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Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Puzzlemaster Will Shortz to present IU's 2008 commencement address

April 1, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University today (April 1) announced that Will Shortz, crossword editor for The New York Times, subject of the 2006 feature film "Wordplay" and an Indiana University alumnus, will present the commencement address at IU Bloomington Saturday, May 3.

Will Shortz

Photo by: Donald Christensen

Will Shortz

Shortz is the only graduate of IU -- or any academic institution -- to hold a degree in "enigmatology."

He was recommended by the IU Bloomington Commencement Speaker Committee, which includes students, faculty and staff.

"I believe our new graduates will welcome Will Shortz, not only as an entertaining and uplifting commencement speaker, but as someone whose success was grounded in the quality of his education at Indiana University," said IU President Michael McRobbie. "He set out to fulfill his life-long dream to be a puzzle master through IU's Individualized Major Program. His degree led to career success on the pages of the New York Times and considerable personal success in encouraging others to challenge themselves."

Tom Martz, president and chief executive officer of the IU Alumni Association, speaking for IU's 505,000 alumni in 153 countries, added, "We are very proud of this imaginative, creative, intelligent, thought-provoking 1974 IU alum.

"Will is with the New York Times, National Public Radio and is an expert in the field of enigmatology. In case you're not familiar with this term, enigmatology, or Will's profession, here's a clue: For NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle, each week, Will concocts a word puzzle which might go something like this: This week's challenge: Think of a well-known English playwright's nickname -- clue: William Shakespeare -- and your favorite summer apparel -- clue: extremely hemmed-up pants. Who is the now famous puzzle master? The answer: That would be our alum, Will Shortz."

Born in Crawfordsville, Ind., Shortz published his first puzzle when he was only 14. By age 16 he had become a regular contributor to Dell puzzle publications. After graduating from IU with his degree from the Individualized Major Program in 1974, he attended law school at the University of Virginia, and then returned to the puzzle world as editor of Games magazine.

While at Games, Shortz founded the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which held its 30th competition last year. He also became Puzzlemaster for National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition Sunday."

In 1993, Shortz joined The New York Times as crossword editor, still continuing his roles with NPR and directing the ACPT. During the next decade, he founded the World Puzzle Championship and served as captain of the U.S. team, contributed riddles to the 1995 movie "Batman Forever," was named one of "The 100 Best People in the World" by Esquire magazine, and served as a visiting professor at IU through the Wells Scholars program.

In his official bio for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, Shortz said in reflection, "What I especially like about being at the Times is the audience. The Times undoubtedly has the most intelligent, best educated group of solvers in the country, so I can presume a level of culture and solving skill that I couldn't anyplace else."

Shortz has written or edited more than 200 books of crosswords, Sudoku and other brain teasers. He was the subject of the acclaimed 2006 feature film "Wordplay," celebrating the phenomenon of Shortz' crosswords in The New York Times, which reach an estimated 50 million people each week.

Shortz will address both of the commencement sessions at Assembly Hall. The morning session will begin at 10 a.m. and will include graduates from the Kelley School of Business; the School of Education; the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation; the School of Law; the Jacobs School of Music; the School of Nursing; the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and the School of Social Work. The Ph.D. candidates in the same fields who are receiving degrees from the University Graduate School also will participate in the morning session.

The afternoon session will begin at 3 p.m. It will include graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Continuing Studies; the School of Informatics; the School of Journalism; the School of Library and Information Science; the School of Medicine and the School of Optometry. Ph.D. degree candidates in those fields who are receiving degrees from the University Graduate School and all master's degree candidates receiving degrees through the University Graduate School will participate in the afternoon session.

A 2006 IU Home Pages Conversations Online interview with Will Shortz and Don Gray, IU professor emeritus of English, is available at They discuss Shortz' educational journey as well as the history and popularity of puzzles.

For complete information on all of IU's commencement ceremonies, visit