If you didn’t know it already, the crossword puzzle that appears in this newspaper also appears in life size on the wall at Capitol Hill’s Eltana bagel café in Seattle.
The Eltana version is a weekly moveable sculpture (to match your moveable feast), made of white crossword tiles fitted over colorful permanent wall tiles. Every week a restaurant employee climbs a big ladder and moves the tiles around to fit the new puzzle written and/or edited by Mike Selinker.
Mike explained that the idea for the wall puzzle came from Stephen Brown, Eltana’s owner. The two were introduced by a mutual friend and Mike knew it was the right job for him, plus, “Stephen has one of the biggest ladders I’ve ever seen,” says Mike.
Mike grew up not far from the restaurant and has been writing crosswords since he was a kid. Games magazine published his first when he was 13. He has appeared in the New York Times (that dreidel-shaped diagram-less puzzle you did in December was his) and still appears regularly in Games and also in Wired.
After graduating from Garfield High and Northwestern University, Mike worked as a political reporter in Chicago for seven years before deciding to “retire at the ripe old age of 27 [and] came home” to devote himself full time to games. Working for Wizards of the Coast, he helped develop the modern versions of Dungeons and Dragons, Risk, and, he says, “different games like that.”
He started his own custom game design company, Lone Shark Games, in 2003 and quips that it “seems to be very successful.” Lone Shark’s specialty is “making large puzzle objects,” usually for special events and conventions.
“Rather epic stunts is what we do,” says Mike, giving examples like “a Mexican jungle city for the game Uncharted,” at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) or a large to-scale model of the solar system that occupied the grounds of a Microsoft picnic.
Unlike all of his other projects, the crossword on a wall was “an opportunity for a permanent fixture…where people could come and see our work and have a really great meal,” he says. “That has been particularly satisfying.”
Each puzzle, if completed, gives you a message “about practical wisdom,” providing a suggestion or imperative that will improve you or your world.
“Know what you eat,” for example, or “speak out against prejudice,” have been titles that adorn the wall and the pages of this paper.
Mike and I agree, by the way, that Eltana makes some of the best hummus in town. You can see a photo of Mike and his wife, Evon Fuerst, hanging crossword tiles at Lone Shark Games’s Facebook page, and you can learn more about the company and see some of their projects at their website, www.lonesharkgames.com.
• • •
State Representative Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) received the Washington Education Association’s highest honor last Saturday at the organization’s 2012 Representative Assembly in Spokane.
The proclamation that accompanied Maxwell’s Friend of Education award acknowledged her work as a prominent figure in addressing critical issues facing public education and for her work aimed at ensuring a better life for public school students in Washington state.
A former Renton school board director, Maxwell is a tireless advocate for improving the public education system in Washington. While serving in Olympia, she has led efforts to pass education-funding reform bills that put the state on the right track toward providing a quality education in our public schools.
Rep. Maxwell represents the 41st Legislative District communities of Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton, and Sammamish. She serves in a legislative leadership role as the Deputy Majority Leader for Education and Opportunity, and co-chairs the Quality Education Council. In 2011, she earned the Washington State PTA’s highest honor, the Friend of Children award.