Kerry Shatzer’s specially-created word search puzzles debut today in Dallas Voice
This week, Dallas Voice debuts a new, biweekly feature: the Diversions word search puzzle created especially for the Voice by Dallasite Kerry Shatzer.
Shatzer’s book of word search puzzles, Diversions: Word Searches Volume One, is available on Amazon.com, where it has already garnered five stars. Dallas Voice will publish his puzzles created specifically for us every other Friday, starting today with a puzzle celebrating Del Shores’ A Very Sordid Wedding, the stage version of which Uptown Players presents the world premiered beginning Sept. 24 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, with Shores and Emerson Collins — who produced and acted in the movie version, released in 2017 — in attendance. (Watch for an interview with Shores and Collins in the Sept. 17 issue of Dallas Voice.)
This week, as we launch his Diversions word search puzzles, Shatzer took a moment to tell us a little bit about himself, his puzzles and his book.
— Tammye Nash
Dallas Voice: Tell me about yourself. You live in Dallas, right? How long have you lived here? Kerry Shatzer: Right now, I live in the Mockingbird/Abrams area — not quite Lakewood or White Rock, but close to both. I grew up in Plano, went to Texas A&M, moved to St. Louis for 13 years, then finally moved back to Dallas in the early 2000s.
What kind of work do you do, other than the word searches? I work with Caven Enterprises, mostly as a DJ/VJ at JR.’s Bar & Grill, but I also help out occasionally at Sue Ellen’s, S4 and the Rose Room, running sound and lights. I really enjoy helping out with Cassie Nova’s “Freakshow” and “Double Trouble” with Bleach and Raquel Blake, Mondays and Tuesdays, respectively, at JR.’s. Then the Queer Off Season 4 started back up a few weeks ago at Sue’s on Wednesdays.
How did you get started creating word search puzzles? How does one learn a skill like that? I’ve been making puzzles on and off my whole life, especially word searches and mazes, usually annoying family and friends asking them to solve them! In St. Louis, I made a gay-themed jumble, a quotation puzzle and a humor column for the LGBTQ newspapers there.
I’ve had a few puzzles published here and there, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I really had the time to make an entire book. I had made some mazes for another Amazon self-publisher’s book, and I thought I could probably do this myself.
To make puzzles, you really have to enjoy solving them first. I’m not sure where the desire to make them comes from though.
How long does it take you to create a puzzle? And what sets a good word search puzzle apart from a mediocre or a bad puzzle? It takes about a day to research the theme to make a word list, then design the puzzle and format it. Typing each letter in the grid takes a while!
I wanted the word search for the Dallas Voice to be different and eye-catching, so I have images and clip art for each theme that overlay parts of the grid, making an irregular shape.
I always try to go beyond what’s basic or average. It seems to me most word searches are generic affairs, with not much effort put into them. In my puzzles, the unused letters spell out a quote or something, and I love variety word searches.
There are so many generic puzzle books that offer something like 500+ word searches, but every one is the same size, with usually too big of a grid for too few words and no quote afterwards. I guess that’s “standard,” but I find that boring and annoying.
Tell me about your word search books. I know you have published at least one, right? Yes, thanks! It’s called Diversions, Word Searches Volume One (available atAmazon.com. To be more challenging, the puzzles start out easier but get progressively more difficult as you go. Almost every puzzle has a quote revealed after you solve them.
Plus, there are a lot of variety word searches included to keep things interesting. One that I call Fill-Er-Ups is something I came up with where every single letter in the grid is part of a hidden word, so there are no leftover letters at all!
Recently Kirkus Reviews published a very good review of my book, which I’m especially proud of because it’s very rare that a puzzle book gets a review, let alone a good one! They said, “The overall result is a beguiling collection that truly takes the word-search genre to a new level,” and it’s “an engrossing and entertaining set of brainteasers to while away a rainy day.”
I really wanted my book to stand apart from the hordes of generic word search books, and I think I succeeded at that. I’m slowly working on puzzles for a second word search book and a new puzzle I can’t disclose yet.
And last but not least, what have I not asked you about that you want to mention? I have an identical twin brother who is straight, so don’t freak out if you see someone who looks like me with long hair! He’s great and has always been supportive of me.I have a sporadic progressive house music podcast as DJ Kerry Rogers (aka MIDI Queen) if you want to hear something different. Also please visit and “like” my Diversions Facebook page at Facebook.com/DiversionsPuzzles, where I post free printable word searches and mazes occasionally. Thanks!