In the world of crossword puzzles, Myles Mellor is one of the kings, but not in the way you might be thinking.
The 66-year-old Carlsbad resident is one of the top crossword puzzle writers on the planet. During his 15-year career he has had 14,000 published puzzles appear in more than 600 magazines, newspapers, and web outlets around the world. Known for supplying theme crosswords, diamond crosswords, syndicated puzzles, cryptograms, diagramless crosswords, word search, sudokus, anagrams, and word games, he’s not about to stop anytime soon.
And why should he, he loves what he does.
“It’s a great life to do what I love, and I make a good living from it,” said the United Kingdom native. “I think what sets my puzzles apart is the fact that they are solvable. I try to write things that people can solve without a too much effort.”
He also makes sure that he does his homework for each puzzle whether it’s for a fashion magazine or a tax publication.
“I always do the research about the subject before I start working and creating a puzzle,” he said. “It’s important that I know about the subject to write a good puzzle.”
What’s Old Is New
If you thought crosswords were a thing of the past like 8-track cassette players and vinyl records, guess again. Even young people are doing crossword puzzles and in the most unlikely places, Mellor said.
“People think that crosswords are only for older people,” he laughed. “I don’t think so at all. There are over 50 million people solving crosswords in the USA. There are probably 2 million playing different crossword Apps. So, yes, young people do use their phones and play crosswords on them.”
That said, crossword puzzles are perhaps just as popular as they have always been and have certainly stood the test of time. Maybe more so than any other puzzle game ever created.
“Crosswords are fun, relaxing and everyone does them,” he said. “The world of crosswords just keeps getting bigger. I supply a lot of crosswords now to some of the top crossword Apps. There is a huge demand. Both for print and online puzzles.”
Man, Behind the Puzzles
Born and raised in Oxford, England, Mellor lived in Newbury and Canterbury. He was educated at a private school in north Wales and Bristol University. Mellor moved to California in the 1970s “for the weather of course,” first stop was the San Fernando Valley, then Glendale and finally in Carlsbad about a year ago.
However, before becoming a top crossword puzzle writer, Mellor was an executive in a printer sales company in Glendale. As for crosswords, back then they were nothing more than a hobby for Mellor, who says the full-time job of writing them followed.
As for his love of crossword puzzles, he attributes this to his dad, who served as the headmaster of a private school in England.
“My father taught me how to solve them at an early age,” he said. “Many years later, my mother died while I was here in the US. My dad was heartbroken, and I knew he loved crosswords, so I started writing some very amateurish crosswords for him to solve. He loved them and was very happy to get them. He would send me the solved crosswords.
“After three or four of them, he said they were pretty good and that I should try to publish them. That’s how it all started.”
Mellor said he spent 6 months writing crosswords and sending them out to syndicates and magazines. Nothing happened.
“I think the first one I wrote was about architecture. After about a year, I finally managed to break through thanks to a great friend of mine, David Hoyt (one of the top inventors of new puzzle brands in the world),” he said.
That was then, this is now.
These days Mellor cranks out a lot of puzzles during any given week and this is no small feat as they do take time to create.
“Time varies a lot; newspaper puzzles are easier for me to make,” he said. “Custom theme crosswords could take 4 or 5 hours. Very large crosswords can take some days to do.”
Incidentally, about one-third of Mellor’s business is via syndication, the rest of it is from books and custom work. Some of those include: MasterCard, Oracle, IBM, History Channel, Discover, Turner TV, Council on Foreign Relations, Costco, American Airlines, Singapore Air, Southwest Airlines, OECD, and Blue Cross.
“The syndication really started when a newspaper publisher in Sonoma asked me to write puzzles for him as his paper was spending way too much,” he said. “He liked what I came up with and I’ve supplied his paper ever since; for about 10 years now.”
However, of all the puzzles he writes he said he enjoys doing the personal puzzles the best for individuals and special occasions.
“People getting married, engagement parties, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, etc. It’s so much fun to create some magic for people using their memories as the basis for a custom puzzle,” he said.
Full Steam Ahead
As for the future of the crossword puzzle, Mellor said he doesn’t think they will ever go out of style.
“Crosswords are here to stay,” he said. “People can do them anywhere, anytime, and any place, and they do.”
In addition to writing crossword puzzles, Mellor writes several other games/puzzles as mentioned including sudoku, word search, and cryptograms.
“Mainly these came about as I would get asked to do them and then found out how to do them and delivered them to clients. I love figuring things out,” he said.
Over time his puzzles have evolved thanks to technology and the like.
“I’ve seen huge changes over the years,” he said. “I’ve had to become more understanding of different markets, what people need, what clients need and how to adapt to changing conditions.”
And if you are wondering if Mellor practices what he preaches, he does. He enjoys solving puzzles in other publications especially those appearing in USA Today and the New York Times.
“I usually like to solve puzzles when I’m on a plane and I’ll do the USA Today one and the puzzles offered in the airline’s magazine. My wife Debby does all the sudokus,” he said.
When he isn’t creating puzzles, Mellor is into real estate investing, traveling to Europe, playing chess, word games, and is a handyman for his wife. They have two adult children, 36, and 40, and a cat named Penny.