This Boy From Mumbai Became the World’s Unlikeliest Crossword King
As a teenager, Mangesh Ghogre was obsessed with decoding puzzles filled with foreign references. Now he’s the only non-American to ever create them for The New York Times.
Illustrations by Sonny Ross
In a brightly lit room on the ground floor of the United States Consulate General building in Mumbai, India, Mangesh Ghogre dishes out a litany of fun facts to an enrapt audience of about 20:
The most common size for an American crossword is 15 by 15 squares… The maximum number of black squares you can have is 43… The pattern of black and white squares must be symmetrical.
It’s a little after two p.m. on a Monday and Ghogre, 38, is leading a two-hour crossword workshop. He begins with the history and basics of the puzzle, then turns to the afternoon’s main agenda: What does it take to construct an American crossword? It’s something Ghogre is uniquely positioned to do. He is the only person who was born and raised outside North America, and who has never lived there, to create a crossword puzzle for The New York Times.
As Ghogre runs through his 53-slide presentation, he lays out the basic rules – you can’t use two-letter words and you can’t repeat words – then …