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NYT Crossword Constructor Biographies

Every constructor on XWord Info has an Author Page which now also displays a biography if we have one.

Here's our list so far. Click a name or photo to see the Author Page.

Alina Abidi

Alina Abidi grew up in California, and currently lives in Pittsburgh, where she works as a software engineer at Duolingo. She enjoys making pasta, climbing (easy, indoor) rocks, practicing the same one song on guitar ("Operator" by Jim Croce) and wearing socks with sandals. (1)

Deb Amlen

Deb does not fully understand how she got here, but she is the lead columnist and senior editor of the Gameplay section of The New York Times. Her parents are constantly calling to ask when she will get a "real" job.

She currently lives in N.J. (don't judge) but was raised in New York City, which may explain the attitude. Deb is also the author of the humor book, It's Not PMS, It's You. (4)

Victor Barocas

Victor Barocas is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He's a longtime member of the National Puzzlers' League and contributes puzzles to its monthly publication, The Enigma. (17)

Daniel Bodily

Daniel Bodily, of Woodbury, Minn., is an R&D robotics engineer. (1)

Ori Brian

Ori Brian (he/him) lives in Los Angeles, CA and is a product manager at Amazon. (8)

Jeanette K. Brill

Jeanette Brill's son Jon (who is also a constructor) relayed an interesting anecdote: when Jeanette was constructing, she had paper cut-outs of individual letters that she would move around her grid as she changed her fill. Sounds a bit akin to using Scrabble tiles.

Jeanette was born Jeanette Kessler in 1917. She grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania College for Women. She also earned a master's degree in psychology from UPenn in 1938 while working as a social worker at the Pennsylvania State Hospital. (81)

Sam Buchbinder

Sam Buchbinder is a Chicago born constructor, who has lived and taught High School history in the New York City public schools since 2008. As part of his teaching role, he programs all the classes each year for 550 students, which makes constructing crosswords look easy. He currently resides in the Bronx, with his wife and two young daughters. (9)

Gary Cee

Gary Cee is the General Manager and morning host at radio station Pocono 96.7 in Stroudsburg, PA. He grew up in Patchogue, NY and graduated from NYU.

Gary is a former Senior VP of Programming for iHeartMedia, a former Managing Editor of Circus Magazine, and the author of ‘Classic Rock.' There is a symphony playing in his head that one day will be committed to a proper score. (40)

Jeff Chen

Jeff Chen is a writer and professional crossword constructor living in Seattle. He currently operates the XWord Info website, where he writes commentary on every daily NYT crossword. (130)

Kevin Christian

Kevin Christian lives in Burlingame, CA. He does pricing strategy for a tech firm in Silicon Valley. He likes to ride his bike, walk his dogs, and walk up and down the bleachers at the local high school. He enjoys listening to heavy metal bands like King's X and watching horror movies like "Let the Right One In."

He recorded the song "All the Children Sing" for the CD "A Tribute to Todd Rundgren Part II, Still There's More," which was released in 1995. His wife Helen, son Tim, and daughter Kate find his crossword obsession mildly amusing. (14)

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. He was featured in the film Wordplay. (1)

Chandi Deitmer

Chandi Deitmer, of Somerville, Mass., is a social worker in the fields of psychiatry and geriatrics. (2)

Kyle T. Dolan

Kyle Dolan, originally from Boston, MA, is a science attaché at the British Consulate General in Chicago. (15)

no photo

Alex Eaton-Salners is an in-house attorney for Western Digital, a technology company headquartered in San Jose, Calif. (54)

Herbert Ettenson (1916-2000)
Herbert Ettenson

Herbert Ettenson's crossword career as a constructor/editor spanned 65 years. He was first published in the New York Herald Tribune in 1932 or 1933 at the age of 16. (He recounted the story of going to the offices of the Herald Tribune at that time and introducing himself to the puzzle editor, who replied "Oh, your father makes wonderful puzzles.")

He worked in his family's clothing business and later became an English teacher in the Bronx. In the mid-1970s, he was named the full-time crossword editor for Simon & Schuster, a post he held until his retirement in 1997.

In separate articles by Eugene Maleska and Will Shortz in the 1980s, Herbert Ettenson is mentioned by name as one of the major innovators of the early era.

The photo here is from the 1968 yearbook of Theodore Roosevelt High School, where he taught. (87)

Trent H. Evans

Trent H. Evans, originally from Fort Worth, Texas, is a clinical psychologist (trentevans.com) living in Catonsville, Maryland. He is also a semi-professional musician and runs the indie crossword site Grid Therapy. (7)

John Ewbank

John Ewbank is a scientific writer based near Manchester in the UK. He got into writing cryptic crosswords whilst studying at the University of Warwick, and now regularly sets cryptics for The Times of London. John began dabbling in American crosswords during one of the many UK lockdowns, though he needed plenty of guidance from Jeff Chen to get the hang of it! (2)

Alex Eylar

Alex Eylar is a writer from California, born of musicians, raised with a love of Lego, failed backwards into the movie business after college, and now assembles black-and-white grids for money while chasing the Hollywood dream. (3)

Grace Fabbroni

Grace Fabbroni started constructing crosswords after a chance meeting with Eugene Maleska who was the principal in the school where she taught. PSPP has a letter she wrote about her life in puzzles. (21)

Josephine A. Felker

J. A. Felker published 5 puzzles under editor Will Weng who was "astonished" to learn that she was female. See more at PSPP. (5)

Pawel Fludzinski

Pawel Fludzinski currently lives in Denver where he serves as CEO of a biotech startup. He started constructing crosswords in 2011 after meeting Will Shortz at a talk hosted by good friend and fellow constructor Mickey Maurer. His teenage daughter is the light of his life. (7)

Charles E. Gersch (1930-2017)
Charles E. Gersch

"Younger constructors may not know, but Charles was one of the greats in crossword history. His first puzzle appeared in the old New York Herald Tribune on Feb. 21, 1944, when he was just 13 years 6 months of age." See the complete Will Shortz reminiscence here. (48)

Guilherme Gilioli

Guilherme Gilioli, from Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul, is a full-time cruciverbalist; the first NYT constructor known to be from Brazil. He started solving English crosswords in 2016 to improve his English vocabulary.

He also constructs crosswords in Portuguese for Brazilian magazines, and for his website. (1)

Rebecca Goldstein

Rebecca Goldstein is a research scientist developing immunotherapies for cancer. (3)

Bernice Gordon (1914-2015)
Bernice Gordon

Bernice Gordon's NYT crossword construction career didn't start until she was nearly 40, but that didn't stop her from getting 147 published over her 62-year career. She was prolific even in her 90s, and her last two were constructed when she was 100 years old. (147)

Peter Gordon

Peter Gordon is a puzzlemaker and editor from Great Neck, N.Y. He has been a puzzle editor for Games magazine, Sterling Publishing, and the bygone New York Sun. Since 2010 he has edited Fireball Crosswords, a 45-times-a-year online-only super-challenger. (124)

Mary Lou Guizzo

Mary Lou worked for many years in hospital transfusion services and blood centers, processing and reference labs, and a paternity lab. She graduated from the University of Dayton and has a Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) certification. Her hobbies include photography, reading, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and traveling. (29)

Bruce Haight

Bruce Haight is originally from Wisconsin and is now a semi-retired eye surgeon in San Diego. He was inspired to start puzzle construction by Peter A. Collins.

Bruce once rallied against Will Shortz for ten minutes in ping-pong and didn't get a single point off him. (57)

Stephen Hiltner

Stephen Hiltner is an editor, writer, and photographer. He works on the Travel desk at The New York Times, where he edits and contributes to the weekly World Through a Lens column. A graduate of the University of Oxford and the University of Virginia, he joined The Times in 2016 after editing for six years at The Paris Review. (1)

Jim Horne

Seattle musician Jim Horne created XWord Info, a website dedicated to celebrating New York Times crosswords and the people who make them. In 2008, he started the Wordplay column for the Times and reviewed puzzles there for its first three years. (3)

Christina Iverson

Christina Iverson of Ames, Iowa, is Patti Varol's assistant crossword editor at the Los Angeles Times. (11)

Maura B. Jacobson (1926-2017)
Maura B. Jacobson

Maura Jacobson was the first winner of the prestigious Merl Reqgle Award for lifetime achievement in crossword constructing in 2016,

See Remembering Maura Jacobson by Will Shortz, and David's Steinberg's In Memoriam. (66)

Laura Taylor Kinnel

Laura Taylor Kinnel is a math teacher and the director of studies at a Friends boarding school in Newtown, Pa. (5)

Albert J. Klaus (1917-2000)
Albert J. Klaus

Albert J. Klaus was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1917, the son of Charles and Anne (Fischer) Klaus. In 1949, he married Anne Horan, also of New Jersey. They raised three children. A graduate of NYU, Albert was a mechanical engineer. He worked for over 25 years at Airco, an industrial gas and metals company in Union, New Jersey. He retired in 1979. His first Times crossword was published in 1983, the start of a prolific 13-year period in which he was published at least 119 times in the Times. He was also published elsewhere. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 82. (Bio courtesy Flip Koski.) (119)

Andy Kravis

Mr. Kravis is an associate puzzles and games editor at The New Yorker. (25)

Archie S. Kreiling

A 1959 profile of Margaret Farrar in The New Yorker noted that "a good many puzzles…come from inmates of penitentiaries, who presumably have plenty of time on their hands." While it is unknown just how many Times constructors in that era were inmates, one such constructor was Archie S. Kreiling. From prison, he had at least ten puzzles published in the Times under Ms. Farrar, all Sundays.

Archibald Sylvester Kreiling was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1909, the son of Olin Kreiling, a streetcar conductor, and Agnes (Rusche) Kreiling, a homemaker. In 1937, he was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the killing of a night watchman during a burglary. In 1960, after 23 years in prison, the governor of Ohio reduced his conviction from first degree murder to second degree, making him eligible for parole. He was paroled later that year. He died in 1974 at the age of 65.

On the topic of prisoner-constructors, Will Shortz noted in 2017 that, notwithstanding that old joke about inmates having time on their hands, he has rarely received submissions from them, and the first one he accepted was from Lonnie Burton in 2017. (10)

Aimee Lucido

Aimee Lucido is the author of two books for kids, Emmy in the Key of Code and Recipe for Disaster. She is also the editor of the weekly trivia feature for the AVCX. (13)

Eugene T. Maleska (1916-1993)
Eugene T. Maleska

Eugene T. Maleska was the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor from Feb 28, 1977, until his death in 1993. (410)

Jules P. Markey

Jules Markey is a retired U.S. Postal Service letter carrier living in Blue Bell, PA. Many of his crossword theme ideas came while trekking through the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, delivering the mail. (22)

Daniel Mauer

Daniel Mauer is a software engineer in Massachusetts. (5)

Michael S. Maurer

Michael S. ("Mickey") Maurer is an Indianapolis native whose career as an attorney and entrepreneur has included cable television, film production, radio broadcasting, publishing, real estate and banking. Mickey has authored seven books: Water Colors (2003), 19 Stars of Indiana — Exceptional Hoosier Women (2009), and 19 Stars of Indiana — Exceptional Hoosier Men (2010), 10 Essential Principles of Entrepreneurship You Never Learned in School (2012), 50 Crossword Puzzles with playful narrations (2015), Cinderella Ball (2017) and The Methuselah Gene (2021). Mickey is married to Janie Maurer, and they have three children and nine grandchildren. (25)

Stephen McCarthy

Stephen McCarthy, originally from Vancouver Island, B.C., is a Ph.D. student studying transportation modeling in Stockholm, Sweden. (4)

Alfio Micci

Alfio Micci, born in 1918, played in the First Violin Section of the New York Philharmonic for many years.

See this article in the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. (102)

no photo

Mountweazel, Lillian Virginia, American photographer, b. Bangs, Ohio. Turning from fountain design to photography in 1963, Mountweazel produced her celebrated portraits of the South Sierra Miwok in 1964. She was awarded government grants to make a series of photo-essays of unusual subject matter, including New York City buses, the cemeteries of Paris and rural mailboxes. The last group was exhibited extensively abroad and published under Flags Up! (1972). Mountweazel died at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.

— The New Columbia Encyclopedia (1975)

Jack Mowat

Jack Mowat is a Civil Engineering major at the University of Notre Dame, planning to pursue a master's degree in that same field.

Jack is originally from the greatest city in the midwest: Omaha, Nebraska. His senior year, Jack was the project manager for the concrete canoe team, a club that designs and builds a 20-ft canoe out of concrete, and, yes, it does float! (2)

Will Nediger

Will Nediger, of London, Ontario, is a professional crossword constructor and writer of trivia questions. He's a regular contributor to National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which supplies questions for quiz-bowl tournaments at the middle-school, high-school, and college levels. (41)

Derrick Niederman

Derrick Niederman, of Charleston, S.C., teaches mathematics at the College of Charleston. (12)

Daniel Okulitch

Daniel Okulitch, originally from Calgary, Alberta, is a professional opera singer of more than 25 years. He has performed for the New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, and many other venues. He completed a run of shows at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow as the title character in Mozart's "Don Giovanni." (3)

Mary Virginia Orna

Mary Virginia Orna was a professor of chemistry at The College of New Rochelle in New York. PSPP has more. (28)

Tap Osborn (1924-1994)
Tap Osborn

Stafford "Tap" Osborn was an executive at Reed & Barton silversmiths in Taunton, Mass. Born in France in 1924, he was the son of Kenneth Osborn, president of a latex manufacturer, and Helen (Brown) Osborn, a homemaker.

Tap graduated from Amherst College in 1945. Soon thereafter, he joined Reed & Barton, where he worked for 40 years, retiring in 1985 as vice president of merchandising.

He had a daughter and four sons. He was a resident of Falmouth, Mass., and later Fort Myers, Florida. He had at least 112 crosswords published in the Times, as well as others in the LA Times, Washington Post and elsewhere. He was also the editor of crossword books published by the Running Press. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 70. (112)

Patterson Pepple (1920-1994)
Patterson Pepple

Patterson Pepple grew up in Lima Ohio and attended UT Austin. He made his first crossword in 1984 when he was 64 years old and kept making them until he was 74. The photo is from his high school year book. (37)

Helen Pettigrew (1894-1977)
Helen Pettigrew

Helen Pettigrew was born in Charleston. She worked as a teacher and a sketch writer for magazines, and published several Bible-themed crosswords in the 1960s and 1970s. See more here. (1)

Sheldon Polonsky

Sheldon Polonsky is a pediatrician and medical software analyst at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. (2)

Merl Reagle (1950-2015)
Merl Reagle

Beloved constructor Merl Reagle constructed the Sunday crossword for the San Francisco Chronicle (widely syndicated) every Sunday for 30 years. He starred in the 2006 documentary, Wordplay, which followed the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament that year. The tournament now annually presents the MEmoRiaL Award, a lifetime achievement award in the form of a snow globe with Mr. Reagle inside.

The photo here is from his appearance on The Simpsons. (10)

Warren W. Reich (1923-2015)
Warren W. Reich

Warren W. Reich served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and returned to eventually get a Ph.D. in German Literature from the University of Connecticut. His first NYT crosswords appeared when he was nearly 60. (14)

Christy Ridley (1927-2015)
Christy Ridley

Christy Ridley served in the Army during the Korean War as an interpreter because of his linguistic skills. He graduated from Vanderbilt Law School and then studied at Columbia in New York to become a law librarian. He started constructing crosswords after his retirement. (54)

Herb L. Risteen (1899-1984)
Herb L. Risteen

Herbert Lyle Risteen was from Wisconsin, where he was a Latin and history teacher before working for that state's tax department. Besides crosswords, he wrote several historical fiction books for boys. (244)

Sidney L. Robbins (1909-1997)
Sidney L. Robbins

Sidney L. Robbins was born in Manhattan in 1909, the son of Herman and Mary (Susnitsky) Rabinowitz. He grew up in Brooklyn and attended Columbia College, graduating in 1930. In 1946, he married Beatrice Levine. Sidney was an executive in a leather manufacturing business.

He had over 200 crosswords published in the Times, including over 140 Mondays. Of his 50 Times puzzles in the Shortz Era, 48 were Mondays. He passed away in 1997 at the age of 86. (203)

Mel Rosen (1941-2018)
Mel Rosen

Will Shortz called Mel Rosen "one of the longtime greats in crossword puzzles" in this NYT memorial.

David Steinberg shared his memories on his blog. (38)

Lewis Rothlein

Lewis Rothlein lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where he teaches yoga. His work life has taken a winding course, from being a journalist, to a syndicated newspaper columnist, to teaching elementary school, to owning a yoga studio. He began solving crosswords after seeing the movie WordPlay, and several years later, he began making puzzles, where his favorite part is coming up with clues that make him go "Yes!" (7)

Guido N. Scarato

Guido published many puzzles in The New York Times under Margaret Farrar, Will Weng, and Eugene T. Maleska, but almost all of them appeared without bylines. He was a painter and singer, had a long career as an art director for boutique advertising agencies in New York, producing campaigns for clients including Citibank, Pan Am, Nabisco. PSPP has more. (3)

Dan Schoenholz

Dan Schoenholz, of Walnut Creek, Calif., is the community development director for the city of Fremont. (27)

Mike Shenk

Mike Shenk is the crossword editor of The Wall Street Journal. See this 2014 article about him from the Penn State News. (8)

Lois Sidway

Lois Sidway was born Lois Hobart in 1929. She grew up in Oklahoma and there graduated from Phillips University, majoring in French. She married Peter Sidway in 1952. They lived in Connecticut for many years, before moving to Virginia. Peter passed away in 2011. (85)

Blake Slonecker

Blake Slonecker is a history professor at Heritage University and constructs puzzles from his home in Prosser, Washington. (2)

Nancy Stark

Nancy Stark, of New York City, is a writer, lyricist, and former editor for the Literary Guild book club. (6)

David Steinberg

David Steinberg is the puzzles and games editor for the Andrews McMeel Universal media company. The Universal Crossword, which he edits, appears in many newspapers, including The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Miami Herald.

His first New York Times puzzle was published when he was 14 years old. (103)

Matthew Stock

Matthew Stock works for a math education nonprofit in East St. Louis, Ill. (13)

Ross Trudeau

Ross Trudeau is a writer and puzzlemaker in Cambridge, Mass. His crosswords appear regularly in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other venues, including his own website, Rossword Puzzles, where he posts an original (and free) puzzle every week.

In 2018 Ross collaborated on a Times crossword with another imaginative person — his father, Garry Trudeau, the creator of "Doonesbury." (50)

Patti Varol

Patti Varol is the editor of the Los Angeles Times Crossword.

She is also executive editor at PuzzleNation, managing and editing puzzle content for Crosswords Club, Daily POP crosswords, and the PuzzleNation mobile apps. Her crosswords have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as the Crosswords L.A., Lollapuzzoola, and Boswords crossword tournaments. She is also a founding editor of Women of Letters, a crossword pack featuring the work of women constructors, with proceeds benefiting women-centric charities. (1)

Hoang-Kim Vu

Hoang-Kim Vu (he/him) works on a global malaria research project in Washington, D.C. (2)

Adam Wagner

Adam Wagner, originally of Long Island, New York, is a creative lead at Patreon helping creators get paid for their work. In previous lives, Adam has also been a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, a viral YouTuber, a game show champion, and an applied math major at Brown University.

Adam currently lives in Oakland, CA, with his wife, son, and a few thousand honeybees. (8)

Byron Walden

Byron Walden is a math and computer science professor at Santa Clara University. (103)

Robyn Weintraub

Robyn Weintraub, of Rye Brook, New York, has been constructing crosswords for more than a decade. She's a member of the in-house puzzle team at The New Yorker. When she's not making puzzles she's volunteering for the League of Women Voters trying to save democracy, or playing in her garden. (40)

Brad Wiegmann

Brad Wiegmann is a national security lawyer for the Department of Justice in Washington. (3)

Joy L. Wouk

Joy L. Wouk was born Joy Lattman in New York City in 1919. She graduated from Barnard in 1940 and, shortly after, married Victor Wouk. Victor was an accomplished engineer (and the younger brother of author Herman Wouk). Joy had two sons. According to one remembrance, Joy took up crossword constructing when NYC went to alternate-side parking, which caused her to have to spend a lot of time in her car. She went through so many NYT crosswords that she started to create her own.

The photo here is from her Barnard yearbook. (133)