Puzzles passion turns into book

By FELICIA HUNTER, Correspondent

MONROE — To fill idle hours spent riding commuter trains, Douglas Fink took up crossword puzzles. What began as a way to pass the time while taking the train to work in Boston when he lived in its suburbs a number of years ago became a passion for Fink.

And that eventually led Fink to create his own grids.

“I’ve been making crossword puzzles for over 15 years now,” said Fink, 39, who now lives in Monroe with his wife Susan and their 3-year-old daughter Hannah and 6-month-old son Ethan.

A collection of Fink’s puzzles, titled “The Everything Easy Crosswords Book: Challenging Fun for Beginners,” will be released this month. Published by Adams Media, it is Fink’s first book.

He will discuss the book and the process of making crossword puzzles during a talk/book signing at 7:30
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6/13/2004

p.m. Wednesday in the Monroe Public Library, 7 Fan Hill Road. The event is free and open to the public. “It’s unique,” said Fred Danowski, adult services librarian, about Fink’s book. “It’s designed to be every man’s crossword puzzle, without the jargon.”

Danowski, who schedules monthly library talks, said he knows many people who enjoy solving crossword puzzles. “If you’re waiting at a doctor’s office or at an airport, it’s a good way to utilize your mind and kill some time,” Danowski said.

But that enjoyment can be lost if the clues are poor or the puzzle is too difficult to solve, Fink said. That is why he agreed to put together his book of 225 original puzzles.

“One of the reasons I wrote the book is because I wanted it to be easy and fun,” he said. “There are no words you wouldn’t find in Scrabble.”

The puzzles are spread throughout 14 chapters, many with themes or some other guiding principle.

Before moving to Monroe four years ago, Fink, a technical writer for Unilever, worked at Penny Press for 11 years editing puzzle magazines and streamlining puzzle creation.

He has participated in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and is a member of the National Puzzlers’ League. A professional contact put Fink in touch last year with editors at Adams Media Corp., which was looking for someone to write a crossword puzzle book.

Adams Media, located in Avon, Mass., is a subsidiary of Cincinnati’s F+W Publications. Fink’s book is part of the Adams Media “Everything” series, offering special-interest books on cooking, self-help, business, computers, home improvement, language, pets, hobbies and games.

Fink’s second book, “The Everything Crosswords Challenge: Take it to the Next Level,” will be published by Adams Media in August. As the title suggests, it will be more difficult than his first book.

There are many elements to be aware of when creating a crossword puzzle, Fink said, adding making sure clues are correct and there are no spelling errors is just part of the process.

He said most successful puzzle creators have a general knowledge of politics, sports, the arts and other topics. “You have to know a lot of trivia in order to do it,” he said.

Puzzle creators also must be good spellers and keep up with changes in current events.

Today’s fact may be tomorrow’s historic remnant, Fink said.

For example, “USSR” used to be a common clue, before the Soviet Union collapsed, he said. “That had to be clued differently after that,” Fink said. “Things happen that outdate your clues. A lot of stuff that was true isn’t true anymore.”

Fink, who is partial to New York Times and Boston Globe puzzles, said he is an avid puzzle solver as well as creator. “Making a puzzle is the thrill of an artist —- of creating something,” he said. “Solving a puzzle is the thrill of solving a mystery. They’re different things.”

“The Everything Easy Crosswords Book: Challenging Fun for Beginners” is available at online book outlets such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. The list price is $14.95.

The library also has copies for borrowing, and books will be available for purchase during Fink’s talk.

For more information, call the Monroe Public Library at 452-5458.