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“It’s mind-blowing to me that at the ages of 20 and 21, I was responsible for something I like to think had a big impact on people’s lives around campus and around the city.”
This profile will appear as part of the Summer 2014 Columbia College Today’s Senior Snapshots feature.
Finn Vigeland CC ’14 was just a few weeks into his College career when, in October 2010, The New York Times published one of his crosswords. Though he attained at an early age what is considered the holy grail of crossword puzzling — and he’s had two more puzzles published in the Times since — Vigeland is hardly complacent. “It’s fun to try to get a word or phrase in that hasn’t appeared in the Times puzzle,” he says.
Vigeland, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up in Westchester, first submitted a crossword to the Times in 2008. Crossword editor Will Shortz rejected it but suggested ways to improve the puzzle and invited Vigeland to compete in the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Shortz organizes the annual event, followed by a reception at his area home.
Vigeland’s interest in crosswords began in earnest when he saw Wordplay, a 2006 documentary about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which was founded by Shortz in 1978. (Vigeland has twice competed in the event, most recently in March, when he finished 246th among 580 competitors.) The DVD extras, which include interviews with crossword constructors, inspired Vigeland to create his own puzzles. “It’s important to have an aesthetic grid but it’s very much a science of getting interlocking letters to fall into place,” says Vigeland, who also has had a crossword published in The New York World, the Journalism School’s online newspaper, and another in Twenty Under 30, a collection of puzzles by constructors under the age of 30.
Up until his last semester, when he was not in class or constructing a puzzle — his collection of unpublished crosswords is “sizeable” — Vigeland often could be found in the Spectator office, where he was managing editor for a year beginning in December 2012. “It’s mind-blowing to me that at the ages of 20 and 21, I was responsible for something I like to think had a big impact on people’s lives around campus and around the city,” says Vigeland, who as city news editor in 2012 reported from President Barack Obama ’83’s election night rally in Chicago.
An urban studies major who chose the College largely because of the Core, Vigeland envisions a career in transportation planning. As a historical franchise intern last summer with the New York City Department of Transportation, he helped digitize the city’s centuries-old utility company contracts for internal use. Using his knowledge of geographic information systems, he laid the groundwork for a database that allows users to search for contracts by keyword or by clicking on a map of the city.
A biking enthusiast, Vigeland hopes to find work that allows him to build upon the alternative transportation initiatives enacted by the Bloomberg administration. “I really think [they] moved the city in the positive direction of promoting more cycling and walking and less reliance on cars,” says Vigeland. “I would love to work in a field that allows me to promote these policies and make them better.”
Nathalie Alonso CC ’08, from Queens, is a freelance journalist and an editorial producer for LasMayores.com, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website. She writes “Student Spotlight” for Columbia College Today.