The First Class of Our Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowship

The New York Times Games team is pleased to announce the inaugural class for the Diverse Crossword Constructor fellowship. Selected from over 200 applicants, these five constructors will work under the guidance of the New York Times puzzle editing team for three months to create puzzles that reflect their lives and cultures. At the end of the fellowship, their puzzles will be submitted through our general process to be considered for publication.


I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to the United States in 2011, living in California, New York and Massachusetts.

I’m interested in crossword puzzles because they help me maintain a playful relationship to language against the rigors of academia and my desire to be a “serious writer.” I hope to reach solvers with the same references as me in the same way I’ve been reached by many millennial builders.

When I am not making crossword puzzles, I work toward my Ph.D. in comparative literature and write in all the genres. Most of my downtime is spent watching “Frasier” or whatever new show is trending. I also walk through parks and woods whenever they call to me. Occasionally, a book will be read for pleasure. Plus, seeing loved ones, going dancing, the stuff of life.

I’m Helen, a Bay Area native, and I’m a data scientist currently living in New York City. I first started solving crossword puzzles as a way to compete with my friends for the most wins and fastest times on The New York Times Mini, and our continued rivalry and interest eventually led me to try making my own crossword puzzles during the pandemic. I love that constructing a puzzle is like reverse-solving for the perfect fill. It’s also such a joy to share what I’ve made with others (and watch the friendly competition that ensues). In my free time, I like hiking, and I dabble in graphic design, making lattes and solving puzzles of all sorts.

I am a New Yorker with a mailing address in California who currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia.

I grew up competing in a variety of sports (football, basketball, baseball, track, lacrosse and mountain-bike racing), and I’m a fan of games of all sorts. I also love language and primarily make my living through language (nonfiction writing, content marketing, hosting podcasts, voice-over work and occasionally self-publishing fiction). So crossword puzzles help me scratch that itch to both play a game and play with words. Constructing crossword puzzles really lets me play with words because of the cluing. When I write anything, I’m trying to engage the mind and sync up with the reader. I love the thought of truly affecting someone I’ve never met with my writing: It’s like an immortality device. The relationship between the constructor and the solver may be the purest expression of the idea of ​​building a bond between writer and reader that ever existed. That’s what drives me to construct.

I am from New York City and a senior at Barnard College majoring in Urban Studies. After college, I hope to work on making cities more affordable, livable and sustainable. I start most days doing a crossword, and I enjoy making my own for friends and family. I love the idea of ​​coming up with creative and amusing entries that will make people laugh. In addition, I host weekly bar trivia and enjoy printmaking and ceramics.

I am a high school sophomore from Washington State. Teens and crossword puzzles may be an unlikely pairing, but as any solver would know, the joy of these puzzles is truly universal. My parents moved to the United States from Japan, so I grew up with both cultures and languages. While looking to expand my English ability, I got hooked on crossword puzzles for their wacky wordplay, clever themes and endless possibilities. I hope to create puzzles that provide solvers with the same thrilling experience I know and love! When I’m off the (crossword) grid, I’m at school, out on a run, reading or baking.

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