Is the World's Most Prolific Crossword Maker a Plagiarist?

'Scandal is unfolding,' says FiveThirtyEight in look at Timothy Parker's work
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2016 9:25 AM CST
Is the World's Most Prolific Crossword Maker a Plagiarist?
A crossword puzzle is shown in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

USA Today called him "most prolific puzzle maker in the world" in its 2003 announcement that it would begin carrying Timothy Parker's puzzles in its pages. A People profile from that same year said Parker was already a "multimillionaire" thanks to his puzzles. Now, an extensive piece by Oliver Roeder for FiveThirtyEight questions whether all of Parker's puzzles are purely of his own making. In addition to the USA Today Crossword, Parker edits the syndicated Universal Crossword (clients range from the Boston Globe to CBS News). Roeder reports that "eagle-eyed puzzlers" armed with a new online database say they've found at least 60 puzzles he's edited that have "exactly replicated" the theme answers of a puzzle that had already run in the New York Times.

"More broadly, 1,090 Universal puzzles and 447 USA Today puzzles were at least a 75% match to an earlier puzzle," writes Roeder, who notes some of those earlier puzzles were published by Universal or USA Today. Parker brushes it off as "mere coincidence" and tells Roeder it's been years since he even looked at a Times crossword, which he says he's no fan of. For his part, Times puzzle editor Will Shortz sees "an obvious case of plagiarism." Neither USA Today nor Universal Uclick, which holds the copyright to both series, responded to Roeder's request for comment. Roeder's piece lays out the case by providing two side-by-side comparisons: one of a "shady" duplication, and one of a "shoddy" one. See those, and read much more on the database that uncovered this all, here. (More crossword puzzle stories.)

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