There are people who solve puzzles and then there are true puzzle people. Normal puzzle people peruse the news and ads in our weekly papers and reward themselves on the penultimate page with a trio of games preceding the classifieds. Myles Mellor, however, is the other kind of puzzle person.
Born and raised in Oxford, England, Mellor was raised alongside a brother and sister by his mother and father, who worked as a school principal. And those siblings became a doctor and a teacher, respectively, so there was no lack of brains in the family. He obviously inherited his fair share, graduating from Bristol and moving to the United States for an administrative job in real estate.
His family stayed in England, though, and when his mother died, his father, having shared the past fifty years of his life together with her was obviously very downcast and depressed. Mellor, far away in the United States, needed to find a way to cheer him up. A childhood memory of sitting on his father’s lap and “trying to solve the Guardian”, a London-based newspaper which according to Mellor is a pretty hard puzzle, sparked the idea to create his own puzzles to send to his dad.
It worked: his father’s mood improved significantly, and after receiving three or four of the homemade puzzles, his dad suggested that Mellor should publish them. As anyone knows, start-ups are tough, and so is getting your foot in the door with major publications. After zero responses in about six months of sending out letters and examples to syndicates and magazines, his girlfriend at the time advised him: “Don’t quit your day job.” But Mellor took the encouragement of his father over the realistic skepticism of his girlfriend, and contacted a gentleman named David Hoyt at the Orange County Register.
“One of the best and most prolific creators of puzzles in the United States,” Hoyt was a busy man, and asked Mellor to get back to him in three months, which he did. At that point, Hoyt disclosed that this is the answer is gives everyone that reaches out to him in that manner, and that Mellor was the only one who followed through. He suggested creating themed puzzles corresponding to specific magazines’ interests...and to get back to him again in another three months. Mellor followed his guidance, and in 2001, with some crossword software he found with Hoyt’s help, he managed to get a couple of puzzles published.
And that was the snowball that begat the avalanche, where the part-time hobby had, in three or so years, become a “big deal.” Big enough to abandon his job that he had moved to in an internet tech marketing company, marry that girl who told him not to quit that day job and went full time into puzzle creation in 2006.
Now, Mellor is syndicated and published in over six hundred magazines and newspapers, featured in sixty books, and recently started an online presence with Amazon. He estimates he’s created about 16,000 puzzles in his lifetime and publishes about 80 crosswords each month. It’s a lot to create, when a single puzzle can take from a few hours to a few days to produce. But Mellor is handsomely remunerated, and is able to make “a very good living” for him and his naysaying-girlfriend-now-wife, Debby, with whom he lives in Carlsbad, California, and is now his biggest fan. It is also the job to which everyone aspires, that which is enjoyable enough not to feel so much like work at all.
“Very few do what I do,” he states proudly, his favorite thing being the themed puzzles he creates, using the content of a publication to inform the clues and answers, or even custom puzzles fabricated from trivia provided by engaged couples, families and businesses. Crosswords will always be his favorite, but he also creates sudokus, cryptograms and word searches. Since his day job is most other peoples’ hobby, non-work related past times are few, although he does enjoy chess on the internet. He also claims he’s better at making the puzzles than solving them, but such humility is party of his charm. But he also knows “very few do what I do,” so you can expect to continue seeing Mellor’s puzzles in pretty much every format imaginable, from novelty books to national newpapers, online and in print, and right here in our own newspapers published by Straus Media.
Not one to rest on his laurels, he recently founded National Crossword Solved Day, which will be celebrated annually on December 8th.
“Very few people do what I do.”