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PV Student Gives Historic Crossword Puzzles New Life

At 14, David Steinberg was one of the youngest to have a crossword puzzle published in the New York Times. Now, he is working to preserve the past.

Palos Verdes Peninsula High School sophomore and crossword puzzle creator David Steinberg made headlines last year when, at the age of 14, he became one of the youngest constructors to have a crossword puzzle published in the New York Times.

Now Steinberg, 15, is looking to the past as he works to bring more than 16,000 old New York Times crossword puzzles into the future through a digitization project he started during a high school science research course at Peninsula High School.

According to Steinberg, through the massive undertaking, he hopes to digitize and make fully analyzable crossword puzzles created between Feb. 15, 1942 and Nov. 20, 1993, an era prior to the editorship of the well-known New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz.

It is a project he has coined the "Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project."

"These puzzles are an amazing historical record—not just of crossword construction, but also of the times in which they were written," said Steinberg. "Someday in the not-too-distant future, all the pre-Shortzian puzzles will be available and analyzable."

Each crossword puzzle Steinberg digitizes must be manually entered into crossword construction software and then proofread—a process known as "Litzing." With the massive amount of puzzles to be entered though, Steinberg knew he needed to recruit some help.

Since the project's inception, Steinberg has recruited close to 30 people worldwide—known as "Litzers"—who help him with the project. Will Shortz himself as well as Newsday crossword editor Stanley Newman have joined the project as editorial advisors.

According to Steinberg's blog, the project is currently about one-third complete; puzzles from 1988 were recently uploaded.

Steinberg's efforts have earned him honors from the Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society for "the most challenging, original, thorough, and creative investigation of a problem involving mathematics accessible to a high school student."

More information on the project can be found on the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project blog.

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