It was the start of morning meeting in the cafeteria on a recent Wednesday and senior Sebastian Wayman-Dalo was on the headmaster’s radar.
“Sebastian, put away the crossword!” Head of School Craig Floyd bellowed, bringing a chilly silence to the morning meeting.
Reluctantly, Sebastian put the puzzle aside. At least for a little while.
This year, a crowd of crossword devotees has sprouted at the Upper Campus, with some becoming so obsessed with the puzzles that they do them anywhere and everywhere they can.
At any given time, you’ll find these crossword fanatics scribbling away during their free time, during extracurricular activities and sports competitions, and on the way to class. There’s even some evidence that some students have used class time to figure out the answers to clues that range from the stunningly simple to the cranium-crushing complex.
“I like to do it sometimes a little too much,” Sebastian said. “It gives you a little distraction from academics and still tests your brain.”
OVS junior Adam Pepper-Macias was the mastermind who launched the crossword trend.
He started working out the New York Times crossword over the summer, and then began bringing the paper and the puzzles to campus at the start of the school year. On his opening camping trip to Santa Rosa Island, students and teachers alike could be found huddled around campfires, or in their darkness with their headlamps on, collaborating to solve crossword clues.
“I was really bad at it,” Adam said about his initial crossword forays. “Eventually I graduated from the mini to the actual crosswords.”
As Adam progressed to harder crossword puzzles, he reached out to similar-minded people, people who would later change the school with the crossword craze. Pretty soon, the entire school was filled with a different atmosphere — an aura that smells like paper and words.
“It started off just as me, I realized that I could do harder crossword puzzles if I got [help from other students,]” Adam said. “I thought it was just gonna be Sebastian and I, but now there is a whole crossword craze.”
According to Smithsonian.com, the first crossword puzzle was created in 1913 by Arthur Wayne. Employed by the New York World newspaper, Mr. Wayne was the manager of the “Fun” section, a supplement filled with jokes and puzzles for readers to enjoy. He felt his readers needed more of a challenge, and thus created this iconic word game.
In 1924, the Simon & Schuster publishing house in New York launched the first crossword puzzle book, and a new craze was born. The New York Times, which is now considered the gold standard for crossword puzzles, ran its first crossword in 1942, and the puzzle has been a daily feature in the newspaper since 1950, according to Smithsonian.com.
After nearly a century, that crossword craze lives on in the OVS community, showing how the crossword culture has survived the technological revolution in the past hundred years.
And students aren’t the only ones taking part.
While it’s a big ask for teachers to allow crossword puzzles to be completed in their classes, many teachers assist the crossword fanatics whenever they get the chance, including OVS history teacher Zach Byars. The history know-it-all has always been a beacon of hope for the lost crossworders–enlightening them in the dark ocean of clues and puzzles.
“I think crossword puzzles are a good way to let kids expand their vocabulary,” Mr. Byars said. “Sometimes they’ll come to me. Sometimes I just see them doing it, and I’ll help them.”
The crossword enthusiasts aren’t just upperclassmen. Several younger students like freshman Emanuel Zagata-Jacobson and Tigran Nahabedian have also caught the crossword bug.
“I do the mini ones, it’s pretty fun,” Emanuel said. “It makes you think differently.”
From reviving this old tradition among the school community, Sebastian believes that crossword puzzles enlighten people.
“I definitely do think that crossword puzzles help you learn a lot about politicians, historical figures, actors or actresses… but also how the English language works and how the words interconnect,” Sebastian explained.
Though this eclectic group of crossword-crazed students perhaps seemed unlikely, their hunger to solve these intricate puzzles has brought them together.
“As the puzzles get harder,” Sebastian explained, “I get people to help because the more brains, the more knowledge, the better.”Share