…crossword puzzles help me scratch that itch to both play a game and play with words.… When I write anything, I’m trying to engage the mind and sync up with the reader. I love the thought of truly affecting someone I’ve never met with my writing: It’s like an immortality device. The relationship between the constructor and the solver may be the purest expression of the idea of building a bond between writer and reader that ever existed. That’s what drives me to construct.” (PHOTO BY GLORIA BANKOČEVIĆ)

Last Word


Writer and strategist Garry “Trey” Mendez III ’96, who recently published his first crossword in the New York Times, considers language, geography and creative reciprocity between writer and reader.

Garry “Trey” Mendez III ’96 believes everyone has a story; he helps people, brands and causes craft theirs. He has worked as a content marketer for a wide range of brands — from custom menswear to international actuarial services — and written about everything from efforts to rehabilitate the men of New York’s maximum-security prisons to preserving the music of ancient Polynesian cultures.

Mendez graduated from HWS intending to go to film school, but after an internship with an online magazine, he started working as staff writer and art director. He earned a master’s in publications design from the University of Baltimore and has since led creative communications efforts for nonprofits such as the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Museum, One Economy Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners. Currently based in Croatia, Mendez serves as Head of Content for both TDA, which provides digital marketing solutions, and SkyHawk Global Consulting, a boutique firm offering public sector marketing and sales strategies.

In August, Mendez published his first crossword puzzle with the New York Times through the paper’s inaugural Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowships. He was one of only five puzzle creators selected for the three-month program, which pairs fellows with the Times’ puzzle editors “to create grids that reflect a range of cultural reference points.”

“As an American who lives in the small country of Croatia, I spend an inordinate amount of time describing the vast distances and differences between places in my home country,” Mendez told the Times. “I guess it makes sense that I’m making my debut with this puzzle inspired by American geography.”