…about middle initials. I got an official piece of correspondence from Will Shortz one day. Printed on it was the name William F. Shortz. My first thought was that Will Shortz seems much more fitting. My second thought was, “I wonder what the F stands for?” It seems to me I actually asked him once, but if I did I’m not remembering the answer. I’m betting Frederick. He’s definitely not a Farnsworth or Ferdinand.
Lots of puzzle bylines include initials: David J. Kahn, Sherry O. Blackard, Randall J. Hartman, Elizabeth C. Gorski. I happen to know David’s middle initial stands for Joel, but I don’t know about the others. Since she’s a musician, I suppose it’s appropriate that Liz Gorski has a middle C. I think an initial I’d really like to know about is the I in William I. Johnston’s WIJ. I’ll bet it’s an interesting name, since not too many common ones start with an I.
One person who doesn’t keep us guessing is Brendan Emmett Quigley. It seems kind of ironic to me that someone who likes to fool us with his puzzles just spells it right out. A. J. Santora, on the other hand, might be the champ at keeping us in the dark. Two initials… and nothing more than that for nearly 50 years! His first Sunday puzzle appeared in the NYT in 1956, his last in 2005. It was only after A. J.’s death in 2005 that Will Shortz found out and reported his full names on the NYT crossword forum — Augustine Joseph.