PROGRAM: [Across Lite]
Aimee Lucido recently joined me in the rotation of Onion puzzlers, and I must say it was a welcome addition. She brings youthful energy, much-needed estrogen, and a whole new slew of pop culture knowledge that contrasts nicely to the others' work. She writes what she knows and doesn't give a hoot whether the olds are on board with her. In short: she's my kind of puzzler. So at L'Ecole du BEQ, she gets an A+ with honors.
In the real world, Aimee's a senior at Brown, majoring in computer science and literature. Her puzzles have appeared in all the major markets. She even has a few puzzles in her former classmate Natan Last's latest book "Word." For the summer, she decided to take things easy and just work for Facebook. I caught up with Aimee when she was in between writing code and this is how it went down.
BEQ: Last summer you worked at Google, now you're working at Facebook ... what's next? Zynga?
Aimee: I have no idea what is next, mostly because what is next relies entirely on how this summer goes. If I like Facebook and they like me then I might stay here. Otherwise, I would have to give my future quite a bit more thought.
BEQ: Well, maybe you can continue making puzzles. Tell me about how you got into them.
Aimee: I got into puzzles, like drugs and jumping off of bridges, because all my friends were doing it. They were going to [Brown's] puzzle club on Mondays and I was insecure being by myself, so I followed along. Within my first month of attending, Natan mentioned that Brown Puzzle Week was happening in the New York Times and they were looking for Brown students to make puzzles. I wrote it off as something really awesome that I was way too stupid to know how to do, so, of course, I tried in secret to come up with a theme. Once I had come up with one that the rest of the club deemed worthy, Jonah Kagan spent a few days with me teaching how to construct crosswords, instead of studying for our philosophy final. I got a B in philosophy that year, but I would say it was worth it. I've been hooked on constructing ever since.
BEQ: You're doing computer science at Brown, but you'rs also studying literature. How much of puzzle making is your comp sci part of your brain and how much is the lit side?
Aimee: I've heard that most crossword puzzlers are either computer scientists or writers or something. I think that in my case "puzzle" is sort of the overarching theme for everything I like. Computer science is a puzzle, when you're trying to find a bug, or write efficient code, or whatever else. Writing is a different sort of puzzle: searching for the right word or phrase to describe something, trying to portray a mood, etc. And in both cases, the feeling of accomplishment at the end is the ultimate high.
Crossword puzzle solving and constructing appeals to many of my tendencies that make me like computer science and writing. There is, of course, the search for the perfect word, and the high of accomplishment when you are done, but the search for the best fill feels like an optimization problem. Crosswords are all about synthesizing large amounts of information and I think that is largely what I do when I write code or stories.
BEQ: I hear you're writing a book.
Aimee: I have a friend from high school whose mother is a young adult author. He and his mother were having a competition to write a book at 500 words a day. Whoever has a better book by the end, "wins." I had some spare time last summer so I decided to join the party. I didn't write consistently at 500 words a day, really. I worked in spurts, writing 3000 words in a weekend, or 10,000 words over Thanksgiving break, and then not writing while I had homework to do in the week. The book is written now; it's about 90,000 words. There are parts that I really like and parts that I really don't. It needs a lot of work, but my plan is to spend next semester working on it for my Literary Arts thesis. Then, if I am happy with it by the end of the semester, I'll spend the summer after I graduate trying to get it published. Getting a book published is at the top of my bucket list.