Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exhibit at Birmingham Public Library Sure to Delight Crossword Puzzle Fans

Cover of one of Shelton's crossword books
Attention, crossword puzzle fans! An exhibit of unique crossword puzzles, Ever a Cross Word, is currently on display at the Central Library of the Birmingham Public Library in the First Floor Gallery. Created by Bob Shelton, who has been a crossword puzzle aficionado for most of his adult life, the exhibit features some thirty panels of 1) the most unique puzzles he has ever solved and 2) the best puzzles he has created. Each panel is 16” x 20", color coded and enlarged for easy viewing. He has targeted libraries as the most suitable venue for their showing. The exhibit can be viewed during regular library hours in the First Floor Gallery until May 29, 2015. Also on display are eight books of crosswords that Shelton created containing what he terms “new theme” puzzles. They are new in that, unlike standard crossword “themes” with a handful of related material, most of these clues refer to the titled theme.

Shelton described in a statement how his obsession took hold and blossomed:

“My interest in crossword puzzles began in junior high school. I would cut out the daily puzzle from the morning newspaper and take it to work during study hall… After many years I discovered there were actual books full of these creatures, and to this day I solve crosswords constantly: New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, etc.

One day during a dreary faculty meeting I began making a simple grid and trying out basic words that would cross-reference easily. I then began collecting sample empty puzzle grids of 15 x 15 squares. I found an article on the subject that had been reprinted in the National Crossword Aptitude test puzzle that encouraged the solver to complete it in fifteen minutes. I completed the puzzle in eight minutes, and figured I was fairly adept. The cross-relationship of solving others’ material and making my own gradually took hold. I sent a few to the New York Times, but Mr. Shortz felt my clues were too direct (note: Will Shortz is the puzzle director for the New York Times.) As their puzzles were noted for vague and misdirected clues, I was not surprised. I became more interested in the quality of the ANSWERS rather than the nature of the CLUES.

In constructing early puzzles, I realized I wanted a special aspect to be present. It came in the form of the titled THEME of each: all of the ones I had worked included only a handful of entries related to the selected theme. I would strive for at least half the entries to connect. The result was NEW THEME PUZZLES, and to this date I have published eight books of such. Movie titles, movie lines, actors, famous quotes, authors, books, sports & athletes, famous places—the font of raw material was endless. Due to the breadth of such thematic coverage, I encourage the use of internet resources in solving.

Shelton was a longtime Professor of Art at Birmingham-Southern College and retired in 2005. Among his many achievements, Shelton has had numerous selections of his artwork in juried exhibitions and many cash and purchase awards. He has had gallery exhibitions in New York City. Several corporations have commissioned his work. He wrote two textbooks—based on his development of film courses—which were published by Mellen Press of New York.

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