11. Puzzling Thoughts…

about crossword constructors’ other lives. Puzzlemakers are a motley hodgepodge of humanity. Or an impressive cross-section of talent, depending on your style of cluing. Either way, they certainly account for a lot of different occupations.

Perhaps the most common occupations are musician (guitarists, pianists, and what have you) and mathematician (math professors, accountants, and the like). There’s also a decent smattering of writers, editors, and teachers whose facility with language has spilled over into crosswords. But once you get past that, the professions of puzzlemakers seem scattered by the wind.

One can quickly compile a list of constructors with only one name under each of these headings: high school principal, traffic court judge, urologist, reference librarian at a primate research center, matrimonial attorney, bond futures trader, canine behaviorist, movie projectionist, veterinarian, civil engineer, Objectivist, former Russian, (okay, so those last two aren’t occupations), game show writer, bar owner, social psychologist, chaperon for “The All New Dating Game,” war games planner, public-speaking guru, pathologist, used car salesman, library director, pediatric gastroenterologist, forester, metallurgic engineer, plumber, pharmaceutical salesman, drug counselor, web developer, owner of a metal-stamping company, and cartoonist (that’d be me). Oh, yeah, and a few daring souls who actually make a living at being puzzlemakers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Admittedly, I don’t really know what most of these crossword-constructing people do. When any of us actually meet face to face, the conversation rarely veers far from… well, puzzles.


10 Responses to 11. Puzzling Thoughts…

  1. Manny says:

    I think we got a wrestler too.

  2. joecab says:

    It was more fun before Will started cracking down on the more exotic career listings at the crossword tournament before it became more “legit.” Shall we ever again have “Shark Trainer”? (This was someone who taught lawyers.)

  3. Craig K. says:

    To my shame, there are a number of those constructors I can’t identify by those headings. However, if memory serves, you can add “violist” to that list (and possibly others, of course).

  4. Patrick Merrell says:

    A guy in tights constructing a puzzle between Wrestlemania matches is something I wouldn’t have necessarily figured on. In “Cruciverbalism,” Stan Newman mentions there are prison inmates writing lots of puzzles, but I’m not sure where their crosswords are appearing.

    Craig, I’d be curious how many Canadians have puzzles appearing in U.S. papers. As far as I know, there’s you, Kevin McCann, and Martin Ashwood-Smith (I think he’s Canadian).

  5. Vic says:

    Since I just saw the site for the first time today, I’m still wandering a bit, and lo and behold, there is a passage which, if my late father-in-law had seen it, he’d have said, “You got your name in the paper.” Of course, he would do this if a write-up on the sports page read, “Twenty thousand people were at the game,” and you were one of the 20,000. But “traffic court judge”? Why, that’d be like writing my bio in bold font to him!

    I reiterate what many others have said: Fun site, Patrick! Keep it up! And if it is true that I am in the category of people as to whom you “don’t really know” what I do, then at next year’s Stamford-on-Brooklyn event, let’s change the topic and I’d be glad to let you know.

    For now, I am gearing up for my part-time job as (fall semester) professor of law & literature, and, in that capacity, just finished a re-read of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in which I found good and actual usage of a number of words and phrases that crop up as oldies in crosswords. But for now, how about a quiz:

    Without resorting to Google or the original text of the book, do you know the origin and significance of the title “To Kill a Mockingbird”?


  6. Patrick Merrell says:

    Thanks a lot, Vic. And you’re right up there in the front row!
    I had to look up the mockingbird reference, only to find I was a bit off the mark.

  7. Joe Bower says:

    If you are talking about me, I’m just a plain old used car salesman. :(

  8. Amy says:

    I think Will Nediger, a very young constructor, is Canadian (with Sun and NYT publications, I think), as is cryptic constructor/editor Fraser Simpson (I think he had a Sun cryptic in the last year or so).

  9. Frederick J. Healy says:

    Hi Patrick Merrell:


    Ive been constructing since 1962— my latest puzzle appeared in the LATimes
    on Sat. Aug. 4th (Saturday Themeless).

    NYT just bought three themeless from me for a “Fri. or Sat.” appearance.

    LAT just bought my eighth puzzle.

  10. Patrick Merrell says:

    Joe, you’ve been properly “retitled” in the post.
    Frederick, thanks for checking in! I’ll have to go try that Aug 4th puzzle.

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