Hawaiian Crosswords

I've been constructing Hawai'i-themed crossword puzzles for about 20 years now -- longer than all of my marriages! This is the story of how it all began.


Back in the latter part of 1998, Pacifica Travelogue was looking to add a crossword puzzle to HanaHou!, the in-flight magazine for Hawaiian Airlines. The contacted some people in the puzzle biz, and posted a few notices on the boards. They were looking for someone to construct crossword puzzles (well, duh!), who also lived in and/or had extensive knowledge of Hawai'i.

Several people responded, telling them, in effect, "Before you talk to anyone else, you have to talk to Garison Piatt."

(I'd like to think the reason was that my reputation as a constructor of superb crossword puzzles had preceded me, but the most likely reason is that I lived in Hawai'i at the time.)

Well, they contacted me (or I contacted them), we met, talked, I showed them a few samples, and they said "Welcome aboard." (Actually, I think it was more like "When can you have the first puzzle?", but the effect was the same.)

Not knowing what else to do, I came up with a 15x15 about latter-day Hawaiian royalty. They liked it (and printed it!), but asked for a larger puzzle for the next issue. I settled on doing 17x17s, and have been doing those ever since.

I asked them if they could send me some articles they intended to print in each issue, so I could comb them for possible theme words. The reason for this was that, believe it or not, Hawai'i is a limited resource for crossword puzzles. There's only about a hundred words I could expect visitors to know (yes, a hundred), which pretty much covers all of the island, street, and hotel names. Toss in some sports and a few royals, and we're fresh out of ideas. Tying the puzzle to an article in the magazine guarantees an almost-endless supply of theme topics. And, if the solver doesn't recognize an answer, it's probably referenced somewhere in the article. (For those times when I couldn't find a theme in the magazine, I broke out a Holoholo (traveling around) puzzle, or some kind of word-play.)


After 10 years of constructing the HanaHou! puzzle, I was contacted by Hawaii.com, a travel website devoted to Hawai'i (duh, redux). They, too, wanted a crossword puzzle with a Hawaiian theme for their quarterly on-line magazine. (I'm not sure why an on-line magazine is only published four times a year, but it's not for me to question.)

So now I'm cranking out ten puzzles a year. Okay, it's not that many, and certainly nowhere near the number other cruciverbalists do, but it's fun, and a handful of people know my name because of it.