Ryan Watkins was the only student in the food court working with a pad of graph paper and a Concise Oxford English Dictionary. He looked around him, shrugged, and kept writing individual letters on the paper.

“Just the tools of the trade,” he said.

Watkins, a sophomore Newspaper Journalism major, began making crosswords just a few weeks ago. He cited the experience of a semester working at the Daily Orange, and also how he saw the paper affecting students’ lives, as the reasons he decided to dedicate his life to constructing crossword puzzles.

“Seeing how important the daily crossword is to the D-O’s readership inspired me to go out and become the best cruciverbalist I can be,” Watkins said. “I know that, each day, every student at Syracuse will pick up their D-O, turn straight to page 10, and enjoy my work.”

“I also considered making a comic strip.”

Journalism professor David Minkins said he was surprised more students hadn’t followed Ryan’s example.

“If I were considering beginning a career in the newspaper industry of today, I would try to get a job in one of the sections that people need every day,” Minkins said. “You know you’re fulfilling an essential newspaper function if you’re putting together the Crossword, or the Classifieds, or one of the really thick sections.”

“Because everybody knows those thick sections make great birdcage lining.”

For Watkins, creating the Daily Orange crossword is the next best thing to actual professional experience.

“The D-O is a high quality newspaper, and SU students know it,” Watkins said. “When I see my classmates read through the sports section, skip any sports articles that aren’t about men’s basketball, look at the comics page, complain about the comics page, and then do the crossword puzzle, I know they’re treating the D-O just like they would treat any major city or national newspaper.”

“And D-O readers definitely get what they pay for.”