FiveThirtyEight: The aftermath of the crossword scandal

Oliver Roeder speaks with Chadwick Matlin about the crossword plagiarism scandal and the aftermath of the report.
5:38 | 06/17/18

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Transcript for FiveThirtyEight: The aftermath of the crossword scandal
Are dying here with Oliver rader the author of not one not two not three but I believe for a different stories for 538 about. Crossword plagiarism. Ali out of this empire across pledges. Or is again so this all started back in late February. 10 as I'm want to do I was on Twitter and have from the C a tweet from. A professional crossword construct or an editor and and then pounce again what he tweeted where two pictures of two puzzles. One had his name on it. And one didn't and the one that didn't Boren an eerie resemblance to the puzzle but did have his name on it. And you know in a few seconds later said well you know our city Millis currency what's actually going on so what was going on. Is there was crossword puzzle editor who edits the puzzle in the USA today. And a widely syndicated puzzle called universal and he had been. Repeating puzzles often times from years earlier. Re publishing and then slapping essentially fake names synonymous violence. So how did eventually be problems are. So Ben the man who sent the tweet heard round the world discovered that his puzzle. Had been replicated thanks in part to an enormous database. Put together by another puzzle enthusiasts name Saul ponson. So he web scripts in the end about 52000. Crossword puzzles that are sitting in a database many of them on his web site. And not only that but he wrote a little more code to match pairs of crossword puzzles that four similarity. A day so. But your editor on these on these stories that you emailed me saying. I'm on the hot database when you really until then what did you find. So the there was something really really obvious really really quickly. And that was that most of the puzzles that repeated previous puzzles where published in two outlets. That was USA today and universal and that was the first chart. That we kind of put together for this story so if you look at this chart universal and USA today these red here things here. You see especially in the repeater column that they are dominated. Which suggests that maybe there's something more than just chants that would happen right so yeah these USA today and universe. So outlets really float to the top of this chart and this is this is a top ten out of there is even more that we had data on but. Here's to have nine out of the top ten spots and especially the top two I just really really outlying. A band there's one editor for both those puddles correct right so that's the thing the thing the USA today and universal have in common is that for a very long time. And they were both edited by the same person a man named Timothy Parker so of course you know we reached out to Parker and I spoke with him. Before we published the story for about an hour and a half so. Had a really long conversation with him about about the repetition and just trying to get a sense of what of what he thought. Had happened and then I tried to tell him what what the community has been and what he's. So if he he didn't if question the data but the legitimacy of the database he didn't question in the fact that. Puzzles and themes. That he edited had repeated previous puzzles he did. Deny that this replication was happening on purpose and with his knowledge that he did deny that OK so we spent a couple feverish days. In the factored office trying to get this out just like anything else was on the story we published the story and what happened next Steve Martin retreat today. And you know you made a dollar that's what happened next I think I think you re treated and sent I think I would describe. The overall consensus and that and that sort of very tight net and and small community as as aggrieved generally and Lacey community you mean that can structures. More than do you organize a major cross proposal that's right I mean construct there is I mean Italy. Speeds saw learns. Yeah editors and this is that there are believe it or not professional across or constructive and editors there aren't very many knew something on the order of a hundred. So within the Dick lynch construct a community we saw. A lot of discussion on social media about this. We saw various other media outlets cover. The news that we broke that there is likely later than happening from the times he gets it and and universal sit universal syndicate. What happened to Parker after oh. So I think it was them we've published. Laid on a Friday night and I think by Monday. Both universal. And USA today announced that Parker was being placed on on leave while those outlets. Conducted their own internal investigations. And we actually officially got word and and ran a story. A couple days ago. That he's officially out permanently USA today there universal. It remains to be seen universal has announced that he's been placed on a three month leave of absence but will be allowed to return to work. What exactly his editorial role will be there or how we'll change from what it was originally. Remains to be seen but yet he will be allowed to come. Come back to Erica syndicate. Moderator thanks for coming in Jenin. Thanks and viewers you want to read more of our crossword plagiarism coverage had over 530 dot com.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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