A group of eagle-eyed puzzlers, using digital tools, has uncovered a pattern of copying in the professional crossword-puzzle world that has led to accusations of plagiarism and false identity.
Since 1999, Timothy Parker, editor of one of the nation’s most widely syndicated crosswords, has edited more than 60 individual puzzles that copy elements from New York Times (NYT) puzzles, often with pseudonyms for bylines, a new database has helped reveal. The puzzles in question repeated themes, answers, grids and clues from Times puzzles published years earlier. Hundreds more of the puzzles edited by Parker are nearly verbatim copies of previous puzzles that Parker also edited. Most of those have been republished under fake author names.
Parker hasn't denied that many of his puzzles exactly replicated themes and theme answers from NYT puzzles. “To me, it’s just mere coincidence,” he said. Despite Parker’s denial, many in the crossword world see willful plagiarism in Parker’s puzzles, and they see the database that revealed the repetition as a tool of justice.
Will Shortz, the NYT puzzle editor and the premier crossword expert in the country, was taken aback by the charges. “I have never heard of something like this happening before. This would never have come to light except in the electronic age, where you can track these things.” He added: “To me, it’s an obvious case of plagiarism. It’s unethical, and I would never publish a person who plagiarizes another person’s work.”
Since the publication of this article, Universal Uclick and USA Today have each said that Timothy Parker will be stepping back from his role creating puzzles for the two publishers while an investigation is conducted.