Story of an Avid Crossword Constructor, Sande Milton

by Max Fragar
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Crossword constructors, editors and publishers-the ones that create, edit and distribute puzzles love what they do.

Crossword makers are the ones who are dedicated, passionate and quite serious about making puzzles.

Avid makers have been fanatic about construction since the early days. They know what their followers demand from them and deliver what they think will interest them.

The life of a crossword maker is not at all easy. In this particular post, we will be discussing the journey of a novice crossword maker who has recently entered the crossword industry, Sande Milton.

First-ever published crossword puzzle: Published with Jeff Chen in The New York Times on May 30, 2018.

Defining the Crossword Journey

His father was a big crossword lover. He was the one who made him interested in crosswords when he was 10 years old.

Remembering the times when he used to try The New York Post crossword and then looked for the unsolvable answers the next day.

He soon became familiar with “ERS, ANOAS, ATENS” etc. I didn’t know the meaning of any of them but knew they came repeatedly in the puzzle quiz.

Later when he tried his hand on solving The New York Times Crossword he realized that the crosswordese he learned was no longer of any use. There was a long list of new worlds he explored at that time

For example O.E.D, Britannica, Gray’s Anatomy or Hammond’s World Atlas.

Over the years, everything changed. New words are “in-language” and relevant.

Grids have turned artistic, themes keep amazing and clues have become harder than before. He feels it is a privilege to witness and experience the incredible revolution.

What has been his inspiration?

Solving crosswords became his habit. Practice, practice and more practice made him a good solver.

He started using a pen rather than a pencil. Then he started working on only these entries.

Construction of a puzzle game as a major challenge. The first-ever crossword quiz he sent for approval was in 19702 when Will Weng was the editor.

One clever twist he made was to sneak the word “BULTACO”(Spanish motorcycle) by him thinking he won’t be able to catch it.

After 40 years, he tried again and contacted Nancy Salomon via a link on Cruciverb.

But he finally ended up collaborating with Jeff Chen as a mentor.

One day his dream came true as he met Merl Reagle. He and his son were competing in a nearby puzzle tournament at Florida University.

During lunch, he suddenly realized his wife was hanging around with Merl’s wife Marie.

At that point of time, Merl was working on an idea of how a national online puzzle competition may benefit Alzheimer’s research.

Fely was the lobbyist in the Florida Legislature for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

After a phone call, the Eagles was at AFA national headquarters on Madison Avenue. He was dedicatedly working on using the money earned from the competition as a fundraising amount for the patients.

 Why did he become a crossword maker?

He has always been a puzzle lover and always thought-what could be better than creating a puzzle.

He keeps trying to explain to his friend how construction is so different from solving online crosswords and print crosswords.

When you are into solving a challenging crossword and only the last corner is left, it certainly drives you crazy.

Although you know there is a solution but you start losing your temper when you get stuck, especially in the end.

Do you know when it comes to the construction of that last corner, there is no solution at all? Things become complicated. But when you keep making more and more puzzles, you become good at it.

One more thing: His actual goal was to get a puzzle published in The Times.

As he has turned into a successful puzzle constructor today, his perception has completely changed. He knows he fulfills the craving of millions of crossword enthusiasts.

Many waits for the puzzle to get posted every day

and their day is incomplete until they don’t try the crossword. Some solve it during breakfast while others do it in their bedtime.

They keep evaluating themselves and try to figure out how fast they are at solving.

This makes it a responsibility of all the crossword makers like him to make amazing puzzles for the ever-demanding clients with unique challenges.

What is the best thing about puzzle making?

Every puzzle construction phase is interesting. Thinking about a theme and then creating a puzzle that revolves around that theme takes time.

Firstly, Milton creates a cool-looking grid. Something that tells a story as this type of puzzle engages crossword lovers. Coming up with clues that are new, deceptive, funny or nearly impossible is a good job.

Crossword Compiler is the software that he uses on his PC to create puzzles. He does everything he demands. And the puzzle database on XWord Info is also equally important.

What is the time spent on refining tools?

As he is a novice, he didn’t realize that a crossword maker has to redefine rules. Wordplay, the 2006 movie gave him the idea. He has just started sculpting his word list and his starting point is Jeff Chen’s personal list at XWord Info.

What is his favorite clue or answer?

Milton’s favorite word ever was Damon Gulczynski’s COLPORTEUR (“Peddler of religious literature”). He is quite good at French but he never heard that word before. It means “collar wearer.”

 The first thing he did at that point of time was to figure it out at Wikipedia and found out it was a unique word.

What kind of entries does he dislike in a puzzle?

There are certain political figures that he won’t admit in my crossword space.

Certain names that come to his mind are back stiff. He never wants to acknowledge them and make them a part of his crossword grid.

He regrets that the world has come to a point where political divisions are so profound.

Finally, he is looking forward to coming up with more amazing and interesting puzzles that every crossword solver would love to solve.

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