A Puzzling Pattern

Jordan Good’s varied interests stretch across disciplines. But they all come down to a common thread

Jordan Good, AG24, was enticed into the fellowship of cruciverbalists at a young age by her grandparents. The word cruciverbalist carries two connotations: a devotee of crossword puzzles and also someone who constructs them. Good started out as the former and has now ventured into the latter.

For years, Good completed the The New York Times crossword puzzle almost daily. Now that she’s a master’s degree candidate in the music department and a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Future Leaders Fellow, her puzzle pace has slowed somewhat, but she would consider it a nice achievement if she could have at least one of her crosswords published.

In the meantime, she is focusing her scholarship on the subject of how video game soundtracks relate to players’ sense of immersion and time perception. She is curating an exhibit titled Hidden Behind the Screen: Gender Representation in Video Game Music, 1980’s-2022, which will open at the Lilly Music Library on the Medford/Somerville campus early in the spring 2023 semester.

Tufts Now spoke with Good in advance of National Crossword Puzzle Day to learn a bit about how cruciverbalists do what they do and how crosswords intersect with her other favorite pastimes.

Blank mini crossword puzzle

Try Your Hand at a Minipuzzle

December 21 is National Crossword Puzzle Day, which marks the appearance of the first American-style puzzle (originally dubbed the Word-Cross) in 1913. Good has created a minipuzzle for Tufts Now readers and an explanation of her thought process as she put the puzzle together. Hint: Do the puzzle before reading her narrative to avoid spoilers!

Her first crossword puzzle attempt: Undergraduate friends were trying to start a newspaper and thought it would be fun to have a crossword.

How’d it go? “It was very, very difficult. But it’s a fun process to attempt. It’s a cool way to interact with words on a more creative end.”

Biggest challenge to constructing a crossword puzzle: Devising a theme. A standard Times daily puzzle will have four themed clues, often with about 9- to- 11 letters each (but they can span the whole grid); these should be the longest words in the puzzle. The theme should be fun and clever.

Favorite themes in puzzles she’s created: Names of fruits that were hidden within longer words, and references to new sports that were introduced at the Summer 2020 Olympics.

Her other passions: Composing music-box music; the online word game Spelling Bee; video games (particularly video game music) ; cross-stitch; and jigsaw puzzles.

Wait. Music-box music? Forget any images of snow globes or little ballerinas. She first creates the music online. Then she enters her compositions on a punch card, similar to the way music is arranged for a player piano and runs them through her own music boxes, sometimes posting videos online, or just to entertain friends and family. Listen here for a sample, inspired by the video game Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

What’s the common thread here? “I really love a pattern.”

Does that apply to music, too? “Yes! I’ve always been interested in what’s going on in my brain when I’m playing music. I do think quite visually and spatially, even with a temporal art like music.”

Instruments played: Viola, clarinet, and piano.

Undergraduate education: Self-designed a major at New York University in perceptions of emotion in music, with a minor in psychology.

What’s playing when she studies: “Video game soundtracks. I like the minimal and ambient side of video game music. It’s like classical music, but more nostalgic.”

Favorite video game soundtrack: Super Mario Galaxy, originally made for the Wii. “It’s really beautiful.”

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