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  • Phoebe Robertson

Puck, The Salient Cryptid

solved by Phoebe Robertson (she/her), Puck (he/him)

A cryptid is a mysterious creature whose existence is uncertain and unconfirmed, like the legendary bigfoot. They are said to roam in the wilderness, just out of human reach. Here at Salient, we don't have any physical cryptids, but we do have someone just as elusive: Puck. He's responsible for most of our weekly crosswords, but no one seems to know much about him. When I took over as editor, I was given his email address and told only that his crosswords always come on time. My curiosity got the best of me and I decided to reach out to Puck and set up a meeting. After anxiously waiting a couple of days for a response, he agreed to meet me at Enigma café, a fittingly mysterious venue. As I enter the café, I scan the room despite having no idea what Puck looks like. All I have is his phone number, which I texted once to confirm our meeting.

I step inside the café and make eye contact with a man who I think is Puck. He's sitting at a table, slightly slouched over, and looks like someone who would enjoy solving crossword puzzles. Our eyes meet briefly but then I suddenly feel nervous and decide to buy myself a coffee first. I take a seat next to the pinball machine and send him a message about where to find me. A minute later, the man I made eye contact with stands up and walks towards me. It's Puck. I can't believe I'm finally meeting the elusive creator of the Salient crossword puzzles.

As we sit down to talk, I realize that I know very little about him, or even about crosswords in general. Trying to sound like a professional interviewer, I start off with a simple question: how long has he been creating these puzzles? He tells me that he started at Te Herenga Waka in 2006 and began making crosswords in 2007 or 2008. That means it's been over 15 years since he started this endeavor. It's amazing to think that while I was still in primary school, Puck was already crafting these challenging puzzles for Salient readers to solve every week without fail. In fact, back in 2008, he used to leave his crosswords on USB sticks at the Salient offices every week. It's hard not to imagine him sneaking around under the cover of darkness, slipping an unlabeled envelope containing a USB stick under the door each time.

Puck, as his name suggests, is full of mischief and whimsy, much like his namesake in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the middle of our meeting, he playfully takes a newspaper and asks me to time him as he solves the crossword puzzle. He finishes it in just 2 minutes and 35 seconds, but kindly lets me assist with the final clue (INTEREST). If there is a purpose to all cryptids, then Puck's seems to be creating crosswords. He finds joy in seeing students enjoy his creations and using them to distract from the stress of assignments or daily life. Puck genuinely wants to make every student's day better at the university. And if that is the true motivation behind this cryptid, I am grateful to have them as part of our Salient family.


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