Word whiz's hobby carries him to the Big Apple

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) -- A wordsmith has turned a 26-year hobby into a moneymaking proposition.

Patrick Jordan, 38, began working crossword puzzles at the young age of 12. Ten years later, he constructed his first puzzle.

"I did it with the idea of selling it, which I did," he stated matter-of-factly.

Constructing and working crossword puzzles is a hobby for Jordan, the advertising promotions manager at The Ponca City News.

But, it's a hobby at which he's become proficient; in fact, he's become one of the best in the United States at it.

Six years ago, he competed for the first time in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Conn.

By his own admission, Jordan didn't do badly.

"I won the maximum number of trophies (you can get)," he explained. He received four trophies for finishing sixth overall (in a field of 300), being named Rookie of the Year, earning third in his age group and winning his southern geographical division.

Although his puzzles have appeared in The Daily Oklahoman and New York newspapers like Newsday and the Times, ironically he hasn't had any of his creations published in The Ponca City News.

"We carry a different syndicate," Jordan shrugged, indicating he understands the nature of the "crossword game." Most daily newspapers, like The News, receive their daily puzzles from a copyrighted syndicate. The one used locally doesn't carry Jordan's puzzle constructions.

Although he's gained a nationwide reputation, Jordan doesn't see his crossword "career" going much farther.

"You can count on one hand the number of people who make a living at this," he said.

To do what he does -- construct crosswords -- takes a special type of individual, Jordan explained.

According to him, there are four essentials: good vocabulary, an ear for language, a sense of humor and what he calls "a puzzle mindset."

A puzzle mindset is thinking in the vein of crosswords, he explained. For instance, one recent crossword clue read, Beach blanket.

The answer was sand.

'"What blankets the beach?' is what you have to ask yourself,"

Jordan explained.

Knowing his avocation's limitations, Jordan isn't about to quit his day job.

"It's a hobby," he says of puzzle construction. "But, it's one that provides a secondary income."

And, after 26 years of puzzle solving and constructing, that's a limitation he's more than willing to accept.