Teaching Political Science through Creative Crosswords


Scholar and crossword creator, Visiting Professor at QF partner Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) Dr. Leonard Williams, offers a unique way to explore key concepts in political science with the publication of his latest book of puzzles, titled Black Blocks, White Squares: Crosswords with an Anarchist Edge (AK Press, 2021).

Offering fifty-one themed crossword puzzles in one bound collection, his book features the history, philosophy, and rise of anarchism, a political ideology that began in 19th century France, and which continues to impact world events today. 

“People often associate the word with the literal definition, meaning chaos, disorder, and lawlessness. But as I teach in my political science courses, anarchism is an ideological tradition with deep historical roots, one that emphasizes social cooperation and community-based leadership and care,” he said. 

But puzzle solvers won’t need a Georgetown degree to enjoy the book. Dr. Williams has included the solutions and “Constructor’s Notes” that explain the ideas behind each puzzle.

The evolution of the crossword puzzle from a simple grid of squares and word definition clues to a complex and educational art form enjoyed through clubs, conventions, and online communities, is why the hobby that began in his youth has endured, explained Dr. Williams. His puzzles have been published by such publications as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and GAMES Magazine.

“Crosswords have become more relevant over time, using contemporary language, references, and poetic wordplay. So combining my academic interests in political ideology with my interest in crossword puzzles for my latest publication was a natural fit,” he said. Widely published for his scholarly work, Dr. Williams said his themes and clues are often inspired by his research, bits of conversation, or items in the news. “When a word or idea captures my imagination, I make a note of it so I can come back to it to see whether a puzzle can be constructed out of it.”

Through his crosswords, Dr. Williams offers a fascinating study of human society through a medium that also teaches verbal fluency, enhances learning, and encourages community engagement, while welcoming a new audience to the study of international affairs.

Dr. Williams received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University and joined GU-Q from Manchester University in Indiana, U.S., where he held the positions of Dean Emeritus of the College of Education & Social Sciences and Professor Emeritus of Political Science. His most recent publications include the co-edited Anarchism: A Conceptual Approach (Routledge), and Political Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press).