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  • Working with words and puppies

    22nd July, 2013


    Recently, ANZSI ACT’s Denise Sutherland hosted a “Working with words” talk which gave us an insight into her crossword and puzzle creation process. ANZSI is the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers, and Denise is one of their fabulous members – she’s a multi-faceted author, indexer, editor, graphic designer, puzzler and knitter, see her work at her app-book-puzzle-indexing site. The next ANZSI ACT event is a tour of the National Gallery of Australia Research Library (2 August), they usually do things like talks by information type guests, tours and offer training courses.


    Denise created a crossword puzzle before our very eyes, it included Baked Alaska (5, 6 …I can’t recall the description – perhaps, Scandinavian egg dish as it’s also known as Norwegian omelette). Part of this involved wildcard searching for words to fill in the puzzle blanks, a creative use of Boolean search operators. It was interesting to see the black-out shapes change in the different puzzle templates, Denise has also invented Secret Shapes, so when you finish the crossword puzzle, the remaining letter squares can be coloured in to make a picture.


    Canberra Puzzle Books by Denise Sutherland

    Denise’s Canberra Puzzles


    Denise is being mentioned a book about the Centenary of the Crossword – in a section about crossword censorship! (the mind boggles…) She wrote The Canberra Puzzle Book: Our History & Heritage in 2005 – a nice book to have in the coincidental Centenary of Canberra & Crosswords.


    Before this talk, my main experience with crosswords was mostly peripheral – my grandparents were keen puzzlers and would work on  their crosswords every day. Their favourite crossword dictionary was used so religiously that there was a hole in the front cover (where you place your left thumb while flicking the pages). There was a whole setup of the dictionary, crossword clipboards and magnifying glass on their coffee table. Denise and Ralph have designed several puzzle apps, and I know that if my Grandpa was still around he’d be very keen to use them – his interest in technology was lifelong . Back in the day he introduced punch cards into the ABS, and was always learning – he progressed to writing books on his computer and towards the end of his earthly life, was downloading classical music. I am sure he is a heavy app user now, if they’ve fixed the internet options in Valhalla.


    Petal with Denise’s publications

    Petal loves crosswords


    Supporting Denise’s talk were doggies Petal and Griff – like her Mama, Petal is a keen knitter. Petal also features in Denise’s co-authored Guide for Adults with Hip Dysplasia, and she and brother Griff also star in her puzzling blog – check out Petal in a top hat, adorable!


    In related news, the Canberra Library Tribe is very lucky to have Denise as one of the guest speakers for our upcoming Library Career Soiree, 6pm Friday 30 August at A Bite to Eat, Chifley shops. It’s a very informal event, and our speakers will chat about library career experience, or provide a different view of information careers like Denise’s experience as a captive cruciverbalist. RSVP at the Canberra Library Tribe facebook page or eventbrite.


    Thanks Denise for regaling us with your tales of crossword creation and publishing, and we look forward to your talk at the Library Career Soiree.



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