Alumni Profile: Michael David ’03

3 down: What is Michael David ’03 up to?

Answer: Crossword puzzles!

David Michael '03It’s no puzzle why Michael David has accomplished so much. The 2003 Ripon College graduate has varied interests and just doesn’t give up on any of them.

Although he got interested in crossword puzzles only three years ago, he has already had three of his own crossword constructions accepted for publication by The New York Times.

“Altogether, I’ve constructed and submitted eight puzzles,” David says. “On average, I think they accept only about one out of eight puzzles that are submitted, so I feel quite proud of this record.”

From March 8 through 10, David competed in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in New York for the second year. The tournament is run by Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times.

“The skills of some of the competitors there are truly mind-boggling,” he says. “Everyone completed six puzzles on Saturday and one on Sunday, followed by the championship playoffs for the top contestants.

“I did not reach my goal of finishing in the top half, but I am motivated to keep practicing for future tournaments. It was a thrill to watch some of the world’s best solvers competing. I also enjoyed talking to several other crossword constructors in attendance.”

At Ripon College, David majored in mathematics and French and had a minor in educational studies. He has been a math teacher since 2004, teaching algebra and geometry at Portage High School and serving as the adviser for Scrabble Club. Last summer, he completed his master’s degree in mathematics education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

David loves board games, especially Scrabble, and has competed in Scrabble tournaments for the past nine years. Then, he was turned on to crossword puzzles.

“Somebody clued me in to the fact that many crossword puzzles have themes – common ideas or bits of wordplay that run through multiple answers in the grid,” David says. “I became hooked on the idea of finding clever themes. I keep a notebook full of them now.”

Although David finds it exciting to create crosswords, it is not always easy, he says. “Constructing a crossword takes a lot of time, especially if you try to do everything by hand, which I did for my first puzzle,” he says. “I spent well over a week working on it and asking friends and family members to ‘test solve.’”

Now, David says, “My long-term goal is to get a Sunday puzzle published. For those readers who are not regular crossword solvers, The New York Times puzzle is easiest on Mondays and gets harder through the week until Saturday. The Sunday puzzle has a larger-sized grid than the other days, and usually has a difficulty level comparable to Wednesday or Thursday.”

For others interested in constructing puzzles, David recommends the Crossword Compiler computer program rather than doing one by hand.

“Most puzzles now take me eight to 12 hours to construct, often spread over several days,” he says.

Article by Tsering Yangchen ’14
Madison, Wis.

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