January 2008 Issue
What’s a nine-letter noun for wordsmith?
In Ohio, the answer is often Brethauer. For 15 years, Annemarie Brethauer has created crossword and logic puzzles for newspapers and magazines around the country, including the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Columbus resident, who once considered majoring in linguistics, has always been up to the challenge that a satisfying puzzle provides.
“Words have always been a big part of my life,” says Brethauer, who works at the Library Store at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s main branch. “Often, when I’d work someone else’s puzzle, I’d think it could have been done better, so I decided to try making my own.”
The process can be painstaking. A 15-by-15 square crossword puzzle takes Brethauer approximately seven hours to develop, primarily because she’s committed to not using clues she’s offered in past puzzles. “I believe in coming up with a lively cluing of words,” she says. “Sometimes, though, you just have to stick with those awful words –– era, ago, state, stet –– to make it complete.”
Logic puzzles –– a type of story problem with clues –– are less predictable. “On a good day, I can finish creating one in four hours,” she says. “When it’s going badly, it can take me up to 10.”
Through trial and error, Brethauer has learned what themes are taboo with publishers –– namely, death, disease and famine, and anything that’s “rude, crude or lewd.”
“People want to feel positive when they work on these games,” she says. “So I put on my happy face when I’m writing them.”
And nothing would make Brethauer even more ecstatic than achieving the goal she hopes will soon be on the horizon: having one of her puzzles published in The New York Times.
“It’s the nirvana of the puzzle world,” she says. — Steve Herrick