Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stan Newman Finds William Lutwiniak NSA Interview; Constructor Regina M. Heil Identified

Stan Newman Finds William Lutwiniak NSA Interview

Some time ago I received an email from Newsday crossword editor Stan Newman, who'd discovered a long piece about William Lutwiniak, one of the most prolific New York Times crossword constructors ever.  Lutwiniak, a former cryptologist for the National Security Agency (NSA), published at least 304 pre-Shortz puzzles in The Times, which are available here on XWord Info.  Stan's find is a long, formerly top-secret but now declassified interview by Robert Farley of the NSA on October 18, 1981.  Here's Lutwiniak discussing his background:


To read the full interview, click here.  (And for more on William Lutwiniak, see other links on this blog, including on the Pre-Shortzian Constructors pagethis CROSSW_RD Magazine profile by Helene Hovanec; and, as Stan suggested, links that come up when Googling "Lutwiniak NSA," such as this Wikipedia entry.)  Thanks so much again, Stan, for this great discovery!

Constructor Regina M. Heil Identified


Regina M. Heil. Photo courtesy of Bill Heil.

In mid-April, Thomas Heil emailed The New York Times about his mother, Regina M. Heil, who'd built a daily crossword puzzle edited by Will Weng.  The puzzle was published on January 29, 1973.  Tom wondered whether The Times had a copy in its archives or wanted one for its files.

The email made its way to Times crossword editor Will Shortz, who sent Tom a copy of the puzzle, which our records at the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project (and now on XWord Info) had previously listed as being by "Unknown."  Tom confirmed that this was indeed the puzzle his mother had constructed; he also mentioned that he recalled her having submitted two other puzzles to Will Weng before this one was published.  "Mr. Weng put my mother through Goldilocks editing," Tom noted.  "The first puzzle was too hard, the second too easy and the third was just right."  She received $10 for the puzzle.  Tom added that his mother "never missed a day of the puzzle, all while raising nine kids.  She was pretty amazing."  At the time, she lived on Thomas Road in Wayne, Penn.

Will suggested that Tom send a headshot of his mother, if he had one, to Jim Horne at XWord Info so it could appear with her puzzle.  I emailed Tom too asking if we could write about her on this blog and encouraging him to send along any further information or photos.

I then received an email from Bill Heil, Tom's brother, along with this photo and the one above:

Regina M. Heil. Photo courtesy of Bill Heil.

Bill wrote that their sister, Mary Colleen, had reiterated Tom's "Goldilocks" comment.  In a follow-up email, Bill reported that he'd asked Regina's 81-year-old brother, Brian Torsney, for more information, and Brian had written:

My father used to sit in the den and do the NY Times Sunday puzzle.  My father could do at least 3/4's of the puzzle and when he was stumped, he would get your mother and I to brainstorm.  I still do the NY Times crossword puzzles.  They appear in the Desert Sun (the Palm Springs paper) daily and Sunday. I can complete the Sunday puzzle in one sitting about 1/2 the time, and completely at least 90% of the time. I run into trouble when they use rap music stars, current movie/TV stars or new movies as clues.

And Tom, who'd originally contacted The Times, added:

Did I mention that I also do the puzzles every day but Sunday. Sundays Bobbie [Ed.: Tom's wife], who does at least a puzzle a day, and I work on the puzzle together. It's good for the marriage — 28 years now.

Thanks so much again, Tom, Bill, Mary Colleen, and Brian, for helping us identify and get to know the long-lost constructor of this puzzle!  It's also wonderful to see how an interest in puzzles was passed down over three generations—from Regina's father, to Regina and Brian, to Tom himself.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Crossw_rd Magazine Cornucopia, Barry Silk's Jack Luzzatto Find, and More from Todd Gross

Happy New Year, everyone—as promised, here are a few cruciverbal treats to start the year off right!

Crossw_rd Magazine Cornucopia

Some of you may have read the previous articles I've posted on Scribd from Crossw_rd Magazine.  I still have a treasure trove of them left that I've been meaning to put up for some time.  One of my New Year's resolutions was to post them all, and since things will get busy once school starts up again, I've done it in one fell swoop—enjoy!

Mike Shenk
First up is legendary constructor and editor Mike Shenk, whose 1996 profile was written by Marilynn Huret—click here to read it.  Mike, now crossword editor of The Wall Street Journal, was then editor of Games Magazine.  Mike has published at least one pre-Shortzian puzzle in The New York Times and seven Shortz-era puzzles.

Mike Shenk. Photo copyright 1996,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted
by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine.

For a more recent profile of Mike, see this 2014 article in Penn State News.

Mel Rosen
Crossword luminary Mel Rosen is profiled by Alex Vaughn in this 1994 article, which you can read by clicking here.  Author of the classic Random House Puzzlemaker's Handbook and former editor of The Crosswords Club, Mel has published at least 24 pre-Shortzian Times puzzles and 14 in the Shortz era.

Mel Rosen. Photo copyright 1994,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted
by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine.

For more on Mel, see this 2010 L.A. Times Crossword Corner interview and this 2013 one that appeared on this site.

Manny Nosowsky
Manny Nosowsky, one of the most prolific constructors ever, is profiled by Alex Vaughn in this 1994 piece—click here to read it.  Manny, whose first career was as a urologist, has published at least 8 pre-Shortzian New York Times puzzles and 246 Shortz-era puzzles.

Manny Nosowsky. Photo copyright 1994,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted by
permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

To read more about Manny, see this 2012 Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project interview.

Randolph Ross
Randolph (or Randy) Ross, another prolific constructor, is profiled by Helene Hovanec in this 1993 article, which you can see here.  Randy, also a longtime high school principal, has published at least 2 pre-Shortzian Times puzzles and 101 in the Shortz era.

Randolph Ross. Photo copyright 1993,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted by
permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

For more on Randy, see XWord Info creator Jim Horne's 2009 interview on Wordplay.

Maura Jacobson
Celebrated crossword constructor and editor Maura Jacobson is profiled by Helene Hovanec in this 1993 article—to read it, click here.  Maura, who was honored with the first MERL Memorial Award in 2016 for lifetime achievement, published at least 63 pre-Shortzian Times crosswords and 3 in the Shortz era.

Maura Jacobson. Photo copyright 1993,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted by
permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

For more on Maura, see this 2011 article in New York Magazine.

Nancy Nicholson Joline
Nancy Nicholson Joline, who had her very first crossword accepted by Eugene T. Maleska, is the subject of this 1995 profile by Marilynn Huret—click here to read it.  Nancy published at least 61 pre-Shortzian puzzles in The New York Times and 48 in the Shortz era.

Nancy Nicholson Joline. Photo copyright
1995, 2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted
by permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

For more on Nancy, see this 2008 article on Barnard constructors that originally appeared in Barnard Magazine.

A. J. Santora
Another hugely prolific constructor (and, appropriately enough, constructor of homes), A. J. Santora is profiled by Helene Hovanec in this 1994 article, which you can read here.  A. J. had at least 185 pre-Shortzian Times puzzles published and 68 in the Shortz era.

A. J. Santora. Photo copyright 1994,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted by
permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

Karen Hodge (Karen Young Bonin)
Karen Hodge (aka Karen Young Bonin) is the subject of this 1994 profile by Helene Hovanec, which you can read here.  A longtime high school French teacher who started the Connecticut Shoreline crossword contest, Karen published at least 2 pre-Shortzian puzzles in The New York Times and 11 in the Shortz era.

Karen Hodge. Photo copyright 1994,
2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Reprinted
by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine.

For more on Karen, see this 1999 article in the Hartford Courant.

Cathy Millhauser (Cathy Allis)
Another renowned punster, Cathy Millhauser (aka Cathy Allis) is profiled in this 1994 article by Alex Vaughn—to read it, click here.  Cathy has published at least 4 pre-Shortzian Times puzzles and 84 in the Shortz era.


Cathy Millhauser. Photo copyright
1994, 2017, Megalo Media, Inc. Re-
printed by permission of Stan Chess and
CROSSW-RD Magazine.

For more on Cathy, see this 2011 article in the Albany, N.Y., Times Union.

Obituaries:  Will Weng, Eugene T. Maleska, and Jordan S. Lasher
Several noteworthy obituaries appeared in CROSSW_ORD Magazine, including this lengthy joint one on Will Weng and Eugene T. Maleska, who both passed away the same unfortunate year.  Written by Helene Hovanec in 1993, it can be read here.

Will Weng (left) and Eugene T. Maleska (right).
Photo copyright 1993, 2017, Megalo Media, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Stan Chess and CROSS-
W-RD Magazine.

Two years later, a short but informative obituary on Jordan S. Lasher appeared without a byline—to read it, click here.  Jordan passed away at an early age (48), having published at least 60 pre-Shortzian puzzles in The New York Times.  A chemical engineer, he created the "world's hardest puzzle" for a bookstore contest.


For more on Jordan, see this 1995 obituary in The New York Times and other articles listed on the Pre-Shortzian Constructors page.

Eric Albert's Op-ed on Puzzle Tedium
I came across this 1993 op-ed on puzzle tedium written by New York Times constructor Eric Albert, "So Damn Dull," and found it most interesting historically—to read it, click here.  Clearly crosswords have come a very long way since then!

Stan Newman on Crosswordese
Finally, I can't think of a better way to finish up this crossword cornucopia than with this four-part crosswordese (and brand name) series by the inimitable Stan Newman, new-wave crusader and Newsday crossword editor—click here to read it.

Barry Silk's Jack Luzzatto Find

Some time ago New York Times constructor and Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project volunteer Barry Silk wrote to me about a great find.  He'd been watching some old What's My Line? videos and discovered this one with an appearance by Jack Luzzatto, one of the most creative and prolific pre-Shortzian constructors ever.  Jack appears at approximately 20:45 in the video; to see it, click on the link above or watch it below.  Terrific find—thanks so much again, Barry!



More from Todd Gross

Following up on last week's post, crossword historian Todd Gross just published this article on pre-Shortzian constructor Helen Pettigrew.  Congratulations, Todd!

Todd also found articles on pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era constructors Derrick Niederman and Merl Reagle that are now linked to here and on the Pre-Shortzian Constructors page.  Thanks, Todd!


That's it for now—I look forward to seeing many of you at the ACPT and in the meantime wish everyone a happy and puzzle-filled 2017!