By KATIE McCLELLAN,Four Points News
While the pandemic has been sweeping across the globe, it has Americans quarantined and many, like 19-year-old Mattew Meskill, have used their newfound free-time at home to explore new hobbies. Meskill’s freshman year at the University of Notre Dame studying finance and applied and computational mathematics and statistics was cut short, but, never one to back down from a challenging situation, he began creating crossword puzzles.
“I made my first crossword puzzle for my mom for Mother’s Day. I knew she liked to do crosswords, so I planned to make a Mother’s Day themed crossword,” Meskill said. “It was really bad, but I had a ton of fun making it.”
After watching a 10-minute crossword puzzle tutorial on YouTube, Meskill figured he could finish his first puzzle quickly, but it took him several days to complete it. He even had to make up a few words, including “Oyifso” as a “British cry of surprise.”
“I sent [the puzzle] to some of my Notre Dame friends for a test run, and they gave it a somewhat reluctant thumbs up, so I printed it out for my mom,” Meskill said. “She really enjoyed it and by some miracle managed to complete the puzzle.”
While he hadn’t made his own puzzles until the pandemic happened, Meskill grew up watching his mother and grandfather work on crosswords together. He never tried his hand at deducing a puzzle until his senior year of high school at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin with a friend who had a subscription to The New York Times. They would work on crosswords on their off-period when they needed a break from homework.
“I like that the puzzles are my own,” Meskill said. “It bugs me when The New York Times puzzles reference actors or singers from decades before I was born that I don’t have a prayer of knowing. I like to inject my puzzles with words from things I know well.”
Now that he has had the opportunity to practice his new hobby, Meskill begins each puzzle with roughly five theme words around which he builds his crosswords. He then creates the shape of the puzzle using black squares and fills in the crossword, beginning with the most complicated words. Finally, he writes the clue for each word, occasionally intentionally misleading his readers in order to create a puzzle with varying levels of difficulty.
His newfound love of crossword puzzles have been a welcome distraction for Meskill from the disappointments that have been a result of the pandemic, especially when it comes to his shortened year at Notre Dame.
“I miss my friends, of course, and I am sad that I did not get to play in the Bookstore Basketball tournament, which I had really been looking forward to,” Meskill said in reference to the world’s largest outdoor five-on-five tournament that takes place annually on campus.“Unfortunately, I doubt that intramural sports will happen, which is a huge shame because I have a total blast with them, and my dorm always wins.”
Meskill plans to return to Notre Dame as a sophomore to resume on-campus classes on August 10, where the university will be requiring face masks and implementing plans to avoid congestion between classes.
“Math is my strongest subject, and I have always really enjoyed math and statistics, so I look forward to learning higher, more challenging levels,” Meskill said.
Perhaps unsurprising for an applied math major, Meskill has never been a fan of words and doesn’t think his recent foray into crossword-puzzle creating has changed his mind.
“I don’t create the puzzles because I like words; I create the puzzles because I enjoy the challenge,” Meskill said. “Granted, I wouldn’t mind creating a few puzzles for the Notre Dame student paper just for fun.”