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W&L's Cruciverbalist

Washington and Lee alumnus Bob Doll of the Class of 1974 had always been a fan of crossword puzzles. About five years ago he decided to try his hand at constructing the crossword puzzles that he’s always enjoyed solving. And he’s been more than a little successful at it.

If you’re a New York Times crossword puzzle junkie, you might already know that Bob was the author of Wednesday’s puzzle, For the Record, which featured clues from the Guinness World Records 2010. If you haven’t gotten around to the puzzle yet, this is a spoiler alert. But here are the Guinness-themed answers:

  • 17a heaviest pumpkin {2010 Guinness world record at 1,689 lbs.}
  • 29a longest mustache {2010 Guinness world record at 11 ft. 6 in.}
  • 39a largest meatball {2010 Guinness world record at 72 lbs. 9 oz.}
  • 57a highest high dive {2010 Guinness world record at 115 ft.}

Bob was cited in the Times’ blog, Wordplay, which deconstructs the day’s puzzle. The blog writer, Patrick Merrell, began: “Robert A. Doll can now claim he has a record-breaking crossword in The New York Times.” He went on to note that this was Bob’s fourth Times’ puzzle in just over a year.

“Most cruciverbalists consider the NYT puzzle to be the gold standard, so any puzzle sold to the NYT is a special sale,” Bob e-mailed on Wednesday. He’s had success with other outlets, too, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Washington Post, among others.

“There was a learning curve in terms of crossword-construction rules and protocol, but I gradually have had some success,” wrote Bob, who majored in interdepartmental science at W&L. He managed his family’s grocery business in Louisville, Ky., for three decades before moving to Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2005, and devoting his time to crossword construction and marketing.

“The time to construct a good daily size (15X15) puzzle, including creating a theme, would on average require eight to 12 hours. Sunday-size puzzles (21X21) usually take several days,” Bob wrote. “I have sold both themed and themeless puzzles, but I personally prefer themed puzzles because constructing a theme allows me to be more creative. Since I sell to many different outlets and editors, my biggest challenge was learning what is acceptable to each outlet and editor. For instance, some editors will accept certain words that another editor would not accept.”

So next time you start in on a puzzle, be sure to check the author. Maybe you’ll even find a familiar clue now and then.

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