing Scrabble when he was in the fourth grade and by the time he was a junior at Barrington High School he was competing at the National Scrabble Championships. In 2017, he finished fourth at nationals, losing to the eventual champion in a close match. He finished third at nationals in 2018.

Matt also focused his senior project on developing a middle school Scrabble team in Barrington.

Scrabble, said Matt, led him to crossword puzzles, and about three years ago he started making his own puzzles. He took a renewed interested in making puzzles this past summer and again during his winter break from college.

"I've been trying to do more of them," Matt said. "I was basically doing it by hand at first, but it took a while."

He eventually found an app that saves him some time while building puzzles. He has shared the finished products with his dad and some other friends and their parents. 

"My dad is so much better (at puzzles) than me," said Matt. "He can just read off the answers. He's probably done with the Projo puzzle in about 40 minutes. Yeah, he's an expert.

"I've never been able to beat him, so now I'm trying to outsmart him."

Matt said he has not been able to stump his father with the puzzles he's created so far, but he plans to keep trying. Matt has also been sharing the puzzles. 

"Yeah, I've been sharing them, but mostly it's my friends' moms who are more interested in them," he said. 

Matt said it takes him between four and five hours to create a puzzle. 

"First you think of the theme," he said. "The theme is definitely first. Then you have to work your words so that they fit the puzzle, which sort of takes some condensing and mincing words sometimes. That needs to be done before you can do anything with the puzzle layout. Then you pick a layout that fits the theme, and then you try to fit the words in."

Matt said creating crossword puzzles has had the added benefit of varying his interests.

"Scrabble had been good about learning about language and critical thinking skills, but crossword puzzles with the abbreviations and different names, historical events and such offer more opportunity for practical exploration — not being tied down to a dictionary," he said.

Suggest a theme

Have an idea for a theme for one of Matt Zeleznik's future crossword puzzles? Just send him an email at littlezzzman@gmail.com

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