Sunday, 31 March 2013

Interview: Greg Parker aka The Puzzle Wizard

The Puzzle Wizard, Greg Parker, and me, Jan 2007.
The Wizard is standing on a chair.

Greg Parker has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years. He single-handedly produces The Puzzle Wizard series of crossword books, which are available in newsagencies throughout Australia and New Zealand, and on subscription. They are excellent crossword magazines, and some of the few independent crossword publications out there.

I designed Greg's web site, and I also design the covers of his World of Crosswords and Crossword Magic publications. In recent times I have started writing the cryptic in his World of Crosswords mag, too. 

I thought you might like to get to know Greg better, so here is my interview for your enjoyment!

Puzzling: How long have you been writing crosswords?
Greg: Since about six years of age — so 43 years.

Puzzling: What got you started on writing them?
Greg: I was fascinated by words (and numbers for that matter) from a young age.  Books which featured simple crosswords such as the 'Across and Down' puzzles — crosswords consisting of a 4x4 grid with no black squares where the four across words were the same as the four down words — captured my imagination.  Then a book called the Sun Book of Games and Puzzles had a section on how to compile crosswords — and from there I was hooked.

Puzzling: What sort of process do you go through to write your crosswords and

Greg: The process is partly automated and partly manual.  Any software that I use I've written myself to emulate what I would've done manually anyway.  With the crosswords, the grids are designed first, then the words inserted into the grids, then the clues are written.  The systems I have to produce the crosswords and magazines have been gradually improved over time. Planning and preparation to produce the crossword magazines started in 1990 — nine years before the first magazine was published.

Puzzling: Are there any subjects that you tend to include or avoid in your

Greg: I try to include subjects which are representative of what Australians take an interest in; this provides plenty of scope for material. There are certain subjects that may offend, and these are avoided or treated cautiously.  Disease and sex come to mind.  I don't consider religion and politics amongst these, as long as common sense is used of course.

Puzzling: What is the best part of your work?
Greg: Being my own boss is very good.  As is working from home, hence avoiding the frustration and loss of time from a daily commute.

Puzzling: What is the most annoying part of your work?
Greg: Two words — Australia Post.  They've let me down so many times over the years it isn't funny.  If you asked me the hardest part of my work, I'd say the continuous schedule of meeting deadlines.

Puzzling: How do you see The Puzzle Wizard developing over the coming years?
Greg:  I have some big plans for The Puzzle Wizard but I'd rather keep them under the wizard's hat for the moment  :)

Puzzling: Do you play any word games to relax, or have you had enough of them
by the end of the day? What do you like to do to relax?

Greg: I tend to avoid word games when I'm not working and just try to give the mind a break, as producing the books can get pretty intense in a mental sense.  To relax I have coffee with my wife, watch AFL and AFL discussion shows.

Puzzling: So you're keen on AFL are you?
Greg: Yes - I've followed Morningside in the local comp for as long as I've been making crosswords.

Puzzling: What's something most of your readers wouldn't know about you?
Greg: Like Laurie Lawrence and the new pope, I have only one lung.

Thank you Greg!

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