Crosswords over plagiarism

or “How I decided to stop worrying and learned to love citing my sources”

Crossword comprising the words Citing your sources and compiling complete and accurate reference lists for assignments often seems like an arbitrary exercise.  Given that all scholarship, journalism and thought involves rediscovering, reinterpreting and representing what has been thought somewhere by someone before, it is necessary to acknowledge your sources both to show your readers how you build on what is already argued or proven rather than making things up, and also to demonstrate that you have had a new thought instead of just quietly copying and mixing things that already exist.  No work is an island complete of itself but copying things that are already published and passing them off as your own work will get you into trouble for plagiarism at university and sued for copyright infringement afterwards.  Copyright law suits tend to be eye wateringly expensive.

Sadly, plagiarism happens on a grand scale in the ‘real’ world outside of universities because people are naturally careless and lazy.   Take this case of a crossword company who copied crossword clues from existing crosswords in the New York Times and other sources.

Artist Pablo Picasso may have famously claimed that, “good artists borrow; great artists steal!” (O’Toole, 2013) but in the increasingly interconnected digital age, even when the derivative work is so different no-one can easily recognise the original influence, plagiarism is fast becoming impossible to hide.


O’Toole, G. (2013, March 6).  Quote investigator: Good artists copy; great artists steal.  Retrieved from

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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