My New Favorite Marylander: The Teen Crossword Phenom

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Gaithersburg native and University of Maryland junior Erik Agard is good at solving crossword puzzles. Like, really good. Although he usually finishes “seven-ish” crosswords a day, according to a recent profile in the Washington Post, he’s also been known to do as many as 40. It takes him around five to ten minutes to finish the New York Times’s hardest weekly crossword (the Saturday puzzle), and his record for the easiest weekly puzzle (the Monday one) is a sizzling 2:17.

Puzzle mania set in for Agard when his high school calculus teacher (who happened to be the co-founder of Puzzlepalooza, the premier high school crossword event) shared his puzzle love with his class. With Agard, it stuck– big time.

Agard doesn’t only solve crosswords; he creates them, too. His puzzles have been published in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other places. But the most endearing thing about the WaPo profile is how uncomfortable Agard seems to be about his own niche fame. When his mom tries to brag to the reporter that he’s good at languages, reads speedily, and is very musical, Agard demurs like any embarrassed teenager. (His mom’s no slouch herself; she speaks fluent German, Italian, French, and Spanish, and near-fluent Russian, Hebrew, and Mandarin.)

Agard who is an African American Studies major at UMD, occasionally uses his college classes as inspiration for the puzzles he creates. Case in point:  a recent New York Times puzzle featured a quotation he pulled from his freshman year microeconomics textbook. He also managed to work a Terps clue in there as well.

Agard is currently the 14th best solver in the world— and he’s only 19. You can sample some of Agard’s crosswords at his Glutton For Pun blog, updated every Wednesday.

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