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Timothy Parker

Crossword puzzle artist, Timothy Parker was born on April 7, 1960, in Baltimore, Maryland, to a family of ten children. Spending the first part of his life in an extremely poor neighborhood, Parker and his family later moved to a nicer neighborhood as his father's business grew.

However, improvement in his family's status could not compare to the wealth of his classmates at the prestigious Gilman School, a boys preparatory school in Baltimore that he received a scholarship to attend. Parker excelled in both academics and sports, playing baseball and football. In fact, by the age of sixteen the Pittsburgh Pirates recruited him, but his parents refused to let him go. In 1978, Parker was attending the University of Maryland in College Park majoring in economics.

Following graduation, Parker worked for a local tire retailer for a number of years before taking a position with Bridgestone/Firestone in 1987, as a store manager. At Bridgestone/Firestone, Parker rose steadily through the ranks. However, he eventually hit the glass ceiling, which led him to quit his job and to pursue a dream of creating crossword puzzles.

In 1996, he sequestered himself away in his room and began to develop an interactive crossword programmed with Java that was fun, intuitive and easy to use. The Universal Crossword would become the web's first syndicated crossword puzzle. In fact, according to Guinness World Records, Parker is the world's most syndicated puzzle compiler of today. As the CEO of Master Puzzles, Inc., Parker works with Java programmers and puzzle masters to set the standard for all online puzzles. They not only make the daily Universal Crossword, but also the entertainment, sports, financial and music editions.

In his personal life, Parker is still a passionate baseball fan and an amateur writer. He is also an assistant pastor at Baltimore's Tabernacle of Deliverance Christian Center and is pursuing his M.B.A. at the University of Maryland.

Accession Number

A2001.053

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

6/21/2001

Last Name

Parker

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Gilman School

University of Maryland

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Timothy

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

PAR01

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

No weapon forged against ye shall prosper.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/7/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Short Description

Leisure chief executive and crossword puzzle designer Timothy Parker (1960 - ) is the CEO of Master Puzzles, Inc. In 1996, Parker confined himself and began to develop the Universal Crossword, an interactive crossword programmed with Java, that was fun, intuitive, and easy to use. It became web's first syndicated crossword puzzle, and according to Guinness World Records, Parker is the world's most syndicated puzzle compiler of today.

Employment

Ezrine Automotive Centers

Bridgestone Firestone

Master Puzzles

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Timothy Parker interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Timothy Parker lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Timothy Parker recalls his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Timothy Parker relates how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Timothy Parker lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Timothy Parker remembers growing up in poverty

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Timothy Parker describes the culture shock of being at the Gilman School

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Timothy Parker discusses his family's attitude towards his private school education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Timothy Parker recounts winning a scholarship to the prestigious boys school, Gilman

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Timothy Parker details his envy of the rich students at Gilman School

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Timothy Parker recalls bonding with the other black students at Gilman School

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Timothy Parker details how the faculty at Gilman School worked to make him comfortable

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Timothy Parker describes his childhood hopes and dreams

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Timothy Parker recalls his first months at Gilman School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Timothy Parker details how his parents kept him from becoming a major league baseball player

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Timothy Parker discusses his academic performance at Gilman School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Timothy Parker describes the influence of race relations on his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Timothy Parker discusses racism at the University of Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Timothy Parker recounts his early career

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Timothy Parker remembers how he became interested in creating puzzles

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Timothy Parker recalls how he created his Internet crossword puzzle program

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Timothy Parker details the sensational success of his Internet crossword puzzle program

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Timothy Parker explains the role of faith in his success

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Timothy Parker shares how his puzzles are created

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Timothy Parker reflects on his success

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Timothy Parker ponders the future of his career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Timothy Parker hints at his revenues

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Timothy Parker explains why his puzzle is successful

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Timothy Parker discusses the other games he developed

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Timothy Parker reflects on his workload

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Timothy Parker discusses his level of acceptance

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Timothy Parker shares his game show prototype

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Timothy Parker says seize the day

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Timothy Parker discusses the consumer demographics for his puzzles

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Timothy Parker shares his career aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Timothy Parker illustrates the reaction to his success

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Timothy Parker reflects on his personality

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Timothy Parker relates his hopes for the future of the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Timothy Parker ponders his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his wife, Giselle, 1981

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his niece, Sherry, 1972

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Timothy Parker's wife, Giselle, and daughter, Brooke, 1982

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Timothy Parker and his wife, Giselle, on their wedding day, 1981

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Timothy Parker with Frank Safar, Nashville, Tennessee, 1995

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his brothers, Jerry and Steven

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Timothy Parker cracks the computer code to create crossword puzzles online

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his daughter, Brooke, 1982

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his cousin, Kay, and brother, Steven, ca. 1966

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Timothy Parker's family and friends

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his cousins, 1976

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his cousins

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Timothy Parker with news anchor, Dan Rather and others, 1995

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Press sheet for Timothy Parker's 'Universal Word Search'

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records, ca. 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his siblings, 1976

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his wife, Giselle, Beverly Hills, California, November 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Timothy Parker with his mother and father, 1973

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Timothy Parker describes the culture shock of being at the Gilman School
Timothy Parker remembers how he became interested in creating puzzles
Transcript
I went to a very good elementary school when we moved to Liberty Heights Avenue [in Baltimore, Maryland]. And I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship from that elementary school to Gilman School which is a prestigious boys preparatory college in Maryland. They came to the elementary school and I was recommended by the principal to go there. They had just started giving scholarships to minorities. So I was one of the first black students there. And when I went there, the first day, and this is as a seventh grader. You know, I got my first glimpse of how the other side lives. I mean there were children that were being dropped off by chauffeurs, you know, and Bentleys and BMW's pulling up. I was just getting off the [number] 44 bus myself. But it was just nice to see, you know, that there are people out there, you know, that have money. There's some other things that we can shoot for. You don't necessarily have to be poor. And then getting in conversations with my white friends at Gilman, which was a wonderful experience. It was just a fantastic experience. Because of the caliber of the school and the caliber of the education. I learned how woeful my education was at a city school. Because Gilman was so far advanced even at the seventh grade. The seventh grade I had to study courses such as Latin, ancient history, medieval history, Spanish, English, algebra and some other type of a math class. And I was actually in class from 8:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday. And you were also required to play on a sports team. If you weren't good enough to make the school team, then you would play on an intramural team. So I got the chance to get into some uniforms and real football pads and things of that nature. And it really opened up a door. And that was my first glimpse that there is a world outside of my environment. 'Cause I got to--as I spoke to some of my classmates and began to learn from where they were coming from. And the types of upbringings they had. You know, I really began to feel that, you know, "There's something out there in the world that if you are aggressive enough and interested enough to pursue, it may happen for you." And that was the first opportunity I got to see that there's something a little different with me. Because my brothers never got this opportunity. They were always in that one environment. But I was the first one to really get into this new environment. So I thought, "Well there's something special going on." And I owe it to my brothers and to my parents to try to make something great out of this opportunity.$$Now is that what was sort of unspoken? Or was that, you know. How were you sort of melting the two worlds is what I'm--$$It was very unspoken. It really was. Gilman was the type of school that was almost like an honor society. Everything was done on honor. And everyone was trusted. And I'd never been in that type of environment before. For example, in the cafeteria, there would be baskets of snacks. And you were free to take any snack you want. And you were required to make a payment. But nobody was watching you. It was an honor type thing. And also as you went around the school, I was never subjected to any type of racism which I felt was very unusual for this school. Because of all the students--and I believe at the time that I was going to Gilman School, there were eight hundred students. And there were only three black students there with me being one of the three. But during my entire stay at Gilman School, and I graduated from Gilman.$Was that the time you got tested during that.$$(Simultaneously) Yes.$$And so tell me what--$$One of these gentlemen on the board came up with this [laughs] idea, which I thought was just completely ludicrous. They brought in a psychiatrist to test each one on the board. And the psychiatrist would tell each person what they were best at. And then we were all going to come together in this big board room and discuss what we wee best at and then figure where we could best help the company. So I was really against this. And I started not to even attend my psychological session. I had no idea what this person was going to say. They could have said I was schizophrenic for all, you know, I knew. But I went. And I--they--there was a series of tests. And you had to do all these psychological evaluations and you'd pick--You know, there would be a question such as, "A building is on fire and you're walking by. What would you do?" And, you know, choice A might be keep walking. Choice B might be summon help. Choice C might be run into the burning building. And choice D would be ignore the whole situation. So there were about three hundred questions like that. And I took this test. And then there was some type of a scan test where I had to find the correct answer as fast as possible. And they would be very, very simple questions. Very easy questions that even an eighth grader could do. But the object was to answer them as fast as humanly possible. So once I did all this which I really thought was just ludicrous. They came back a week later and they said, "Well we have some very surprising news for you especially." I thought okay [laughs] this is going to be funny. They said, "Well you have a gift called closure." I said, "Okay. What is closure?" They said, "That means that you know, you're able to do--to make logic out of chaos." I said, "Okay. Well that's basically what I do, you know, for work." They said, "No. You can take ten different objects and form them in a way in which they would make a logical conclusion. And it's a very rare gift." So I really thought that was nonsense until one day I sat down and I did a crossword puzzle. I was waiting at an airport and I had absolutely nothing to do. So I did a crossword puzzle. I had done one when I was about twelve years old with my mother [Irene Crane Parker] who loves crossword puzzles. But it was far too difficult for me. And it was just--I just didn't--I wasn't attracted to it. But this one time, you know--and it was still ringing in my ears about this closure thing. I wanted to know a little bit more about that and what does this mean. Because I thought, "Well maybe I can use this closure if this really is a gift in a new business. As an entrepreneur and do something totally different. So I sat down and I did this 'New York Times' crossword puzzle and I was absolutely awful at it. I mean just really, really bad. So I didn't think about puzzles at all. But that Sunday I went to church. And I play drums in church. And we had a guest speaker come in. A gentleman that I didn't know at all. His name was Elder Burke. And in the middle of his message which honestly I really wasn't paying close attention to. I was sitting on the drums and my mind was drifting. He stopped and he pointed at me, of all people in this packed church. And he says, "The Lord is giving you a good idea right now." So I was very embarrassed [Laughs] because everyone was looking at me. And I was thinking, "Okay. Well what is this idea?" And nothing came to me [Laughs]. So I just thought, "Well, you know, maybe he's a little off in his signals today." But a little later that afternoon my wife [Giselle Parker] and I were driving to a store. And for some reason I just blurted out puzzles, the word "puzzles". And I don't know why I even said that word. But when I said it-- and my wife's a very spiritual person. She said she had a feeling come over her when I said the word 'puzzles' that was a spiritual type feeling. So when I asked her to explain it, she said, "It was almost like electricity shot through her when I said the word 'puzzles'," [laughs]. So I said, "Okay. All right. Well maybe there's something in this puzzles thing Because, you know, Elder Burke said I was giving him good ideas, and I just blurted out 'puzzles' for no reason. You're getting electric shocks, so maybe something dealing with puzzles will be, you know, our future."