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Will Shortz, New York Times Crossword Editor, in IFC Films' "Wordplay."
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updated 7/27/2011 7:16:24 AM ET 2011-07-27T11:16:24

Video: Don’t be puzzled! Will Shortz explains crosswords

  1. Closed captioning of: Don’t be puzzled! Will Shortz explains crosswords

    >>> jenna bush hager caught up with the true puzzle master.

    >> everybody loves a good puzzle. more than 50 million americans, at least occasionally, complete crosswords. i sat down with the king of the modern puzzle, will shorts , ak, the editor of "the new york times" crossword to discuss, what else, all things puzzles. 7 down, 14 across, black and white grids in clever clues. those puzzlie ining and often challenging crossword puzzles .

    >> italian style.

    >> reporter: meet will short, editor of "the new york times" crossword since 1993 . his name is synonymous with these puzzles. his icon status, an appearance on "the simpsons."

    >> "new york times" crossword editor will shortz .

    >> we're faced with problems every day in life. and we just mull through the best we can. the human puzzle like the crossword or a sunuku, when you fill in the last square, it's perfection.

    >> reporter: it first appeared in the new york world in 1913 . it was also simon & schuster 's first published book, pencil included. arts and pop culture , shortz makes sure he stays current and playful. just this month, 23 across, matt in the morning. this one we know. l-a-u-e-r. shortz is a true word offe.

    >> i love to read them. i love to learn new words. my favorite new word is ucalegon.

    >> reporter: he's also the only person in the world who has a degree in nameatology, definition, all things puzzles.

    >> the course i took was on 20th century american word puzzles.

    >> a few raised eyebrows.

    >> what are you going to do with a degree in puzzles, yeah.

    >> reporter: he made a career in what most consider a hobby. it's only fitting that i ask what inquiring people want to know. do you do it in pencil?

    >> pencil, daily newspaper , pen.

    >> i'm a mechanical pencil girl myself. what do you think about googling the answers, is that cheating?

    >> my answer is, it's your puzzle. sorvel it anyway you like.

    >> monday starts off a little easier and every day they get slightly harder?

    >> that's right. monday is the easiest puzzle on the week. friday and saturday is the hardest. saturday is the killer.

    >> reporter: for word wizards everywhere, they strength then memory.

    >> every time we engage our brain in a challenging activity, profound changes can occur. and it actually changes the physical structure of the brain, so it's so important to stay mentally active.

    >> reporter: and those with the puzzle addiction, there is a place for you.

    >> i'm whit from vancouver, bc.

    >> hi, i'm leslie, i'm from portland, maine.

    >> reporter: for nearly 175 years national puzzlers league convention has brought puzzle enthusiasts together.

    >> a lot of people have said when they come to their first convention it's like finding a lost tribe .

    >> when you tell your friends in brooklyn, i'm going to a puzzling convention, what's the reaction you typically get?

    >> a little bit of eye roll.

    >> you can't necessarily get this in your real life . this group, this community satisfies a need, almost an itch, almost a compulsion that we can only really seek out with each other.

    >> reporter: more than just telling out letters and boxes, here's a hint to why they seek those challenges.

    >> you finish a tough puzzle, you feel you've succeeded, you've accomplished something, and you feel on top of the world for a few seconds before you go on to the next puzzle.

    >> and, you guys, will shortz created a puzzle just for us.

    >> wow.

    >> yay.

    >> we thought maybe for all those puzzle solvers we could try to solve it right now. it's on our website as well.

    >> okay.

    >> if you miss these, you go --

    >> it's monday.

    >> he played himself in 2009 in " land of the lost " where he ended up with a violent competition with will ferrell .

    >> oh, oh, oh.

    >> lauer.

    >> she began a news in the bronx and made her own clothes and made to dance.

    >> tap dance .

    >> that would be natalie.

    >> that's amazing.

    >> 48 across. she scored first place on her arizona bar exam in 2002 .

    >> natalie.

    >> okay.

    >> savannah.

    >> let's go to 23 down. he once hosted the msnbc game show , "remember this."

    >> nobody does.

    >> and finally, in 2007 , she bungee jumped off the transporter bridge in middles middlesboro, england.

    >> why would you do that?

    >> no, no.

    >> top rated morning tv show

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