or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 1/27/13

   February 2nd, 2013

Newspaper crossword puzzleA patron came up to me at the desk and asked,

I'm looking for information on writing and books about getting published. - you know, like Writer's Market, but modern.

That puzzled me for a second, since Writer's Market is updated every year. I walked with her down to the 808 section and showed her our 2013 edition of Writer's Market*, and some other books on the shelve. She said thank you, and then followed it up with,

I want to publish crossword puzzles - do you have any books on that?

Huh. I didn't remember ever seeing any books specifically about publishing crosswords. We skimmed the shelves and nothing obviously stood out, so I left her there to look through what we did have and I went back to the desk to search the catalog. Nothing came up, so I tried searched online.

One of the first results I came across was an Ask MetaFiler post titled Crossword Publishing help. It had only two responses to the original post, but both seemed (to me) to be very helpful. I didn't really find much else online, so I quickly reviewed the website cruciverb.com which one of the responses recommended. It seemed to be exactly what the patron wanted - it listed publications that publish crosswords, contact information and other details for submitting puzzles, and lots of other resources (including a listserv, forum, and social networking) for creating and publishing crossword puzzles. How perfect is that?

However, when I went back to the 800's to find the patron, she had left. I looked around, and even ran up to the Circulation Desk to see if I could catch her on her way out. I hadn't been searching at the reference desk very long, but she was nowhere to be found. I hate it when patrons slip away like that.

I was curious though, so I went back to the 808's to looked at the shelf. From the empty spaces between books (that weren't there before), I could tell that she had taken the 2013 Writer's Market and also a couple other books. That's good, and hopefully she found what she's looking for.

This question really intrigued me for some reason. I had seen (and really enjoyed) Wordplay, but never thought much about that actual process of publishing crosswords. Oh well - I think I'll stick to word finds.

Link to library word finds.


As with most of our most recent editions of traditional reference titles, our 2013edition of Writer's Market is a 7 Day Loan item, instead of in-library reference only. Even though it's been almost two years since we eliminated our "reference" collection, it still makes me happy every time a patron is able to take home and really use something they previously wouldn't have been able to check out.

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 1/27/13”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Heard this back in December…thought of it as I read your post:



  2. Mark Durham Says:

    One quick thought I had is that since you know what title she checked out, you can probably look her up in the circ system to find a phone number or flag her account with a message to see you for more information on her question.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Matthew: great link – thanks.

    @Mark: you know, that would totally work. I think I’d be a little uncomfortable calling her at home, since she never gave me her name or contact information, but a note on her card might be perfect. I’ve chased patrons into the parking lot before after I eventually found what they were looking for, but have never tried this – thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Jen Says:

    There is a mystery series by Parnell Hall, The Puzzle Lady Mysteries, that features an amateur female detective named Cora Felton who masquerades as a nationally known crossword puzzle constructor. In a few of the beginning books of the series, the author gives a pretty good break down (in my eyes) of the crossword construction industry (it’s a plot point in one of the mysteries).