The Mac Weekly needs a crossword

Adrian Johnson

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The Mac Weekly is relatively small in staff, scale and circulation. We publish once a week and produce 900 paper copies, yet many copies from throughout the semester pile up in the Campus Center.

For 105 years, The Mac Weekly has brought independent journalism to Macalester’s campus, a fact that will not change in the foreseeable future. Knowing that our print paper is protected, should we take risks to innovate it?

To align The Mac Weekly with 21st century media practices, we enhanced our social media presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and created a phenomenal new podcast called “Groveland.” I’d like to go further by suggesting a means of innovating our weekly print paper.

What I want to see is an evolving standard of what constitutes relevant material to The Mac Weekly. The Mac Weekly is missing the potential for interactivity with our readership. Crosswords can bring positive changes to the community and engage Macalester students in ways that print journalism alone cannot.

Arthur Wynne created the first crossword in 1913 in the New York World. The popularity of crossword puzzles skyrocketed in the early 1920s and 1930s. In 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the first crossword appeared in The New York Times to give the public something to do during blackouts and provide a source of relaxation during wartimes.

This notion of crosswords as an escape is of different but similar relevance to college students today, particularly at Macalester. Rigorous academics and campus involvement often lead to students lacking time for leisurely activities. Adding a crossword to the paper would provide students an opportunity to engage in productive procrastination and challenge themselves mentally.

In addition to relaxation and stress reduction, crossword puzzles are a powerful social activity to bring people together. Four English professors at the University of Eastern Kentucky highlighted the power of “collaborative cruciverbalism,” consisting of two or more people working on crosswords simultaneously, as an efficient means of fostering important critical thinking skills, perception shifting and pattern recognition. Skills like these are essential in a liberal arts education.

An important aspect about the crossword in The Mac Weekly is that it would be free. A subscription to The New York Times’ crossword costs roughly $40 per year or $7 per month. The New York Times Miniature puzzle is available for free every day, but these puzzles are often solved in seconds. These prices create financial barriers for Macalester students. Producing original crossword material at no cost to students would put The Mac Weekly in a class of its own in terms of originality, accessibility and diversity of content.

What I hope to foster is an initiative to put crosswords in print a few times a semester. The vocabulary of the puzzle would be straightforward enough for the majority of students to solve and would not seek to turn away those inexperienced with solving crosswords.

I hope that if my vision is realized that it will bring a new era of innovation to The Mac Weekly. A crossword has the potential to foster provocative discussion and social activity in order to engage more closely with the Macalester community.