Gridlock: Crossword constructors puzzled by pay

Puzzle maker Ben Tausig on the inequity of pay for those who make our Sunday mornings a challenge.

A lot of people like the challenge of a good crossword puzzle, but for those who construct them, the challenge is often financial. Ben Tausig is a puzzle constructor and the editor of the American Values Club Crossword. His piece for about the pain of making a living off the crossword puzzle is enlightening for those who take a good crossword for granted.

"Puzzle outlets implicitly tell authors that they should feel lucky to have their work appear in a major paper, rather than entitled to honest payment and acknowledgement," wrote Tausig. "And for those who construct only one puzzle a year (or in a lifetime), perhaps the satisfaction of seeing their work published is enough. But for those of us who construct more regularly -- who may even consider the pursuit a livelihood -- our minute share of crossword earnings is frustrating and unfair."

Try out one of Tausig's puzzles here. (And find the solution here.)


Tausig says that not only is pay bad (most puzzles pay under $100), but getting a job is a mystery as well.

"They're entirely written on spec," says Tausig. "No one is commissioning crosswords. You're sending them in and hoping the editor will like them. And, depending on the outlet, often waiting a very long time before you hear back."

To battle the unfairness he sees in the crossword world, Tausig started his own outlet for the work of talented constructors.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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