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UConn alum makes New York Times crosswords

Campus Correspondent

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

A UConn School of Engineering graduate, Tim Croce ’05, has made crosswords his passion. Having completed them since he was a child with his mother and grandparents, Croce now makes his own puzzles to submit to the New York Times for publication.

The NYT accepts submissions for the crosswords it publishes each day of the week. The puzzles become progressively more difficult from Monday to Sunday. Croce, 29, an environmental engineer for the city of Pittsfield, Mass., has published on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Contributors are paid $200 for each puzzle, except for the more complex Sunday puzzle which earns $1000. Saturdays are Croce’s specialty, according to Will Shortz, NYT puzzle editor.

“This means it’s really, really hard. Only the most expert solvers can probably do it,” he said.

Using a combination of logic and knowledge of words, Croce puts together his puzzles with a sort of system. He does not repeat clues and begins with something interesting.

“I’ll just hear a current, fresh word or a phrase on the news, so I’ll put it at 1 Across,” Croce said.

To fill in difficult spaces Croce uses a computer program where he types in what letters he has and it generates possible words. Creating these puzzles can be much more difficult than it sounds however, and he admits that some puzzles he has not been able to finish for months or even years. And despite all of his effort, there is no guarantee that the newspaper will accept his puzzle. Of the 70 or so puzzles he has created, about 50 of them have not been published.

To deal with the rejection and to continue making the puzzles, Croce has to have a competitive spirit that urges him on. He attributes this spirit to his time at UConn.

“UConn fueled my competitive fire. You couldn’t just get by in the competitive UConn School of Engineering – you had to have a competitive spirit that made you stick out and not get lost. The rigor of the program didn’t let you graduate without knowing that you could thrive in a competitive environment,” said Croce. 

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