Crossword master Bob Carson and Catholic Register Books brings you Crosswords for Catholics Photo by Ramon Gonzalez)

Bob Carson’s dream comes true

  • November 22, 2014

TORONTO - Being the crossword puzzle guy in a prison means you are never without friends. You become the go-to person when someone is stumped.

“Hey, Bob, what’s the name of George Jetson’s dog?”

That’s just one of the many questions thrown Bob Carson’s way over the years. One of the easier ones, too. Who can forget Astro?

Carson is the author of the popular crossword puzzle that appears weekly in The Catholic Register. Or, as he might put it, what’s a six-letter word for The Register’s crossword guru? Answer: Carson. He is also the author of Crosswords for Catholics, a large-format book of 92 brand new puzzles released this month by Catholic Register Books.

Before we get to that, though, we need to make clear that, while Carson does indeed know his way around a prison, it’s because he is a corrections officer in Edmonton. Never an inmate. The closest he’s come to committing a crime is writing a puzzle clue that’s too hard to solve. But even that is rare. His puzzles, particularly those in his new book, are designed for the everyday puzzle enthusiast.

“A few of my colleagues have done my puzzles, and even though they aren’t Catholic, they don’t find them too difficult,” Carson said. “I find this encouraging, because I never set out to make the puzzles too difficult.”

Carson, 49, got hooked on doing crossword puzzles when he was around 14. After solving them for 20 years he decided to start designing his own.

“It was pretty time consuming at first,” he admits.

He pitched publishers on themed puzzles involving sports, news and other niche topics, but found no takers until he took a Catholic-themed puzzle to the Western Catholic Reporter newspaper in 1999. Editor Glen Argan said yes, and Carson was officially a cruciverbalist, a member of the small world of wordsmiths who create crossword puzzles. As far as he knows, there is only one other cruciverbalist in North America who specializes in Catholic-themed puzzles.

“One of the things I love about designing my own crosswords is sharing stuff that I love with people,” he said. “Hopefully they can pick up on some inspirational reading or a great movie because of something they saw in one of my puzzles.”

With the release of his book, Carson estimates that about 850 of his puzzles have been published in the past 15 years.

His weekly crossword has appeared in The Register since 2011.

Publishing a book of crosswords has been a dream of Carson’s for many years. It began when he took a call from a nun who had recently moved to Montreal from Edmonton. She missed her weekly crossword in the Western Catholic Reporter and asked Carson if he’d ever done a book.

“That got me thinking,” he said. “I initially visualized a book of 50 puzzles but instead I got a book of 92 puzzles in a large format that is easy to read and easy to fill in. It’s so much better than I ever thought it would be.”

Carson said creating 92 puzzles took “a couple hundred hours over the summer.” There was also considerable time self editing, revamping to add more religious themes and coming up with fresh clues.

“And I spent a lot of time proofreading. I probably spend as much time proofreading my puzzles as I do designing them. I hate making mistakes.”

Crosswords for Catholic is available to readers of The Register at the special price of $10, which includes tax and shipping. For ordering information, see the advertisement in the back of this week’s paper. 

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