Navigate to Sports section

Branching Out

A crossword puzzle celebrating Judaism’s denominations

Ethan Friedman
February 18, 2010

I’ve loved puzzles since childhood, and I’ve been a crossword fan for longer than I care to think about. As an editor, I published The New York Times crosswords in book form, and then created puzzles for the high priest of the crossword world, the great Will Shortz.

This weekend, Shortz will venture to Brooklyn, where for the 33rd time, he’ll direct the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the national crossword championship.

When Tablet Magazine asked me to create a puzzle in honor of the tournament, I thought about how much Jewish life and thought have in common with crosswords. Like a crossword, Judaism’s main texts—the Torah, the Talmud—raise questions, require us to use our own brains to navigate a path from those questions to an answer that works for us, and give hints that allow us to decipher new meanings to familiar words, phrases, and concepts.

The life of the mind that is so powerful a force in Jewish culture lends itself naturally to the deciphering of puzzles, whether in the world around us or contained within little boxes in a newspaper (or Web) page. It’s no coincidence, I suspect, that a vastly disproportionate number—when compared to our presence in the overall population—of the crossword tournament champions have been Jewish.

Here, then, is my puzzle. If you enjoy it, and are in New York, stop by the Brooklyn Marriott this weekend, say hi to Will and to me, and join nearly 700 other crossword fans for a weekend of puzzling.

TO PLAY: Type in the answers in the puzzle, or select the clue you wish to solve in the right column. Click here for the solution.

Ethan Friedman is a literary agent who has constructed crosswords for the New York Times, Tablet Magazine, and other publications.