Crossword keeners unite in Oak Bay

Crossword book launch comes to the Oak Bay library

Gwen Sjogren is at the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library Oct. 1.

Gwen Sjogren launches her latest book, O Canada Crosswords Book 16, in the midst of like-minded Oak Bay residents.

She’s combined her launch at the local library on Oct. 1 with a favourite function in her hometown of Calgary – a crossword workshop.

“I am very much looking forward to putting on this workshop which I have done many times. It focusses on crossword solving tips and tricks and little things to help,” said Sjogren, a longtime puzzle maker. “No matter what somebody’s solving level is, they come away with something that will help them with their future problem-solving endeavours.”

Sjogren is one of Canada’s top crossword designers. Applying her passion for words and humour, Sjogren injects fun, laughter and learning into every puzzle. She has compiled five other books for the O Canada Crosswords series, as well as six other books.

“I talk about some of the history of crosswords and how they come about,” she said. “The first half of the workshop I do an awful lot of talking and sharing information.”

The second half is putting those tips to work with a traditionally popular and fun, group solve.

Having created more than 400 Canadian-themed crosswords with still ideas brewing, she’s already working on Book 17 in the O Canada series.

“There’s a heavy emphasis on Canadiana. … I have to have a hockey puzzle in every book. It’s the number one topic,” she said. “I learn a lot about this country, about our geography, our people, our history. I really enjoy that learning aspect.”

In the latest book, she offers several trademark pun puzzles like “Money Changes Everything” and “Fit for a Witch.” Seven grids have built-in shapes that enhance the rich flavour of this collection, including circle-in-the-square anagrams and the unique Breaking All the Rules (of crossword design).

“I figure with 100 puzzles in a book I hope solvers are willing to give me a little rope and if I hang myself I hang myself. But in 100 puzzles there’s some scope to play and try a few different things,” Sjogren said with a laugh.

Sjogren takes a new approach to some non-themed Canada Cornucopia crosswords as “Challengers” and “Superchallengers” that give solvers a taste of something different. “Challengers” have seven or fewer three-letter answers; “Superchallengers” up the ante with fewer three-letter words and no fill-in-the-blank clues.

O Canada Crosswords Book 16 (Nightwood Editions, $13.95) launches at the Oak Bay Branch of the Greater Victoria Regional Library, 1442 Monterey Ave. on Thursday, Oct. 1 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the workshop, suitable for many levels of solver, is free with registration at gvpl.ca.

“People tend to think crosswords re a very solitary pursuit. I find a surprising amount of people do crosswords with other people,” she said. “There’s an advantage to that, people have different levels of knowledge on different things.”