NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some say all clues are pointing to foul play in a controversy brewing in the crossword puzzle business.
A puzzle lover’s algorithm spells trouble for USA TODAY crossword editor Timothy Parker. A database of 53,000 published puzzles showed at least 60 edited by Parker borrow seemingly directly from the New York Times, CBS2’s Contessa Brewer reported.
One puzzle titled, “Dare To Compare,” shared the same theme, order, and two identical clues as a Times puzzle from 1997, edited by Will Shortz, Brewer reported.
“It can take a puzzle maker as much time to come up with a good fresh theme as to fill the grid and write the clues,” Shortz said. “So to borrow or take someone else’s creativity in coming up with an original theme really is not right.”
Website FiveThirtyEight examined the database and found Parker also republished puzzles in USA TODAY with only minor changes, but under different bylines.
“To me, it’s just mere coincidence,” Parker told FiveThirtyEight. “We don’t look at anybody else’s puzzles, or really care about anyone else’s puzzles.”
Parker also edits the syndicated Universal Crossword, with clients including CBS News.
“I just think it reflects poorly on USA Today, and they should have a crossword editor who is worthy of their paper,” Shortz said.
Parker, USA TODAY and Universal Crossword have not responded to calls from CBS News.