Author-illustrator Laurie Keller (Arnie the Doughnut; The Scrambled States of America) was having a pretty normal Saturday at home on January 9 when she saw an email from her friend and fellow author-illustrator Lane Smith. The note contained a bit of happy and exciting news: One of Keller’s book characters was a clue in the New York Times Sunday crossword: “ ‘____ the Doughnut,’ children’s book series.”

“It sure was a surprise to me,” Keller said. “Lane said that his wife Molly [Leach, a book designer] was doing the Sunday puzzle and just came across it,” Keller said. “I emailed back and was like ‘Whaaaaaat?!’ I was completely stunned. And to read it myself, to see that picture, it was just crazy.”

Keller, admittedly a great fan of wordplay and puzzles (as her readers might guess), was delighted by the news. “I love crossword puzzles and I’m a total word nerd,” she said. “I don’t do crosswords that often, but there are other word games online that I’m kind of addicted to, like Word Crush, that I do every day. I joked with someone that I wonder if I’d have gotten 21 Across right if I had been doing it, since the Sunday puzzles are so hard!” Had she ever dreamed something like this might happen? “Sure,” she said. “Every once in a while there’s a children’s book category on Jeopardy!, which I watch a lot, and I’ve thought that would be so cool, too. But yeah, definitely.”

The January 10 Times puzzle was constructed by Alex Bajcz. Though he shared some insight in the newspaper’s crossword column on his design and clues, it remains a mystery as to why Arnie had made the cut. “I would love to know how he decided to include that,” Keller said. “It’s kind of neat. You just never know sometimes where your book might show up.”