The clue: He created Saturday’s crossword puzzle for The New York Times.
The answer: University of Illinois student Adam Aaronson.
A freshman from Deerfield studying computer science, he started making puzzles less than two years ago. Aaronson submitted many of them to The New York Times but got rejected a dozen times.
“Each rejection only encouraged me more,” Aaronson said. “They provided encouraging feedback on each one. They weren’t just solid ‘No.’ They gave specific reasons as to why they were rejected.”
He learned from the suggestions. In December, he heard from the newspaper by email, telling him one of his puzzles had been accepted.
“I’ve been into puzzles ever since I was little,” said Aaronson, who started doing the Chicago Tribune puzzle with his family.
“I was pretty good at solving them,” he said. “Over the past year, I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it.”
Then, Aaronson began constructing his own puzzles. He watched YouTube videos and read articles on how to make crosswords.
Aaronson started working on Saturday’s puzzle in July. It took him about two weeks to finish.
Aaronson’s submission incorporates 14 words that are new to The New York Times puzzle.
There is one he is particularly proud of: 14 across. It’s a 10-letter word.
There is a financial reward for getting a puzzle published. The New York Times pays $500. Sunday puzzles (Aaronson has submitted one) pay $1,500.
“Hopefully, this one is just the beginning of my New York Times crossword career,” Aaronson said.
On to my weekend recommendations:
“Hawaii Five-O,” 7 p.m., CBS
The reboot of the 1960s-’70s hit is in its 10th season. Alex O’Loughlin stars as Steve McGarrett, the role portrayed by Jack Lord in the original show.
Bills at Texans, 3:45 p.m., ESPN
Former Illini All-American Whitney Mercilus is having a big season for Houston (7½ sacks).
“Golden Globe Awards,” 7 p.m., NBC
Ricky Gervais returns as host for the fifth time, which means anything could happen on the live broadcast. Charlieze Theron, Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer are among the presenters scheduled to appear at the Beverly Hilton. Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres will receive special honors.