Interview: ‘Nerdy Crosswords’ with Matt Zoratti [EXCLUSIVE]

7 Min Read
Image courtesy of Matt Zoratti

Do you enjoy crosswords, but wish you could find nerdy ones? Well, so did Matt Zoratti, that is why he created Nerdy Crosswords, they are puzzles for geeks, techies, gamers and more. Some references in the 1st edition include Star Wars, Marvel Universe, Game of Thrones, Naruto, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, Super Smash Bros., literature, science, and more.

Matt has solved puzzles, riddles, and brain teasers for as long as he can remember. Creating these geeky crosswords has been a passion project of his for two years. When he is not creating crosswords, he is a high school math teacher and coach, who also enjoys playing games and being outdoors.

Image courtesy of Matt Zoratti

Nerds and Beyond: How long have you been interested in crosswords? 

Zoratti: I’ve been interested in games my whole life. Crosswords, however, are a more recent hobby. In my youth, one of my favorite board games was Scrabble. I could never beat my mom — her merciless victories served as training in the art of wordplay and language!  

Nerds and Beyond: How did the Nerdy Crossword idea come about?

Zoratti: Over the years, I grew increasingly frustrated with traditional crosswords not featuring references to my realm of knowledge: all things nerdy. I craved clues that might challenge me with a Legend of Zelda pun or the mention of an obscure Star Wars character. Many crossword puzzles are riddled with silent film actors, American baseball heroes, and outdated vocabulary. I scoured the internet for something to scratch that itch until I finally decided to begin the long journey of creating my own! The first year of my hobby was spent compiling a monstrous list of words used to fill my grids. 

Nerds and Beyond: How long does it take you to create a single crossword?

Zoratti: A single puzzle can take anywhere from 5 to 20 hours depending on how much TLC I give it. This length is due to the thousands upon thousands of branching possibilities each grid can have. Some puzzles hinge on the use of one word to keep the theme intact while other grids can offer multiple versions with slight variations. Creating each puzzle begins with placing the themed-words.

Nerds and Beyond: How do you come up with your themes?

Zoratti: Like most crosswords, every Nerdy Crossword has a hidden theme. From MCU and Nintendo puns to computer programming jokes and science-fiction references, a puzzle’s theme is revealed in the words with the longest length. I keep a long, ever-growing list of potential themes on my phone. Every time I play a game, see a movie or hear a story, my mind works to make connections between proper nouns from the lore and modern-day (non-nerdy) vocabulary. I also spend a lot of time researching fandoms I’m not familiar with in order to reach a variety of nerds. My puzzles would become very stale if I only created puzzles with clues limited to my scope of knowledge.

Nerds and Beyond: When doing the crosswords, is it the clue or the word that happens first?

Zoratti: Typically, the clues come after the words. I may have some clues in the back of my mind as I create a grid. However, it’s heartbreaking to come up with a clever pun only for that specific word to limit the rest of the puzzle’s fill! When this happens, I will add the clue to my long list and hope the perfect opportunity for its use arises in the future.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you have any crossword tips for beginners?

Zoratti: Don’t give up! Believe it or not, solving a Nerdy Crossword is not a test of your geek lexicon or your intelligence. Solving a puzzle will challenge your ability to decipher the hidden meaning behind the clues. All clues have been designed with careful intention … from the language and punctuation down to the font. If you have a nerdy friend, solving together is the best way to play!

Nerds and Beyond: Where can people get a copy of the crosswords?

Zoratti: You can order a copy of Nerdy Crosswords online very soon! Follow @nerdycrosswords on Instagram for the latest updates. The next batch will be available and shipped for Holiday 2019. Some puzzles are currently available for free on If you are attending Fan Expo Canada 2020 (or other local Canadian conventions), you may find me in Artist Alley. Drop by and say hello!

Nerds and Beyond: Now, for a few nerdy questions… what do you “nerd out” to?

Zoratti: I’ve been listening to “Poke and Chill” by Mikel & GameChops non-stop on repeat. It’s a collection of lofi hip-hop renditions of classic Pokémon music — highly recommended! Also, my weekly game group recently began playing the exceptionally long, dungeon crawling, a co-operative board game called Gloomhaven … in lieu of our regular Dungeons & Dragons sessions.

Nerds and Beyond: Favorite superhero?

Zoratti: After Endgame: Captain America.

Nerds and Beyond: Favorite villain?

Zoratti: Cersei (and Tywin) Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones … until the most recent season.

Nerds and Beyond: Favorite book?

Zoratti: Currently reading The Wheel of Time … and by “currently reading,” I mean slowly crawling through.

Nerds and Beyond: Favorite movie?

Zoratti: Fellowship of the Ring, without a doubt.

Thank you so much for the interview! I had a great time sharing details about my hobby, and I hope you enjoy the book!

Thanks to Matt for his time and this interview! 

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By Sarah
As a Ravenclaw and introverted tattooed cat, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and watching hockey (Go Leafs Go). You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @WyldeFandom
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