A Man of Many Words: TC’s Rocky Schwarz is a crossword puzzler extraordinaire
Robert “Rocky” Schwarz is a seriously knowledgeable guy. He holds a pair of Teachers College graduate degrees, in International Educational Development and Mathematics Education. As Assistant Director of the TC Business Services Center, he has occasion to scan many of the dissertations and theses submitted at TC. His knowledge of other cultures includes firsthand experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, and he’s since sponsored Liberian students, often bringing them to the U.S. to further their education.
But Schwarz’s real secret weapon – the one that vaulted him to a recent first-place finish in the senior division of the Pleasantville (NY) Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where he received a trophy, a $7.99 crossword puzzle book and a hardy handshake from contest director and New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz?
Schwarz collects stamps. When Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword puzzle editor, asked him how he knows so much about world capitals, he modestly replied, “Geography is my thing.”
How else could he differentiate actress Jessica Alba from actress Jessica Biel? Recall the finer points of rapper Chris Brown’s discography? Know about Elsa, the Minions, or other recent cartoon characters?
Okay, Schwarz has other sources. He collects stamps. When Shortz asked him how he knows so much about world capitals, he modestly replied, “Geography is my thing.”
But for celebrities, technology and other 21st century miscellanea, the Time Inc. publication, with covers on “Gray’s Anatomy” and the box office for the latest “Thor” flick, is Schwarz’s best counter to younger crossword enthusiasts who are more up-to-date on the lexicon of urban slang and the acronyms used in text messages.
“They sponge it up,” he said.
A regular presence on the crossword circuit – he finished second in his age group in the 2017 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament – Schwarz, who solves about five puzzles a day, is motivated as much by public spirit as personal pride. The Westchester competition raised money for the Pleasantville Fund for Learning, a non-profit supporting the town’s school district. Still, he has no intention of resting on his laurels, and is already looking ahead to the 2018 American tournament in Stamford, Connecticut, where he’s always excited to bump into other TC people.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a five-letter word for a modest, unassuming guy who could end up competing for a heavyweight championship? Try “Rocky.”
– Desiree Halpern
Published Tuesday, Nov 7, 2017