Course Description

About the Instructor

Course Topics

  • topics xwd1. Introduction: Syllabus and Course Materials
  • Why Do We Solve Puzzles?
  • History: Milestones (in crosswords) and Media (music, fiction, theater, film, TV, culture)
  • Practice: this course is approximately 2/3 presentation, 1/3 practice solving puzzles. If you've already taken this class (or would prefer to skip puzzle history, background and resources) and are looking for additional challenges, I encourage you to participate in one of my practice-only ("practicum") courses, where each session consists entirely of solving crossword puzzles as a group, and discussing the tricky clues and funny themes we find. e.g., CROSSWORDS: Practicum: Intermediate.

  • wordplay movie6. WordPlay movie documentary (1:34); note: we'll start class 5 minutes early

Course Materials

  • curriculum menuThese web pages will be used for course presentation & resources, and will be updated before, during and after the course. You can usually find this link under OLLI Course Materials for the current term & course number:
  • I welcome feedback -- during class or via Contact Us (under Home menu) -- about particular topics/issues you'd like to discuss, about the pace, level of detail, favorite puzzle sources, other courses you might like to take, etc.
  • This online version allows you to preview the course before registering, and to explore items (articles, puzzles, web sites) that we skim/skip, or that you miss, or want to refer to later -- there are more quotes, jokes, cartoons and article references than we will have time to cover in class. This format also allows me to update the course easily with new or revised items.
  • zen gpsThere are several options for navigating these pages:
    • top of screen
      • left: dropdown menu: select "OLLI Courses" -- click/tap a second time on items w/ subsections
      • right: Search box; specific words yield best (fewest) results
    • bottom of screen
      • left; '<': previous section
      • center; 'up': up a level
      • right; '>': next section
      • left (on section pages): select from table of contents
  • conversation how are youFor most topics, I generally refer to Wikipedia and New York Times (NYT) -- as good starting points (though certainly not the only ones) for exploration. Some sites may limit article access by imposing a monthly quota, or requiring a login or subscription. File formats will usually be indicated as [.pdf], [.puz], etc. Note: any images, puzzles or other media provided on this site are for instructional/personal use and should not be redistributed. Photo galleries -- on this page, and under Sources:Applications and Authoring -- should display properly in most modern web browsers (Internet Explorer (IE) users may experience problems and see a warning message).
  • Since these course web pages are dynamic (and lengthy), there are no paper handouts. However, for those who want an offline version (which is less formatted, interactive, updated) for computer, tablet, eReader, or printer, you can download .pdf files (below) for the major sections of this course:
Section Archive [.pdf] # Pages Size (MBytes) Last Updated
Introduction: Syllabus and Materials 06 0.4 8-Jul-2014
Why Do We Solve Puzzles? 22 1.1 8-Jul-2014
History: Milestones and Media 37 2.1 8-Jul-2014
Practice 03 0.2 8-Jul-2014
Terminology and Types 11 0.8 8-Jul-2014
Solving Strategies 45 1.9 8-Jul-2014
Puzzle Sources: Web Sites and Applications 64 3.7 8-Jul-2014
Authoring: Web Sites and Applications 20 0.9 8-Jul-2014
WordPlay 03 0.2 8-Jul-2014