Men Are Dominating Crossword Puzzles, If That’s a Thing You Can Do

Since I began creating puzzles at age fifteen, I knew that as a humanities-minded female I was an outlier in the CrossWorld, a realm dominated by middle-aged men hailing from the natural and computer sciences.But truthfully, I am an outlier among other outliers: you have to be a little touched to find creative inspiration in a 15-by-15 black and white grid.

Anna Shectman is a lady who did not study STEM but who does work as a crossword puzzle constructer, a crossword puzzle judge, and as one of Will Shortz’s assistants. BELIEVE IT. For the American Reader, Shectman writes a very fascinating account of the “bitchy”, increasingly male-dominated world of crosswordery.

Now that making crosswords by hand has become more and more of a bygone practice, as Shectman theorizes, the kind of people who drift into the industry tend to be software people, and software people tend to be humans of the male variety:

To the disappointment, but not the surprise, of many in the audience, Steinberg revealed that the gender disparity in crosswords has steadily worsened in the past two decades. Under the two editors before Shortz — Will Weng (1969–1977) and Eugene Maleska (1977–1993) — women constructed 35% of all puzzles, and in the reigning “Shortz era,” women account for 19% of all puzzles. Moreover, most of the female-made grids in Shortz’s time have appeared on Mondays or Tuesdays, the week’s easiest puzzles according to the Times’ sliding difficulty scale (the “M-T ghetto,” as they have been crassly called by one puzzle blogger). It’s actually quite difficult to construct an “easy” but engaging Monday or Tuesday grid, but that women appear to be ghettoized in the early, less glamorous days of the week is no doubt troubling.

God I haven’t done a crossword puzzle since college, when I got really into them as a way to impress a guy. Guess I don’t have to tell you I was a virgin when I graduated.

I am still a little bitter about my inability to ever finish a late-week crossword and so I am tempted to just let the men have this entire industry. It’s pretty goofy to begin with, you have to admit. And there can’t be THAT much money to be made right?

Although wait: are there native ads in crossword puzzles yet? Hire meeeee.

Photo of crossword men via Wikimedia Commons

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