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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA course not all fun and games

Amy Phelps
Amy Phelps / The Daily Wildcat Professor Richard Ruiz teaches his HNRS 195H freshman colloquium class “Examining Life Through Word Puzzles” in Cesar E. Chavez on Monday. He uses crossword puzzles as a teaching tool for students to better understand language.

A new UA course offered to first-year honors students is puzzling. Literally.

For the first time, honors freshmen can take a first-year, one-credit seminar focused on crossword puzzles. Richard Ruiz, head of the Department of Mexican American Studies, is teaching “The Examined Life Through Word Puzzles,” which is focused on language and crossword puzzles. The purpose of the class is to help students think more expansively about language.

“This seminar aims to view language [as] more than just words and phrases and so on. It’s about learning … to use language in a very creative way,” Ruiz said. “I started out the semester with the question, ‘What is a word?’ because we all think we know what a word is, but words are different and used differently in many languages.”

Every incoming honors student is required to enroll in a first-year, one-credit seminar. Ruiz’s course is only one of the options available and allows students to focus on solving crossword puzzles and learning about linguistics and the different meanings of language.

Each student is given a crossword puzzle book to work on throughout the semester and completes at least one major crossword puzzle per week. Students are also required to complete an end-of-semester project where they take the answers from a completed crossword puzzle and use them to come up with their own clues.

Honors student Grace Ritchey, an aerospace engineering freshman, said she chose the course because she thought it would be interesting.

“It’s a really fun class,” Ritchey said. “We’ve talked about the basics of crossword instruction and also linguistics and some of the stuff that goes into language.”

Although the main focus of the course is solving crossword puzzles, it also looks at sociolinguistics, comparing figurative language and looking at the structure of words and their origins.

Ariana Manson, a biochemistry freshman taking the course, said students have been working on linguistics, including root words and Greek and Latin roots. She said her favorite part is learning where words come from and how they can be used in language.
Some students said the class has proven to be more interesting than they initially thought it would be.

“I thought this class would be a very easy blow-off class, but I’m interested, so I’ve tried a lot harder to solve the crossword puzzles,” said Jeffry Granados, a math and biomedical engineering freshman. “It’s not always about what you know; it’s about how you can put certain words together … and from the puzzles, you can learn a lot.”

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