RL’s ‘gamesmiths’ share craft with Altenheim neighbors

After classes on Monday, 16 October, Class IV master Jim Ryan took a group of his freshmen over to RL neighbor Deutsches Altenheim to spend time with the elderly residents there. The senior living community is accustomed to regular visits from Class IV—indeed, for years RL freshmen have been calling on the Altenheim residents, performing music, sharing their artwork, discussing poetry, delivering speeches, comparing family traditions. Each RL class conducts its own, yearlong service project, and getting to know our Altenheim neighbors is Class IV’s.


But Monday’s visit stood out. Accompanying the freshmen were two upper classmen: junior John Frates, who has just published a book of wordsearch puzzles, and senior Ben LaFond, who is the latest in a growing cadre of RL boys who have been bitten by the crossword bug.


Altenheim residents were gathered around small tables and in soft chairs in the Vista Room while John and Ben each gave a short presentation on the process of puzzle making. In the lively Q&A that followed, the two boys answered questions about how they got interested in making puzzles in the first place. Ben owes his avocation to Math Department Chair John Lieb, who—though a relative newcomer to crossword creation—has had eleven of his puzzles published in the New York Times. John Frates was inspired to create his book of wordsearches when his grandmother began having more difficulty with her memory and struggled with the standard word-search puzzle books she used to love.


The rest of the time was spent tackling the sheets of wordsearches and crossword puzzles John and Ben brought with them, the boys working side-by-side with their hosts. Laughter and conversation buzzed around huddled heads and sharpened pencils—a witness to the sheer fun of puzzle-solving that engages young and old without discrimination.