Eileen Pazos could never complete a crossword puzzle, but she could make them. And her latest is all about Ormond Beach.
BY MIKE CAVALEIRE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
If this were 50 years ago, when Eileen Pazos first started making crossword puzzles, the process would have been “grueling,” and it would have gone like this.
First, she would have pored through the dictionary, pulling words she liked then listing them on paper. She would have made categories: nine-letter words, five-letter words, each with a handful of possibilities under them. Then, finally, she’d get started on the real work: inserting answers into blocks, jigsawing them with other answers, until she had a full, playable spread.
When she did all this, back in the 1960s, for the New York Times, it took her more than three weeks to finish. But her latest custom crossword puzzle, which she made about Ormond Beach, took less than seven days, with the help of online word-finders.
Thanks to the internet, she didn’t even have to go to the library.
“I’ve done it for all my hometown newspapers,” said Pazos, 74, lounging on a poolside chair outside the home she shares with her sister, in The Trails. But until this year, she hadn’t made a puzzle in nearly a decade.
This one’s her reunion tour.
Since her ’20s, Pazos has been constructing crosswords. It’s a hobby she started to get closer to a former boyfriend, who was “a crossword puzzle fanatic.” But she was personally never any good at solving them — even today, she can’t finish a full Times daily puzzle. So, she decided to make her own, instead, all about sports. And before she knew it, she was making one for the 2,000-employee company she worked for in New York, for use in its newsletter to test readership.
“They offered prizes for those who completed it correctly,” she said. “And when it came out, work sort of came to a halt.”
Workers at the company’s South American branch were calling workers in North America for tips; departments were comingling; people were thinking.
“It went over pretty big,” she says, “and from there, I got into other crossword puzzles. … But the big one was the New York Times. That was the Big Time for me.”
She’s also made puzzles for the Miami Herald, about a dozen corporate newsletters and a handful of local newspapers.
A former English major and current pun-lover — she calls herself a “punster” — Pazos’ Times puzzle was all about puns. “What was the sign on the astronaut's door?” was one of the clues. “Out for launch!”
“It’s a wonderful thing to have your puns put in print,” Pazos said. “They’re not lost in posterity. And I think that’s why a lot of people get into crossword construction — so they can have a showcase for their puns.”
After the Times puzzle, Pazos received fan mail from all over the country, she says so opening a folder of her Ormond-themed crossword notes, pages and pages of graph paper, riddled with pencil marks and smudges.
“You need a lot of paper and good erasers,” she laughed. “I even almost had to stop this one and start again, because I came to a stumbling block, with two Rs right next to each other.”
An eight-year Ormond resident, Pazos also sings on the Ormond Alliance Church praise team, is a former Volusia County schools substitute teacher and plays in the Greater Volusia Tennis League at The Trails Racquet Club, where her 4.0 team has won the past two seasons.
“People love crossword puzzles … they’re informative, they entertain,” she said. “And if they have one about their hometown, that’s even more fun to do.”
(Pazos' full Ormond Beach-themed crossword puzzle will be featured in the Thursday, March 21 edition of the Ormond Beach Observer.)