Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Avi Santo

Committee Member

Lindal Buchanan

Committee Member

Heidi Schlipphacke


Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the crossword on Dec. 21, 2013 will be a dedicated, demanding and outspoken following – an online community that may be the key to its future as a popular American pastime. The crossword puzzle has always had a tight-knit core of fans, even in its earliest years. But, for the most part, doing a crossword was a solitary pursuit. That has changed with the advent of a burgeoning fan community on the internet, a virtual community of crossword enthusiasts. It is not far-fetched to regard the saga of the crossword as a microcosm of modern community building, a case history on how a traditional pastime can adapt to new media.

In this paper, my intent is to show – through research, interview and my own longtime amateur participation in puzzling – the importance of community to a leisure-time pursuit; and specifically how cyber-fans use their collective voice to influence crossword output both creatively and economically. Creatively because blogs and other web resources have raised the volume and reach of an active crossword fan base, allowing it to exert more far-reaching pushback on puzzle creators and content. Economically because with the dramatic decline of the crossword's longtime medium, the print newspaper, this traditionally paper-and-pencil pastime is moving online.

Complicating the discussion is a growing generation gap, a tug-of-war between younger and older puzzlers for what they see as relevant and acceptable content. Thus, the crossword is at a crossroad: an older generation forms a core part of the fan base while younger puzzlers are charged with adapting and shaping the crossword for survival in the future.


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