Crossword Craze


Illustration by Alexa Druyanoff

Students enjoy engaging in crosswords and working with friends to solve them.

Vasilia Yordanova and Jina Jeon

As Emily Silkina ’23 walked up to her usual lunch table, eager to tell a story from the weekend, she said she noticed her friends huddled over a phone, engrossed in the crossword puzzle they were solving together. They asked each other questions excitedly while trying to solve the puzzle’s vague clues. Silkina said over the next few weeks she noticed groups of students clustered around the school hallways and throughout the quad collaborating on challenging crossword puzzles.

Silkina said she enjoys doing various brainteasers, especially those based on school subjects she excels at. However, she said she is easily frustrated by crosswords if their clues are too obscure.

“I hate [crosswords] from newspapers where you don’t know most of the answers, but I enjoy them if they involve subjects I’m good at, such as history and French,” Silkina said. “I also do [the] Wordle [a New York Times virtual word game ], which I find more enjoyable and more satisfying than crosswords.”

People who regularly solve puzzles have much stronger working memories than their control group, college students with high test scores, according to Scientific American. Those who enjoy crossword puzzles integrate both verbal and visual perceptions in their short-term memories.

Miles LaTourette-Ghez ’24 said crossword puzzles are both a fun learning opportunity and a way to practice skills he needs in school.

“I think of crossword puzzles as an academic activity as well as a fun recreational one,” LaTourette-Ghez said. “ They force you to use a wide variety of background knowledge to answer the questions [and] retrieve those facts. They further my problem-solving skills .”

Ofek Levy ’23 said he enjoys the challenge of solving crosswords, math puzzles and board games in his free time.

“[Though] I associate crossword puzzles with the Sunday newspaper and my grandparents, I think it is a lot of fun to solve them with a group of friends,” Levy said. “I also love to do Sudoku and games like Scrabble. I like how [they] take some thought and keep my brain active but are not always difficult.”

Sawyer Strasberg ’22 said he enjoys crossword puzzles because they relieve his stress and are a low-stakes way to test his knowledge.

“I think crossword puzzles are relaxing without being mindless,” said Strasberg. “It’s fun to see how much trivia you know. But if a puzzle is too hard, I’ll skip it. I don’t want to get stressed out by a game.”

Strasberg said crosswords can help challenge students’ memories, but he said they do not necessarily relate to intellectual ability.

“I don’t think crosswords are that much more popular at our school than others, and I would hesitate to say that there’s a huge academic factor in crosswords,” Strasberg said. “If anything, I think students might just enjoy showing off their weirdly specific knowledge of various subjects.”

Avery Konwiser ‘22 said crossword puzzles help him develop teamwork skills and learn new facts.

“I do crosswords with my mom now and again, and I like to do them in the morning to stimulate my brain,” said Konwiser. “My friends and I often talk to each other about a clue we thought was particularly difficult, and we collaborate if we’re stuck.”

Konwiser said crossword puzzles are becoming increasingly popular among teens because the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a puzzle is motivating.

“I think crosswords are having a surge in popularity amongst a younger demographic recently, both at our school and elsewhere,” said Konwiser. “It’s very rewarding to complete a crossword, and students love to be gratified.”

Upper School Librarian Jessica Wahl said crossword puzzles help ease her anxiety throughout the day.

“I have anxiety, and crossword puzzles are very calming,” said Wahl. “Doing a puzzle and relaxing is a good distraction from letting my thoughts spiral, and they’re a great way to unwind. I can focus all my energy on the puzzle instead of overthinking work.”

Wahl said although crossword puzzles are often done online, print crossword puzzles are a way to unplug from social media and the internet.

“Brainteasers can help me distance myself from social media,” said Wahl. “Especially after getting off work all day where I’m looking at my computer screen, I can take a break from staring closely at my screen.”

Levy said although crossword puzzles are mentally stimulating, they are not an effective way for him to limit his screen time.

“Crossword puzzles are a way of expanding your brain to understand vague clues, and they are a great way of testing how fast you can think,” Levy said. “[However, I] think a lot of crossword puzzles are done on the internet which does not necessarily help with phone use. I tend to mostly read [books] to keep off social media.”

Levy said he believes crossword puzzles should include greater cultural diversity.

“The whole point of crossword puzzles is that [they are] made up of words that the person who is solving them should already know, [so they are not] a great way to learn,” Levy said. “In addition, crossword puzzles need short clues that would not be able to give a broad enough picture of certain aspects of culture. This being said, crossword puzzles should not necessarily stick to strictly American themes and culture. [They] should have a wide variety of pieces that surpass just the culture of the United States.”

Wahl said she thinks crossword puzzles would benefit from more international clues because she said crossword puzzles assume a knowledge of American culture.

“I think you can learn about other cultures through crossword puzzles,” Wahl said. “It would be interesting to branch out more and make them more accessible to more groups of people.”

Silkina said she prefers logic puzzles such as Sudoku and Wordle over crosswords because they do not require such a large array of knowledge on popular culture. However, she said she still enjoys solving crossword puzzles with her friends.

“In crossword puzzles, many of the hints require more trivial knowledge of random facts, while Sudoku and Wordle rely more heavily on logic,” Silkina said. “I love [brainteasers] because it is satisfying for me to find the correct answers and see the puzzle come together as I solve it.”