The New York Times’ Will Shortz has appeared on The Simpsons, written riddles for a Batman villain and sold over 1m copies of a sudoku book. He talks hate mail, controversial clues and why puzzles are like drugs

Every day thousands of people vie to outsmart one man: Will Shortz, the New York Times’s crossword editor of almost three decades.

Crossword fanatics – or “cruciverbalists”, in the parlance – must get their fix, and they prefer to get it from a man whose puzzle is considered the gold standard. Depending on a puzzler’s skill and temperament, and on the day of the week (Monday puzzles are easiest, Saturdays hardest), that puzzler may race to the finish, surging with triumphant dopamine, or shatter a coffee mug against a wall.

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