Harper’s Magazine
The Harper’s Podcast
Richard E. Maltby Jr.’s Cryptics

Richard E. Maltby Jr.’s Cryptics

It’s all a game to me: speaking with the master puzzle maker

Stephen Sondheim may have brought the cryptic crossword to America, but Richard E. Maltby Jr. brought it to Harper’s Magazine. The lyricist, director, and cryptic creator sat down with Harper’s and one of his checkers, Roddy Howland Jackson, to talk about the history of the puzzle, the declining use of dictionaries, and the rise in word puzzle fascination. After all, “What holds the country together is the diversity of different nerd populations.”

  • Subscribe to Harper’s for only $16.97: harpers.org/save

  • Richard E. Maltby Jr.’s puzzles in Harper’s

  • A link to uploads of Stephen Sondheim’s Crossword Puzzles

  • Christopher Tayler on T.S. Eliot’s legacy

  • Ryan Ruby on Nabokov

  • 4:01: Stephen Sondheim’s cryptic crossword legacy

  • 7:51: The musicality of the cryptic

  • 14:14: “If you’re going to do something that is tricky, you have to be fair.”

  • 17:44: There’s no such thing as the English language.”

  • 26:26: On getting stumped by your own puzzle

  • 33:56: Modernist poetry’s puzzles and contemporary poetry’s…plain prose

  • 38:09: Clues are “designed to be read wrong.”

  • 39:56: Nabokov’s crossword legacy

  • 47:06: The dictionary as Bildungsroman

  • 55:26: Wordle! Spelling Bee! “As the language gets more and more debased, people seem to be more interested in language.”

  • 1:02:41: A cryptic proposal

Harper’s Magazine
The Harper’s Podcast
Since 1850, Harper’s Magazine has provided its readers with a unique perspective on the issues that drive our national conversation, featuring writing from some of the most promising to most distinguished names in literature–from Barbara Ehrenreich to Rachel Kushner. Every week, host Violet Lucca joins her colleagues and contributing writers to provide listeners with a deep dive into these topics and the craft of long-form narrative journalism.
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