Earlier today, Rex Parker made an exciting announcement that Caleb Madison became BuzzFeed’s new puzzle editor. Allow me to offer Caleb my humblest congratulations — he’s a great pick for the position. I speak not only as a solver, constructor, and admirer of Caleb’s work, but as someone who interviewed for the same job.
It was probably the most surreal job interview process I’ve ever experienced. For one thing, BuzzFeed is a completely different organization than any I’ve ever interviewed for. I’ve worked in various health care and academic settings, but when I walked into BuzzFeed’s main office in New York, I could immediately sense this quirky, tech start-up-meets-hipster vibe, one that attracts people with a real creative and humorous flair. I was half-expecting them to ask me out-of-left-field questions like, “If you were a cat, which piece of furniture in this office would you try to sleep on first?” (They didn’t ask that, or any offbeat questions, really. It was a relatively normal interview. The point is, BuzzFeed editors are extremely pro-Cat.)
More importantly, I knew beforehand that I’d be competing for the same position not just with top-notch constructors, but friends and colleagues. I’ve never met Caleb in person — though maybe I will this weekend at the ACPT? — but still, I know his work well, and it’s not every day when you can say that you know several of the people who interviewed for the same job opening. That’s just what happens in the so-called crossword community. Being a part of a group that’s so small, combined with the fact that puzzle editor jobs so seldom open up, means that you and many of your own colleagues will jump on the infrequent opportunities when they arise.
Because it’s inherently awkward to apply for the same position that your friends and acquaintances did, I resolved that if I didn’t get the job, I would fully support whoever did. And I do. Caleb brings a modern and edgy streak to his crosswords that I’ve tried to emulate in my own way. As one example, you can purchase his “Spirituals” puzzle for the AV Club from October 2014 for $1 (and here’s a review of that puzzle). There are also several examples of his and other young gun puzzlemakers’ crosswords in Natan Last‘s Word — that book was a good source of inspiration for me; when I bought that book a few years ago, I remember thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t it be fun to make puzzles just like these?”
Working in this indie puzzle scene has taught me first-hand that you can make a name for yourself creating fun and edgy alternatives to mainstream outlets. I have every bit of confidence that Caleb will do great work as BuzzFeed’s first puzzle editor and help expand crosswords for the next generation of puzzlemakers. More and better puzzles, I say. Cheers, Caleb!