What does it take to make an award-winning crossword puzzle? Nicholas Mussman, the winner of the 2019 Crossword Hobbyist Crossword Scholarship has been an avid player of word games all his life, but was new to the world of crosswords! In our interview with him, we learn how he went about building his first puzzle, his plans for the future, and his advice for other students to help them stay focused on accomplishing their goals.
How did you come up with the idea for the theme of your puzzle, ‘Legends of the Grid‘?
When I was first looking at making a crossword, I watched a video about one of the crossword makers for the New York Times and he commented on the importance of having a central theme to your puzzle. So, I tried to come up with a theme that would be interesting to crossword creators themselves and what better than “Crossword Creators” as a theme? From there, I did some research into some of the legends of the grid and used the most famous ones as a centralized theme.
What was the most challenging part of building your puzzle?
I would say the most challenging part of the puzzle was filling in the actual words in the squares. I underestimated how long it would take to put together the entire puzzle. Once the words were mostly filled in the clues were easier.
You mention that you like to play other word games. What are some of your favorites?
Well, as I mentioned before, I really enjoy playing Scrabble with my dad, that is something that we have done for a number of years but the list of my favorites would also include Boggle and Probe.
You’ve accomplished a lot in 4 years of high school – what has been your motivation to to stay focused?
I’ve always had high expectations of myself and high expectations for what I would accomplish. Mostly, I found myself thinking that if I was standing still, if I wasn’t doing anything at any given time then I must not be living up to my full potential. I think the best way to think about it would be to consider what you want to accomplish and simply take the necessary steps to get there. Even if one step seems particularly rough, that’s no excuse to stop because you know there are many more ahead.
You mention you intend to study Business in college. What are your ultimate career goals?
Truthfully, I love speaking and using words, so I believe business will be able to take me to a place where I can enjoy lots of interpersonal conversation and truly perfect my speaking and conversing skills. I want to learn to communicate with people in real world situations. In the long run however, I do see myself possibly seeking an elected position with what I learn about public speaking and interpersonal conversation.
Any advice to other students on how to manage competing demands and priorities as a student?
I would imagine that there is a chain of command for the way I personally compare the pros and cons to competing activities I can participate in and the first step should always be asking yourself which will benefit you more, which will make you a better, stronger, wealthier, or well-rounded person. The second step is thinking about which you want to do more. If two activities are equally beneficial then go with your own decision, but besides that always take the path that will bring you more eventual gain even if it is less enjoyable in the short run. Play the long game, it matters more.
We’re thrilled for Nicholas, and we wish him all the success in the world as he continues to challenge himself in college!