Crossword Friends of George Barany

Beneath these introductory remarks, and my own photo, you will find (in alphabetical order) the names, photos (or placemarks for the camera-shy), and brief biosketches of some of the brilliant individuals, ages ranging from 16 to 84, with whom I have had the pleasure of collaborating on crossword puzzle construction and/or on beta testing each others' works. If you click on their names, this might take you to their own web sites. Furthermore, I list their puzzles with me, and—in a few special cases—puzzles for which they are the honorees. A non-trivial subset of the group has current geographical roots in the Twin Cities and environs. Return to our main page—which includes our overarching philosophy—by clicking here. For easy access to this page, use http://tinyurl.com/baranyfriends

GB

Bar for rapid navigation: George Barany // Susan Ainsworth // Martin Ashwood-Smith // Jeff Aubé // Steve Bachman // Barbara Barany // Evan Birnholz // Marcia Brott // Sabina Brukner // Ralph Bunker // Zhouqin Burnikel // Richard Caldwell // Jeff Chen // Josh Conescu // Tim Croce // Michael David // Nate Davidson // Charles Deber // Sean Dobbin // Marti DuGuay-Carpenter // Noam Elkies // Anne Erdmann // Kristen Evenson // Dan Feyer // Jed Fisher // Charles Flaster // Lloyd Fricker // Ben Geisbauer // Hayley Gold // Elizabeth Gorski // Todd Gross // Robert Hammer // Michael Hanko // David Hanson // Brent Hartzell // Martin Herbach // Nancy Herther // Donna Huryn // Jon Jeffryes // Ben Jones // Karen Kaler // Dan Kantor // Jay Kaskel // Joseph Konstan // Miriam Krause // Meghan Lafferty // Ken Leopold // David Liben-Nowell // Sandy Lipsky // Mark Lipton // Paul Luftig // Robert Mark // Christie Martin // Deane Morrison // Jan Morse // Andrew Myers // Jane O'Brien // Jenna Orkin // Tom Pepper // Chris Philpot // Phil Platt // Arlene Romoff // Amelia Rosner // Ellen Ross // Arthur Rothstein // Marjorie Russel // Kurtis Scaletta // Paul Schoenholz // Michael Shteyman // Dan Silversmith // Loren Smith // Rachel Stock Spilker // David Steinberg // Jeff Strickler // Markand Thakar // Jonathan Vaughan // John Verel // Carl Voss // Alex Vratsanos // Mark Wieder // Tom Williams // Letitia Yao

George Barany (that's me) is the convener of this virtual colloquium. Click on my name (to the left) for biographical information, and on our main page for my crossword bona fides and philosophies. My day job is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, and many of my friendships go back to my time at Stuyvesant High School and at The Rockefeller University [I skipped college, although in 2014, I did receive this honorary degree]. A career highlight was to co-chair the 16th American Peptide Symposium in June 1999, which saw this crossword puzzle co-constructed with Charles Deber, and the world premiere of Peptide Ångst: La Triviata (see this video) created together with Gary Gisselman. My first published New York Times puzzle was on a Sunday, joint with Michael Shteyman [click here for a picture of me at that time]. Since mid-2013, I have been a member of the National Puzzlers' League (NPL) with a nom of mefistofele [same spelling as the Boito opera].  I have quite a few crossword collaborators who I know only in cyberspace, although I try to look them up whenever there is some flexibility in my professional travel. I hope you enjoy reading some of their stories below.

Susan Ainsworth is a Senior Editor, based in Dallas, at Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society. She received a B.A. degree in chemistry from The College of Wooster (Ohio) in 1984, and then moved to New York City to become an Assistant News Editor for Chemical Week magazine, then a McGraw-Hill publication. Ainsworth joined C&EN as an Associate Editor in the magazine's business group in 1989 and became Houston bureau head in 1992. After taking time off to raise her two children and work as a freelance writer, she returned to C&EN in May 2007 as a Senior Editor in the ACS News & Special features group, focusing on employment issues. She spends much of her free time playing competitive tennis, visiting her son (who is an energy management major at the University of Oklahoma) and helping her daughter (who is high school senior) apply to colleges. Susan wrote this profile about our group's puzzling efforts, and then orchestrated and shepherded Nine Decades of the Central Science to help C&EN celebrate a milestone anniversary.

Martin Ashwood-Smith is on a list of the 25 most-published New York Times constructors of the Will Shortz era [> 70 puzzles; if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list that even goes back to the Eugene Maleska era], with many more (> 550) puzzles created as part of the Cross Synergy group that is published in the Washington Post, even more (> 400) for Games, the Los Angeles Times, Newday, Dell Champion, Simon & Schuster books, etc., and we're not even counting his four solo crossword books. Martin was born in London, England in 1957, and emigrated to Canada in 1969 when his father, a microbiologist, was offered a professorship at the University of Victoria. Martin himself attended UVic in the late '70s, earning a B.A. in history, but with wide-ranging interests that include astronomy and science in general, skepticism, magic (as in card tricks, not the black kind), music (classical and electronic), and weightlifting. Martin got started with a friend on cryptic crosswords for the student paper, but then became fascinated by the American-style wide-open grids by Mike Shenk, Merl Reagle and Henry Hook. It took Martin many years of practice (on paper) to develop his own proficiency, but once breaking with a Maleska acceptance in 1990, there was no looking back. Martin likens his signature triple stacks to good magic tricks, and maintains that even in this day where computer programs make such stacks easier to discover, there is still a significant element of art in the process. In a blog essay entitled "Notable Puzzles of 2013," Jim Horne says [of Martin] "I have no idea how he does it but I enjoy tackling these huge seas of white." We are proud to welcome Martin to our ranks and to host, on New Year's Eve 2013, his debut to our pages which is a themeless puzzle with an amazing quadruple stack. This was followed two months later by another quad, this time a pangram. Ever since, we've tried to couple either a quad or a double-quad on our site [complete with midrashim], coincident with Martin's MSM published puzzles, and we've also showcased Martin's flexibility by posting some of his themed puzzles. Please go to our main index and search for "Ashwood" ... Finally, MAS received the ultimate honor from our group—just try A Lot of Birthday Cake on One's Plate.

Jeff Aubé was introduced to the pleasures of organic chemistry through undergraduate research with Robert Gawley at the University of Miami, and continued with graduate and postdoctoral work mentored by Steven Baldwin (Duke) and Samuel Danishefsky (then at Yale). Jeff is now a professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Jeff’s describes his interest in crosswords as "strictly a fan and frequently frustrated solver" and blames it on his high-school job as a Sunday morning doorman in Hallandale, Florida.

Steve Bachman worked for 28 years as a UNIX systems programmer before catching the same unlucky break Lou Gehrig did. This has allowed him, at least, to fulfill his lifelong goal of early retirement. He is still waiting for the "Stephen Hawking Effect" to kick in, but to date is unable to fully grasp quantum mechanics. Steve constructed his first crossword puzzle a few years ago, and has shared a handful with friends on his blog. He is an avid birder, a Shakespeare nut, a delusional Minnesota Timberwolves fan, a Minnesota Master Naturalist, and a long time club and tournament Scrabble player (he created and maintains the Minneapolis club's website). Steve feels right at home in this group, as he has often found himself surrounded by chemists. He met his wife, chemistry professor Joann Pfeiffer, while both worked at Hamline University. He enjoyed his status there as science division groupie, and was once honored to drive Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dudley Herschbach from campus back to his hotel. He is not related to anyone in a much admired local family that is prominent in the floral business and includes a writer/advocate/inspirational speaker ... and he is most certainly not related to she who should not be named (whose name has an extra "n"). Steve's ingenious debut on our pages is called Papa Go Seek, which was followed up by the remarkable Escalation released on his birthday.  Steve also wrote the guest midrash for Tim Croce's Horse Power, and collaborated with me on the timely sports-themed Hello Loneliness ....We look forward to many more fine puzzles in the future.

Barbara Barany is a recently retired high school chemistry teacher in the Saint Paul, Minnesota public schools district (Highland Park, Saint Paul Central, and Harding), and the mother of my children Michael and Deborah. Barbara received a B.A. in chemistry and mathematics at Occidental College and earned a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Brandeis University. I met Barbara in the early 80's while she was doing postdoctoral research in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry, and was frustrated by her prowess in Scrabble plus her knowledge of "crosswordese"—more about that later. Barbara previously worked as a scientist at Honeywell where she won the 1993 Sweatt Award for inventing a UV solid state flame detector based on GaN, returned to the University of Minnesota in the M.Ed. program, taught chemistry and astronomy at Edina High School, and was elected to the Roseville Area School Board (term 2002-2005). Barbara was (spoiler) the honoree of This Puzzle's Honoree and George Washington Have Something in Common (be sure to read my "midrash"), the muse for Dedicated to the One I Love ... [released on our anniversary; the story of our courtship and how we balanced our family and professional lives is outlined in this article from the Minnesota Daily], and the inspiration for Cyclops de Mayo. Barbara collaborated with me on All in the Family, Dream Catchers, Raiders vs. Irish, Start Spreading the News!, Barn to Garden, and Fast-Breaking News; consulted on these puzzles (click here and here) about our children; and has encouraged me to develop any number of chemistry-themed puzzles [click here for overall index].

Evan Birnholz began as a chemistry major at Haverford College, then obtained a Master's in Public Health at Drexel University, and is currently a Ph.D. student in American History at Temple University. When he has been not learning (or trying to), he has been constructing puzzles (or trying to) for the last four years. His puzzles have already appeared in the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here], the Wall Street Journal (click here), the independent Twenty Under Thirty compendium, the Washington Post [3/2/14 puzzle which won a contest where puzzles were judged without their constructor's byline], and Fireball Crosswords. A regular commentator to the Rex Parker crossword blog, Evan occasionally substitutes for Rex himself, and promises at least one old-school video game or bad 80s movie reference per post. Early in 2014, Evan launched an indie crossword site, called Devil Cross, which I recommend highly for solvers above the age of 17.

Marcia Brott (camera shy) is a scientist working in the field of pharmacogenomics in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota. I met Marcia when she took a refresher chemistry course for which I was the instructor, and patiently amused herself by working through New York Times Sunday puzzle books while awaiting her turn during office hours. She is an expert solver with an eclectic collection of semi-nerdy hobbies and interests, which coincidentally includes sharing my love of opera.  Marcia placed third in the expert division of the Second Annual Minnesota Crossword Puzzle Tournament (2013). Several puzzles constructed by Marcia appear exclusively on our pages, including A Summer's Tail, Beasts (and Burdon), and Baby, It's Cold Outside—with more to be added in the near future. Marcia's print debut with me appeared in September 2013 in the Orange County Register, edited by David Steinberg, and she co-constructed Crossing Curing with Caring, which was the centerpiece of a charity benefit on our campus and reprised in the Minnesota magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (click here for a direct link). Most recently, Marcia and I constructed a rather clever (if we do say so ourselves) tribute puzzle which also appeared in the Minnesota magazine (see it here or here), and have just had two puzzles accepted for publication in the Chronicle of Higher Education, edited by Brad Wilber, and a third for the Wall Street Journal, edited by Mike Shenk.

Sabina Brukner is a long-time puzzle enthusiast who I met for the first time at the 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2014. Turns out we have several things in common, including having both grown up in the same neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, and us both being being alumni of Stuyvesant High School. Moreover, Sabina sang in the same chorus [Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana = BACH] as Anne Erdmann for two years, and actually knew Anne as a singer before she knew of her crossword prowess!  This put Sabina into a unique position (spoiler) to contribute to Rock Star, which also marks her own crossword constructing debut. Sabina speaks Yiddish and loves Yiddish music and culture and loves קעסטל–רעטענישן, i.e., crossword puzzles.

Ralph Bunker has taught Computer Science at George Washington University and Maharishi University of Management. Ralph's current project is to digitize ancient Sanskrit texts and computerize a 2500 year old Sanskrit grammar; what makes this interesting is that he does not know Sanskrit and the his Sanskrit professor collaborator does not know how to program. Ralph has written several programs to solve crossword puzzles on a computer, one of which tracks every keystroke entered and produces a report that summarizes the solving experience. Ralph has developed an app that runs on a mobile device, and let's the user write in answers with a stylus or a finger, thus obviating the need to use the device's virtual keyboard. Ralph is an inveterate solver of crosswords, coiner of the term "gridderati,"and has typed in (to date) over 700 puzzles for David Steinberg's Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. With respect to the latter, you may enjoy this interview on the occasion of Ralph being named Litzer of the Month (December 2013). Ralph would be happy to someday construct a publishable puzzle, and several of our group are standing by to help!

Zhouqin (C.C.) Burnikel runs the LA Times Crossword Corner blog. She graduated from Northwest University (Xi'An, China) in 1994, worked in Guangzhou for 6 years, and moved to the United States in 2001 [truth be told, in a Twin Cities suburb not that far from my own, something we didn't figure out until just a few months ago]. She started solving crosswords in 2008 and has dabbled with construction since 2010. C.C. was mentored by veteran constructor Don Gagliardo, and they've collaborated on over 50 crosswords for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list]. One of my favorites is this puzzle, which is evocative of a different puzzle and this comment on our own pages.

Richard Caldwell is a cyberfriend who came to my attention through his regular postings as "retired chemist" on the Rex Parker crossword blog. Educated at the University of California at Berkeley where his Ph.D. mentor was Andrew Streitwieser, Richard was on the chemistry faculty at Cornell University before moving to the University of Texas at Dallas where he spent the majority of his career working in the general area of physical organic photochemistry. Richard currently operates the Glengowan Golden kennel. With his wife Patti, he has recently begun to show pugs as well as golden retrievers. They have shown some twenty dogs to their championships and several of both breeds have been nationally ranked.

Jeff Chen is a bright new star among crossword constructors, with over a dozen puzzles published in the New York Times since his debut a little over three years ago [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list, and click on Jeff's name for an interesting profile about his eclectic background]. Jeff graciously agreed with my posting of Chemistry 101, an ingenious puzzle he wrote with his wife Jill Denny, as well as a solo effort entitled 104.5 Degrees of Separation. Jeff recently published a book called Bridge Crosswords, which I am pleased to give my highest recommendation; it has (you guessed it) 52 puzzles focused on the classic card game. While I have not had the personal privilege of collaborating with Jeff, note that he has mentored friends Loren Smith and John Verel each to their first Los Angeles Times published crossword. Jeff is also (spoiler) the subject of You Rule!, a tribute puzzle (with an interesting backstory) by another Barany friend. Finally, it should be noted that in the midst of the dog days of summer 2013, the crossword community was alternately saddened by the news of Jim Horne's announcement of plans to phase out xwordinfo.com, and electrified by the news that Jeff would be stepping in as the savior of this invaluable resource [see this October 2013 blog post from Jim Horne for additional perspective on how this is working out].

 

Josh Conescu is neither a scientist nor a resident of the state of Minnesota, and he has yet to create his first crossword puzzle.  So how, you may wonder, did he stumble into this august group?  Josh’s younger sister Rachel is married to my younger brother Francis, that's how.  Josh grew up on Long Island, graduated from The University of Vermont with a BA in Theatre (note the spelling, that’s a giveaway), and also holds an M. Ed. from Lesley University in Arts Education.  When not dabbling in crossword puzzle solving, Josh can be found teaching in schools and synagogues around the Boston area.  He is particularly interested in helping pre-Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrants wrestle with their Torah portions (a service he provides virtually anywhere in the cyber-world).  He can often be found in a movie theatre, or sitting in front of the television watching old movies (especially anything by Woody Allen). Josh is a huge baseball fan [Yankees, Pirates, Mariners, and Nate Frieman of the A's], and every time we get together at family events, we kick around themes for a joint puzzle in this arena.

 

Tim Croce is a New Englander born and bred. He holds a bachelor's degree (2005) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut, married his college sweetheart, and took a job in the City of Pittsfield Engineering Department [located in the heart of the Massachusetts Berkshires].  Tim is an avid sports fan, numbering among his favorites the UConn Huskies [this included a 4-year stint in the marching band and pep band, and being present the first time, in 2004, that both basketball teams won national championships, and seeing the football team play in (and win) their first ever bowl game], as well as the Boston Red Sox and Patriots.  In terms of hockey, he casually followed the Hartford Whalers as a young kid before they skipped town, and his disillusionment ended only with his move to Pittsfield when he picked up rooting for the Bruins.  Tim grew up doing crosswords with his mother, and considers solving them to be in his blood [three of his four grandparents, albeit not his otherwise gifted father]. Tim caught the construction bug after a high school English teacher started assigned the daily New York Times puzzles as homework, and was hooked ever since receiving his first acceptance email from Will Shortz in September 2008 [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list of Tim's > perfect number of published puzzles]. The subject (spoiler) of Tim's debut puzzle to our pages, Ladies and Gentlemen ..., should come as no surprise to any careful reader of this biosketch.  His second puzzle for us, Horse Power, was a memorable tribute on a significant sports anniversary, and his third, Look Both Ways ... well, you will just have to judge for yourself!   We look forward to many more.

Michael David grew up in Minneapolis and has been teaching high school math in Portage, Wisconsin since 2004.  He is a 2003 graduate of Ripon College, where he majored in Mathematics and French, and holds a 2012 master's degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. Michael has had three New York Times puzzles to date [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], and has been profiled here, here, and here [this latter includes a 16-minute audio podcast].  Michael's other hobbies include attending Scrabble tournaments and playing piano.

Nate Davidson joined my organosulfur chemistry research lab at the University of Minnesota in 2010, as an undergraduate directed studies student, and has continued as a research assistant.  Along the way, he received a B.S. in Chemistry (Summer 2013).  Nate's knowledge of HTML and overall computer expertise have come in handy when we're faced with Dreamweaver crises.

Charles Deber (on left of photo, taken June 2013 in Hawaii) of the University of Toronto has been my friend and professional colleague for three decades—we go to the same scientific meetings, serve on the same review panels, visit each other's campuses for seminars, etc.—but most important for purposes of this forum, he was my original crossword mentor [check out ___ to the 16th American Peptide Symposium]. In the crossword biz, CD is absolutely legendary, having published over 35 puzzles (mostly cutting-edge Sundays) in the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list, and check out this for his "virtual" interview with Jim Horne]. I collaborated with Charlie's equally brilliant wife Raisa to create a puzzle in honor of his recent odometer birthday, but you'll have to come to my Minneapolis office to see a framed copy [the framed original is in CD's Toronto office]. On the occasion of the 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle, Charles was featured in this article in the Toronto Star, and there is a companion 5-min video in which he explains how to construct a Sunday New York Times themed puzzle (140 words).  Finally, it is a pleasure for us to host three additional Deber puzzles that have not been previously published, It's Elementary, Science as a Second Language, and All You Need is Love, and to share our most recent collaboration, A Special Construction for a Special Deconstructor.

Sean Dobbin is a teacher in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, where he lives with his wife and son. A native New Yorker (upstate, apple country, on the lake), Sean is a graduate of two SUNY schools and holds a B.A. and M.A. in English. He became seriously interested in crossword puzzles during his college years, solving between classes or in coffee shops with his future wife.  Over time, that interest grew into a minor obsession, then a major one, and eventually evolved into an interest in construction, which he does whenever he can find the time [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list of his New York Times puzzles to date].  Outside of his own private puzzleworld, Sean teaches a credit-bearing class he calls "Cruciverbalism," focused on vocabulary, writing fundamentals and general linguistics, and centered on solving and constructing puzzles [look for the class's first publication in the Los Angeles Times in April 2014!]. Sean is also the proprietor of the recently established blog Man vs.Puzzle, where he hopes to prove over time that good, fun, even harsh puzzle criticism can be constructive without being insulting or rude [GB adds: I strongly encourage my friends to frequent Sean's blog, and comment liberally].  His other hobbies include powerlifting, making the perfect Manhattan, and schooling his 4-year-old on the Nintendo (8-bit, of course).        

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter spends her days solving, blogging, and constructing crossword puzzles.  Since starting construction just a few years ago [2011; please click here for an interview on the occasion of her debut], she has had more than 40 puzzles published, primarily in the Los Angeles Times.  Marti has been skiing since the age of two, and at one time planned to become a professional ski bunny. When that didn’t pan out, she turned to golf, since everyone knows that professional golfers make way more money than ski bunnies. After making her first hole-in-one, Marti concluded that the bar tab at the clubhouse was more than any potential earnings. Dejected by past failures, and needing to put food on the table, Marti now dabbles in exporting biomedical products to Europe. We are proud to feature the previously unpublished Top Bananas, as well as, on the exact 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle, Think Twice (with its fascinating back-story). Hopefully. 2014 will bring us additional examples of Marti's creativity.

Noam Elkies, whose academic career is at Harvard, followed me on the Stuyvesant High School Math Team by about a decade (graduated in 1982), but stayed in the math field where he has made a number of seminal discoveries [learn more by clicking here]. Noam is a longtime member of the National Puzzlers' League (NPL), where he goes by א.  Besides crossword puzzles, our common interests include music and chess. Noam's byline appears on Going Gentile Into That Good Night and The Old Song and Dance, his fingerprints are all over many additional puzzles found on these pages, and we have several exciting collaborations in the pipeline. Furthermore, please click here for a page of word puzzles that Noam has constructed over the years that we think will be of interest to regular visitors to our site. Finally, please enjoy this 80-minute video entitled "Canonical forms: a mathematician's view of musical canons" (recorded January 2013).

Anne Erdmann (camera shy, but read on) is a geologist at the Illinois State Geological Survey, where she arrived via a biology degree from Caltech and a geophysics degree from the University of Minnesota. Anne has been doing crosswords almost since she learned to read at age 3, and has placed as high as second at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Unlike most other top solvers, Anne has never constructed a crossword, and is awe of those who do—she can’t imagine filling in something as simple as a 3x3 square on her own, even if you spotted her a couple of words! In her spare time, Anne sings in the Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana = BACH, runs, reads voraciously, and travels (more than 80 countries so far). One of her most satisfying overseas experiences was the seven months she spent in Matatiele and Johannesburg, South Africa, doing volunteer work on environmental issues. She also enjoys travel photography—the photo to the left was taken by Anne in Timbuktu (Mali). For a look inside Anne’s solving brain, see this interview by Jim Horne of (at the time) the New York Times Wordplay blog, in which all speed-solving secrets are revealed... well, maybe not all of them.  Finally, Anne was (spoiler) the honoree of Rock Star, which we hope you enjoy.

Kristen Evenson holds a B.F.A. in Photography and a B.A. in Art History, but tired of the starving artist's life and turned to science. Having worked in both academics and industry, she currently resides in an pharmacogenetics lab at the University of Minnesota. Kristen has a long history with puzzles, stemming from countless hours on family road trips trying to stay amused, and sealing the addiction with a birthday gift of Games magazine when it first came out. When not trying to wrap her head around a puzzle, she also likes crafts, music, cooking and camping or some combo thereof, especially with her son, Toby.

Dan Feyer is the reigning five-time champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), who can solve our puzzles (even those on esoteric topics outside of his core expertises) in less time than it takes us to fill them in while staring at the answer key. A San Francisco-based musician/pianist by day (recently relocated from New York), Dan has been profiled (click here and here) by the alumni magazine of his alma mater, Princeton University, as well as by the New York Times [click here, and be sure to invest a minute and a half to watch an awesome video clip]. Just like I am of Hungarian origin and have Gustav Mahler dangling off a distant branch of the family tree, Dan is the grandson of the remarkable Hungarian-born composer/pianist/bon vivant György Fejér [1908-2001; name Anglicized to George Feyer]. In addition to his solving chops, Dan has constructed several puzzles for the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list]. He runs the minimalist Not a Blog blog, and was gracious enough to crosslist our site.

Jed Fisher started at the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry the year before I did, and we've been close personal friends and scientific colleagues ever since—this includes through his subsequent positions in Kalamazoo and South Bend. Jed spoke at the dedication of the Kate and Michael Bárány Conference Room in July 2012, and it was my pleasure to surprise him with the Celebrated Chemical Cycle puzzle a couple of months later. In December 2013, Jed's byline finally appeared on one of our puzzles, namely Doubly Distinguished.

Charles Flaster  is a native New Yorker, and one of his childhood friends was Warren Choset, father of constructor Kevan. Back to Charles, he earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Brooklyn College in 1967, and an M.B.A. from Drexel University in 1974. Charles taught secondary school mathematics for 42 years in the New York City and Philadelphia suburbs, retiring in 2010. He roots for the various Philadelphia professional sports franchises: Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, and Flyers. For the past two years, Charles has supplemented his long-time interest (since 1960) in solving New York Times crossword puzzles by being a regular commentator on the Rex Parker crossword blog. I was pleased to work with Charles on his debut crossword puzzle, called Even Odds.

Lloyd Fricker (on right in photo) is an eminent peptide biologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and one of the funniest people I know. He has written two books, How to Write a REALLY Bad Grant Application (and Other Helpful Advice For Scientists) and Succeed in Science and Avoid Getting a Real Job, both of which I recommend highly. His synopsis of Il Destino di Grant Application, which was a sensation back in the late 1990's, inspired Gary Gisselman and me to write Peptide Ångst: La Triviata, which was performed at the closing banquet of the 16th American Peptide Symposium.

Ben Geisbauer (on left of photo) is my pal in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. Together we constructed the Crossword Puzzle That's the Reel Deal, Mauer's Double, Piano Man, and Let's Make a Deal!, while I constructed Can This Man Still Be Trusted? and Dr. Mericle Worker at Fairview Lakes Medical Center for two momentous occasions in Ben's life.

 

Hayley Gold (link is to her portfolio) is currently a 4th year cartooning major at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, but unlike most of her peers, she prefers writing to drawing. Hayley has already made several comics and been published in comics anthologies.  In particular, Hayley's short comic Nervosa won the silver medal in 2014 in the Society of Illustrators Comics and Cartooning Annual and it is her goal to turn this into a longer, graphic novel. Hayley has dabbled in puzzle writing, and even has published some variety cryptics that she co-wrote with Roger Wolff, but she prefers solving to construction. She does the New York Times puzzle daily, and visually blogs about it on in her webcomic, Across and Down, which I recommend with the highest level of enthusiasm. Hayley's print comics can be viewed and purchased at her portfolio and Etsy pages respectively. Follow Hayley's blog, Facebook, or twitter for updates on her work and news of appearances at NYC comics events. Hayley's debut on our pages was entitled C's the Birthday!, a commissioned comic which paid tribute to an odometer milestone for another friend.

Elizabeth Gorski needs no introduction to the crossword community, insofar as she is one of the most-published constructors at The New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], as well as a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other venues. Liz is a four-time winner of Simon & Schuster’s Margaret Award, and was named by Jim Horne as  2013's Constructor of the Year. Gorski invented the modern “Connect-The-Dots” crossword form, the first of which was published in The New York Times in December 2003, and wrote the first ebook devoted to this new puzzle genre. Furthermore, Liz is Managing Editor of Crossword Nationa premium provider of weekly puzzles for mobile, desktop and print solvers. Her work is commissioned by advertising agencies and private clients.  She has created custom puzzles for libraries and museums, including the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, and even contributed commissioned puzzles for the 2009 Sandra Bullock comedy All About Steve.  A graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, Gorski lives in New York City. When she’s not gigging on the viola, she plays the blues guitar and loves to dance the flamenco. For a wonderful recent profile about Liz, please click here.

Todd Gross got into constructing crosswords at the suggestion of Bill MacDonald (NPL nom Frivolosaurus Rex), and made his New York Times debut in 2009 with Let's Play Bingo (click here to see the bingo card placed in the center of the grid). Since then, he has reached the ten puzzle NYT milestone [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], and also been published in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. Todd also works as a proofreader on David Steinberg's Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. Todd got to experience a Minnesota winter while working for IBM in Rochester, in 1998-99 [moving there right before Jesse Ventura was elected Governor] and is grateful to have missed the Deep Freeze of 2014.  His impressive debut puzzle on our pages is the Sunday-sized punfest Plastic Surgery, which was followed up by the amazingly interlocked Sunday-sized Literally Labeled Luminaries.

Robert Hammer is currently the Peptide Chemistry Group Leader at Ra Pharmaceuticals and an elected member of the American Peptide Society Council. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1985, his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota with me in 1990, and did postdoctoral research (1990-1992) with Albert Eschenmoser at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Bob then rose through the ranks at Louisiana State University, where he became the William A. Pryor Professor of Chemistry and was also a director of the LSU Peptide and Protein Facility for 13 years. He was a recipient of the LSU Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003 and recognized as part of the "Scientific American 50" in 2006 for his research related to amyloid peptides. Culminating our history of collaborating on numerous landmark studies and inventions throughout all facets of Bob's graduate, academic, and private sector career, we finally constructed a puzzle together: Mass. Action, at a time when he was (spoiler) head of chemical development efforts at New England Peptide.

Michael Hanko is a 1986 graduate of Princeton University who, beyond his day job described in this puzzle, is an expert crossword solver/analyst, and the author/performer of a recently premiered cabaret-style piece called Platoon Lieder, which explains how he survived as a gay soldier in the pre-DADT ("don't ask, don't tell") era. Michael is currently at work on a new show—tentatively titled Lieder Crisis—about his mid-life crisis, using music from Schumann's Opus 39, Liederkreis. Michael's crossword debut puzzle with me was entitled Debatable Strategy: Carry a Big Shtick which was followed up by The Union Forever, New Year's Eve 2012: A Nation on the Brink, Platoon Lieder: the Official Crossword Puzzle, Going Gentile Into That Good Night, Comparable Worth, A Travesty of Justices, The Old Song and Dance, Elba Was He ..., Doubly Distinguished, A Tribute to N.C. Wyeth: The 40th Worst Crossword in the Universe, One Who's Old at Heart, Rock Star, and Sea Change. We hope to break into the mainstream media in the not-so-distant future. Fans of Michael may enjoy (spoiler) Valvaithankoshtam, which was written to help celebrate a "lucky number squared" birthday that coincided with his visit to the Twin Cities. A year later, we commissioned Hayley Gold to create C's the Birthday!, a comic which paid tribute to Michael's odometer milestone.

David Hanson grew up, and has spent his career to date, in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. He graduated from Mariner High School in White Bear Lake in 1982 and from the University of Minnesota with a B. Mathematics in 1986, and then worked with the University of Minnesota Physicians (Minneapolis), Allianz Life Insurance Company (Golden Valley), and Fortis Benefits Insurance Company (Woodbury). Dave's current position is Chargemaster Analyst with Gillette Children's Hospital in Saint Paul. Puzzlewise, he has had crosswords published in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, and two of his creations were chosen by Will Shortz as the weekly qualifying quiz for the NPR's Sunday Puzzle. Dave has been a member of the National Puzzlers' League since 1997, with the nom rosebud. His debut on our pages was the ingenious Chain, Chain, Chain.....Chain of Fools.

 

Brent Hartzell served as Mayor Dave Bing's final budget director for the City of Detroit, Michigan, from May 2012 through December 2013. His Minnesota family roots go back to the 1890s. Brent was born in Duluth, earned a bachelor's degree at Gustavus Adolphus College, and added a master's degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota before beginning a career in public policy analysis and government budgeting. He advised Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush in Florida and served as an appointee in the George W. Bush Administration at the U.S. Department of Education. Brent enjoys provocative discussions on crossword puzzles [he is a very fast solver; look on the New York Times puzzle applet for his nom de plume of floridaqqq], jazz, soccer, theology, political economy, and all things Gopher. Brent's crossword debut puzzle with me was entitled Purple All Day, released on the day of an important gridiron rematch in the first round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. We subsequently collaborated on Skol is Out, Irish Miss?, Marooned and Galled, The Final Four, and Barn Stormers, and we finally met in person during the Labor Day weekend of 2013, at a Dinkytown bistro. Yet another sports-themed tribute, namely Love Forty, was first sketched out at that meeting, while our longer-term goal remains to break into the mainstream puzzling media [Factor of Six was a close call, and you may yet find it to be a worthwhile challenge]. You may enjoy solving Number 46, which (spoiler) honors Brent, relive one of the most memorable days in recent local sports history by tackling Take It to the Bank!, and sample some baseball "immortality" with Chicks Dig the Long Ball, What Do These Great Sluggers Have in Common?, and It Was Thirty Years Ago Today. Brent's Start Spreading the News!, was by happy coincidence posted on the same day as some news that he had long awaited, and was quickly followed up by Barn to Garden, and Fast-Breaking News. Moving forward, Brent demonstrated his versatility and knowledge of history by taking us down the Road to Appomattox, and emphasizing the Princip of the Thing, and he also (spoiler) honored his mother with Who is She? Most recently, Brent returned to his sports roots with Go Gophers!

Martin Herbach (on right of photo, with his grandfather) is retired from the software biz after a varied (checkered?) career that included development of supercomputer compilers and an early PC spreadsheet program, and concluded with a decade-long gig at IBM. He lives in Silicon Valley and keeps busy with about 50 crosswords a week, including test-solving the New York Times puzzles, serious cooking [e.g., paella, here as cooked by Martin], volunteer work, travel, a bit of fishing and Japanese flower arranging (ikebana). Martin grew up as a rabid Brooklyn Dodgers fan but now roots for the 2010 and 2012 World Series champion Giants (one-time Polo Grounds rivals, but now ensconsced in San Francisco). Martin and I connected first shortly after this, and have been in regular communication ever since. Martin's byline appears on The Old Song and Dance and Elba Was He ..., and hardly a puzzle of ours comes out without his insightful contributions (especially to our political puzzles). You may enjoy reading this delightful profile about Martin, this interview on the occasion of him being named Litzer of the Month (June 2013) for David Steinberg's Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, and note that our hero makes an appearance as 63-Across in The Djerassi Gambit, and Others. With all of these crossworld bona fides, it may surprise you to learn that Martin's MSM debut as a co-constructor (with me, and brilliantly edited by Brad Wilber) came in September 2014, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for The Ring of Truth.

Nancy Herther received her M.L.S. degree from the University of Minnesota, with a minor in Adult and Continuing Education. After working in the private sector and as a research consultant, she returned to the U in 1985, where she is currently the Librarian for Sociology, Anthropology, American Studies & Asian American Studies. In addition, Nancy is Secretary (2011-2014) and President-Elect (as of Summer 2014) of the local chapter of the scientific research society Sigma Xi. Among her honors are the 2007 Martha L. Stanley award from the Minnesota Association for Adult & Continuing Education (MACAE) and the 2010 Outstanding Reviewer Award from The Electronic Library (Emerald). She enjoys blogging about technology, information and our changing intellectual environment. Nancy loves crossword puzzles and sudoku—but Rubik's cubes drive her up the wall! Nancy's debut puzzle, written for an auspicious anniversary, will have to be embargoed just a bit longer while we await an editorial decision from the mainstream media.

Donna Huryn is a distinguished medicinal chemist, currently splitting her effort between the University of Pennsylvania Department of Chemistry and the the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. Donna and I got to know each other through the American Chemical Society and collaborated on Kelly's Hero. This special puzzle was a tribute to a mutual friend and colleague who was a legend in the peptide field.

Jon Jeffryes is currently an Engineering Librarian at the University of Minnesota. He received his B.A. in English from Grinnell College, and his M.A.-L.I.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He started doing the TV Guide crossword as a kid, getting introduced to crosswordese favorites such as EMU, ETUI, and YMA. He moved on to the New York Times puzzle bizarro versions in the Des Moines Register as a study break while at Grinnell, and has done the puzzle daily since. Jon is also a fan of cryptic crosswords and mystery novels. He competed in the 2013 edition of the Minnesota Crossword Tournament sponsored by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. On February 28, 2014 (spoiler), Jon was the subject of One Who's Old at Heart.

Ben Jones is a native North Carolinian currently living in Connecticut and not enjoying the cold winters. A 2012 graduate of Duke, Ben studied Economics (B.S. - pun intended), Finance, and Chinese (B.A.). His main activity apart from class was working as an equipment manager for Duke Football (yes, there are non-basketball sports at Duke), which for the first time ever, will make its second consecutive bowl game in 2013. His interests include marathon running (has run a marathon in 20 of the 50 states), hiking (has highpointed 12 of the 50 states), crossing words, micro-distilling and the two-dollar bill

Karen Kaler is currently the "First Lady" of the University of Minnesota. A native of Tennessee and holder of a communication design B.F.A. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Karen met Eric Kaler—who is now the President of the U of M—back in 1979, while the latter was a Minnesota Chemical Engineering & Materials Science graduate student carrying out summer research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After stints in the Twin Cities, Seattle, Delaware, and Stony Brook (NY), the Kalers returned to Minnesota in 2011. Among Karen's numerous volunteer and charity activities, she is involved in (spoiler) support of the Masonic Cancer Center, the subject of Crossing Curing with Caring. Karen is also a huge Golden Gophers fan, and her fingerprints are all over (spoilers) Take It to the Bank! and (with byline!) The Puck Stops Here (at Ridder), Start Spreading the News!, Barn to Garden, Fast-Breaking News, and (of course) Go Gophers!

Dan Kantor is a published author and composer, musician, graphic designer and brand strategist, and the co-owner of the Kantor Group brand consultancy which is based in the crossword-friendly Twin Cities suburb of EDINA. Kantor received a B.A. in music from the College of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, carried out graduate studies at Hamline University, also in Saint Paul, and has taught in the Fast Trak program at the Opus College of Business at Saint Thomas. Early in his career, Kantor helped launch Finale, one of the world's standards in music notation software.  Dan's choral composition Night of Silence, published by GIA, was composed in his college dorm room in 1981.  This popular holiday composition has made its way into hymnals, concert settings, and recordings all over the world.  Dan has had nine puzzles published in the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], including several fun collaborations with Jay Kaskel (see below).

Jay Kaskel is a freelance advertising writer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota whose work for clients such as Target, BMW Motorcycles, 3M, Snap Fitness, Health Partners, and many more, has appeared in print, as well as on TV, radio, and the web. One of his TV spots for Breathe Right nasal strips appeared during Super Bowl XXX. To see more examples of Jay's work, please click on his name at the beginning of the paragraph. Jay, a Chicago native, and long-time suffering Cubs fan, received a B.S. in Advertising from the University of Illinois. To date, Jay has published six New York Times puzzles [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], half in collaboration with his friend and colleague Dan Kantor (see above). One of these ran on Christmas eve 2010 and was the subject of this delightful writeup in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In the "small world, isn't it?" category, Jay's son Carson was instructed in chemistry at Highland Park High School by none other than Barbara Barany, who is related to me by marriage.


Joseph Konstan is another Stuyvesant High School alum (graduated in 1983), current University of Minnesota colleague in a sister Department, and past President of Mount Zion synagogue which I attend occasionally. We collaborated on At Your Service.

 

Miriam Krause grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of St. Louis Park, then moved around for a while. She got her BA in geology from Pomona College and then taught high school science as a Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa. After returning to the University of Minnesota for graduate school she went on to spend three years in Ohio as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Bowling Green State University, but is now back in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes once more. Miriam has dabbled in musical theater since childhood and in crossword construction since seeing Wordplay in 2006. Her debut puzzle with me is called Damon's Demons, and is found exclusively on these pages.

Meghan Lafferty received her A.B. in Chemistry from Smith College, followed by 3 years at the University of Georgia working toward a Ph.D. in Chemistry when she recognized that she would rather be in the library than in the lab. After working in the Georgia libraries for a few years, Meghan moved to the University of North Carolina from where she earned an M.S.L.S. degree. Meghan has been the librarian for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Minnesota ever since, and as such serves as a remarkable resource to our faculty and students, myself included. On the recreational side of Meghan's activities, she took the initiative, since May 2012, to bring our group's puzzles to students as part of the Science and Engineering Libraries program of "finals week study break" activities. In February 2014, we collaborated on One Who's Old at Heart, a tribute to another Barany friend, which was Meghan's debut effort in crossword construction.

Ken Leopold is currently the Taylor Distinguished Teaching Professor and Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. He and his wife Doreen have been among my closest friends and colleagues ever since they joined the staff in the Fall of 1986. Among Ken's many mitzvahs was to emcee the dedication of the Kate and Michael Bárány Conference Room in July 2012. On a momentous personal occasion in Ken's life, Michael Shteyman and I, with behind-the-scenes assistance from Doreen, surprised him with (spoiler) 20-Across Version 2.5. More recently, Ken was (another spoiler) one of the stars of What are the Odds?  Like his chemistry research (see link to his name at the beginning of this paragraph), Ken's crossword puzzle contributions emphasize quality over quantity, and you will find his impish clue ideas scattered through a number of our chemistry-themed puzzles. Ken has also recently written and recorded an EP entitled Bedtime for a Microprocessor and Other Short Piano Pieces. Copies are available on request.

David Liben-Nowell is a faculty member in the computer science department at Carleton College, whose path to Minnesota went via upstate New York, Cambridge, and Cambridge. David's research focuses on social networks, and he has written about a dozen crosswords for the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list], the New York Sun, Games, and Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzle collection. Recently, David has been dabbling with Psychobabble, a kind of network-based word game produced by Ultralingua.

Sandy Lipsky recently retired after more than half a century on the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry faculty. Look up "mensch" in the dictionary, and you'll find Sandy's picture. He shares my passion for opera, ballet, film, and Jewish humor, but alas, not for crossword puzzles. In spite of himself, Sandy has been a good sounding board for various puzzles that are drawn from topics in math and science.

Mark Lipton is currently a professor of Organic Chemistry/Chemical Biology at Purdue University whose undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral education was respectively at Harvey Mudd, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Mark and his wife Jean Chmielewski shared a puzzle-solving prize at the 16th American Peptide Symposium that I hosted in 1999 in Minneapolis, and our puzzling paths crossed again when Mark edited H-B Oration. The latter effort was lauded in this on-line article [posted May 22 to go with May 27, 2013 issue; use this short URL: http://cenm.ag/puzzle] in Chemical & Engineering News, the official magazine of the American Chemical Society.

 

Paul Luftig (on left of photo) is a relative-by-marriage who remains active after a remarkable career in the world of finance. We worked together on This Puzzle's Honoree Has Something in Common with Warren Buffett and Ted Williams, Portrait of a Puzzling Lady, The Union Forever, New Year's Eve 2012: A Nation on the Brink, 2 x 1,815 = 3,630, A Novel Puzzle, and Alexander's Ragtime Bandleader: A Quasiquicentennial Tribute. Additional projects are in the pipeline. Paul shares a birthday with a number of very famous individuals, as revealed in Ode to Joy.

Robert Mark is a native New Yorker, who escaped in the mid-1980s after a 3-year stint at Newsday to resettle in Portland, Oregon. Robert holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hofstra University and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Portland State University. After teaching English at Lewis and Clark College and Portland Community College for a few years, he took a position teaching at Silpakorn University of Fine Arts in Thailand. He taught English and American Literature for 12 years in Japan, first at  Shinshu University (in Nagano) and then at Kyushu University (in Fukuoka). Robert and his wife Nassanan now make their home in Phuket, Thailand, where he has been teaching upper school English at the British International School, Phuket for the past ten years. He authored one Thai university textbook and co-authored another in Japan. The Marks return to Portland each summer on holiday, as well as to see their two grown daughters.  Robert has been an avid New York Times puzzle solver for most of his life and has only recently dipped his proverbial toe into the pool of puzzle construction. He has had a few published in the local Phuket Gazette newspaper, but has set his sights on getting at least one into a major MSM publication, and we're here to help.   Robert is an avid film buff, a decent chess player, and a dedicated lap swimmer.  He follows the major sports, and is a lifelong fan of the New York (footballl) Giants and (obviously baseball) Yankees. 

Christie Martin currently works with me (mostly on things unrelated to crossword puzzles), and helps keep this website up-to-date and is also responsible for setting up and handling our Facebook page. Christie holds a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Carleton College and Master of Public Health in Community Health Education from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She recently completed the Leadership in Health Information Technology for Health Professionals Certificate program and started the Master of Nursing program at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in September. I have known Christie since she took an introductory organic chemistry course with me in 2003, following which she was associated with my research lab for a few years, working on an interesting project in organosulfur chemistry. Christie subsequently took on a myriad of roles in the medical and public health care fields before reappearing to the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry in the Summer of 2012. My puzzle Peace Out (spoiler) introduced solvers to Christie's background and a subset of her varied interests, and (more spoilers) a milestone birthday inspired Perfect Square and Perfect Triangle. Christie's constructing debut, written as part of a class project, is called Physiology Phun!.

Deane Morrison is a highly experienced and accomplished editor and science writer in the Office of University Relations at the University of Minnesota. We met years ago when she did stories about me, both about my research and about my initial forays into crossword construction. Now we are good friends and collaborate on a series of puzzles for the Minnesota magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. There are: A Puzzle to Gopher (Summer 2012), A Herstoric Gopher Puzzle (Fall 2012), Over the River and through the Grid (Winter 2013), Talking to U (Spring 2013), A Puzzle to Circumnavigate (Summer 2013), and Goldy's Blocks (Fall 2013), with more to come. Deane also co-constructed Crossing Curing with Caring, which was the centerpiece of a charity benefit on our campus and reprised in the Winter 2014 issue of the Minnesota magazine.

Jan Morse is a long-time friend who is a certified mediator and, since 1987, ombudsman and director of the Student Conflict Resolution Center at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, she was responsible for launching the U of M Academic Civility Initiative and currently leads the U of M work group on mentoring and advising graduate and professional students. Jan's fingerprints are on several of my teaching and puzzling efforts of the past decade, and we're still trying to get through our backlog of theme ideas. You may also enjoy watching our collaborative video (10 min) from 2005—entitled "Are You in the Mood for Chemistry?"—in which we taught students in a large entry-level organic chemistry class the principles of various reactions by swing dancing!

Andrew Myers is currently the Amory Houghton Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University [click on his name to learn more about his distinguished academic background and research contributions]. Andy test solves our math and science-themed puzzles, often during down time at airports while traveling between conferences.

Jane O'Brien is the Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota. Her undergraduate degree was in Philosophy and English Literature at the College of Saint Catherine, and her graduate work at the College of Saint Thomas was is in Curriculum and Instruction and English for Speakers of Other Languages. Jane's career path over the decades looks like something one might see on an osciilloscope; points of employment range from community college to health care management to refugee work to the U of M. Hobbies are also a bit disconnected (not BTW a good trait for a budding crossword constructor!) and include running (when the weather allows), knitting, biking, kakuro, and bridge.

Jenna Orkin and I have been friends since a few weeks before my Ph.D. thesis was due on April Fool's Day in 1977, and have numerous common interests including music [she holds degrees from Oxford and was a teaching fellow at Julliard when we met] and politics [she is currently runs the news desk at the Collapse Network and authored a fascinating book that I recommend highly]. On the morning of 9/11, Jenna's son was in class at my alma mater, Stuyvesant High School, at its new location four blocks north of Ground Zero, which led directly to her environmental activism [for more information, click here]. Jenna's father Harvey was an agent and novelist who inspired the 1980 film Tribute, and her mother Gisella danced "Too Darn Hot" in the original Broadway production (1948) of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate.

Tom Pepper is, by day, Finance Director of the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan, and, by night, a star of our local constructing community [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for examples of his work]. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press ran a nice article about Tom short(z)ly after his debut New York Times puzzle was published in February 2012. His debut puzzle on our pages was an encore of Executive Decision, an ingenious offering from February 2013, and reprised [spoiler: for obvious reasons] on November 22, 2013. This was followed up by Rhymes with ... in May 2014.


Chris Philpot is a wordplay addict from West Sussex in the United Kingdom. His parents are fans of the British game show Countdown, which Chris first watched from his highchair. Once he had mastered the alphabet, word puzzles were a natural progression. In his teens, Chris learnt [sic; click here for usage convention across the pond] that his grandmother had enjoyed the Times cryptic crossword. He decided to learn how to solve them, using consecutive editions to deduce how clues from one day resolved to the solution from the next. An insightful article from a website called H2G2 (managed at the time by the BBC) filled in the gaps, and an obsession was born. Today, Chris holds a first class honours degree in Media Production, accredited by the University of Surrey. During his degree, he was lucky enough to work on live TV productions aired on the BBC and Sky. On the other side of the lens, Chris has been a contestant on three game shows: The Common Denominator, The Chase, and the aforementioned childhood favourite Countdown. Also keen on web design, he now works full-time for Sussex-based search engine optimisation company fifty6, and maintains his own website and blog. Chris's cryptic of choice appears in the i daily newspaper. For insight into how Chris and I became acquainted, first solve Puzzazz New Year 15 and then (spoiler) delve into its solution page and the associated links.

Phil Platt was, until October 2014, the Marketing and Membership Director of the Campus Club at the University of Minnesota. His checkered career has included street singing in Europe and real jobs with the United Arts Council (now Springboard for the Arts), Minnesota Public Radio, Twin Cities Public TV, and the Minnesota High Tech Council. For fun he sings with a local group, The Eddies. For additional fun, he does a lot of crosswords while attempting to analyze the constructors' twisted minds. He claims that he could quit crosswords any day, but hasn't yet and is unlikely to.

Arlene Romoff [on right of photo—do you recognize who she is with and where the photo was taken?] is a devoted advocate and author in the area of hearing loss. She gradually lost all her hearing as an adult over a period of 25 years, and regained it through the miracle of cochlear implants. Her popular books on the subject include Hear Again: Back to Life with a Cochlear Implant (Sterling, 2002) and Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing (Charlesbridge/Imagine, 2011). Her advocacy initiatives have led to unprecedented access in the arts and at public events, garnering her many awards. Particularly meaningful were the New Jersey Legislative Resolutions honoring her advocacy work, and a Humanitarian Award bestowed by NYC theater producers for innovating live theater captioning. Arlene, who like many of my friends is an avid crossword solver and opera lover, came to my attention through her friendship with Paul Luftig, a business colleague of her late husband, Ira, and (spoiler) her story inspired me to write Hooked on Bionics. Her debut puzzle with me should strike our solvers as Haguely Familiar. Recently, Arlene spear-headed efforts to bring our pages into the world of social media, and located among her personal papers this hand-written correspondence about this Saturday January 5, 1991 puzzle with Eugene Maleska, one-time crossword editor of the New York Times. We are also proud to share unusual announcements (spoilers) of the births of Arlene's first granddaughter and first grandson. Finally, it was my pleasure to spend a Sunday with Arlene, as we first watched the finals of the 2014 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and followed by writing Rock Star (click here for a photo souvenir.)

Amelia Rosner has known me since we were both on the Wagner Junior High School Math Team [1967-1968; in the linked photo, focus on middle row far right vs. front row far left], and then we lost touch for over three decades. Our reacquaintance was catalyzed by the publication of this puzzle which came out just as New York City was coming to grips with Hurricane Sandy, and we subsequently established numerous common interests including puzzles, opera, progressive politics, and the stories of lives well led. In fact, Amelia was (until the end of 2013) the diva of this fascinating website, which I recommend highly, and was featured in Marilyn Johnson's book The Dead Beat. That's the weird stuff. The more normal stuff? Amelia has a husband, Richard Hyfler, a self-described semimath and the writer of the Bury the Lead blog on the Forbes website, and two grown children, and lives in the same apartment that she grew up in.  She has made her living writing ads for cough cough years. Some examples: explaining junks bonds for Drexel Burnham, introducing the world to the real Sara Lee, working with Joe DiMaggio for the Bowery, and torturing you for the past 8 years with Cymbalta's Depression Hurts campaign. In March 2014, Amelia made her debut on these pages with Who's Got the Last Laugh Now?, and followed that shortly thereafter with Rock Star.

Ellen Ross hails from Winnetka, Illinois, is a graduate of Goucher College, and currently writes a biweekly blog called Letter from Elba, which I recommend highly.  In fact, our "meet cute" was the direct result of this post with its hilarious punchline, that Ellen had shared on a Facebook page associated with the National Puzzlers' League (NPL) of which we are both members. Ellen is the proud mother of a daughter, Natasha, and a son, Nick. For ten years, she wrote "Social Studies," a weekly humor column for the Illinois-based Sun Times Pioneer Press. During an unscheduled detour to Aspen, she skied and hosted "The Ellen Ross Show," a one hour weekly talk show for Grassroots Television. She loves, in no particular order, dogs, crossword puzzles, roses, Gone With The Wind, and John le Carré, and is a member of the National Trivia Bowl Hall of Fame [search for her name in the link, and click here for Ellen's personal perspective]. Ellen's crossword puzzle constructing debut in June 2014 was called Give Our Regards to a Broad ... , followed up a few months later with A Nephew for Nick, Levi, and Shaina. Then, to demonstrate her versatility, she collaborated with me on Over the Moon and ... (more coming!)

Arthur Rothstein (on right of photo) was co-Captain of the Stuyvesant High School Math Team the year before I was. While our career paths have diverged, we have stayed in touch all these years on any number of subjects of mutual interest. He and I specialize in politically-themed crosswords that are "ripped from the headlines" but do not always have a long shelf-life. You may also enjoy trying the crossword puzzle that appeared in the Summer 2012 newsletter of the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association, this tribute that appeared in July 2013 in the Orange County Register, or this homage to technology that we self-published in September of 2013.

Marjorie Russel first caught the crossword bug as an undergraduate student at Oberlin College, but then went cold turkey for years until she reappeared as a faculty member at The Rockefeller University. It was there, as well as at the neighborhood swimming pool, circa 1977, that my brother Francis and I first got to know Marjorie and her daughter Sascha, a friendship cemented further when Marjorie married one of my all-time favorite scientific mentors, Peter Model (who BTW took the photo shown to the left). Since retiring from a productive research career in filamentous phage genetics, Marjorie has found time to indulge in any number of amateur activities, like writing her first (and only published) travel essay, which appeared in the New York Times Travel section almost a decade ago, bird-watching, from the American Northeast to Ecuador to Tanzania; snorkeling from Barbados to Fiji; and finding and identifying increasingly rare and endangered plants that grow un-noticed in the woods and streams around the cabin that she and Peter share in Upstate New York. Marjorie's debut puzzle with me is called They Zoomed In On Life, and we continued our collaborations with RU Familiar with RU? and Doubly Distinguished.

Kurtis Scaletta is a Minneapolis-based children's book author and learning technologist. Back in the early 2000s, Kurtis worked at the University of Minnesota and helped me with a classroom management suite called WebCT, whereupon we discovered a mutual love for baseball and crosswords. Kurtis's debut puzzle on our pages is entitled Covert Operations, and marks a remarkable anniversary in a truly unique manner.

Paul Schoenholz is the husband of Deb Schoenholz who works in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry and helped me with They Have Chemistry and the Minnesota Chemistry Anagramacrostic. Actually, it turns out that Paul is the true crossword buff in the family, and I have benefitted amply from his astute and humorous commentaries. Paul retired about a year ago, and is busier than ever [gigs as a saxophonist with some jazz groups, grandparenting, oenophilia, volunteer activities], but he somehow found time to collaborate with me on Cross This Puzzle When You Get To It. It was my pleasure to construct One Who Cannot Be Shut Down in Paul's honor.

Michael Shteyman is a one of the real stars of the crossword biz, with over 40 puzzles published in the New York Times alone [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list, and note that he is one of less than a dozen constructors to have "hit the cycle" threefold, meaning published every day of the week at least three times!], with more in other outlets [click on his name for more of his remarkable "back-story"]. A number of our joint efforts are summarized on the main page, most notably (spoiler) our Sunday tribute for the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a never-published commemoration of 11/11/11. Several of these were also wonderful enrichment opportunities for the undergraduate chemistry classes that I was teaching. While Michael's crossword productivity has tapered off with his increasing responsibilities as an M.D., we continue to work together, and I also had occasion (spoiler) to help him celebrate a milestone birthday with Three_Cu-bed_Fellow.

Daniel Silversmith is a lifelong fan of the Baltimore Orioles who spent a good part of his childhood in his second home, the great Memorial Stadium, and even now thinks daily about Earl Weaver and the Robinson Brothers. Dan and I have been friends since 1999, when he helped me in the aftermath of the 16th American Peptide Symposium, and we discovered any number of areas of common interest. Dan works currently as a clinical psychologist at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center, and lives with his wife Janet and children Joey and Ellie in Saint Paul, Minnesota (in fact, Joey took a chemistry class from my wife Barbara). Dan's father Ernest is a long-time chemistry professor at Morgan State University and co-author of "The Name Game," a cherished copy of which is in my office, and his sister Ann is a professor of physics at Hamilton College where one her students was my daughter Deborah [Dan's other siblings are Ruth, a biochemist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Ed, an engineer in Rockville, Maryland]. Dan is convinced that the 1969 World Series was fixed, as was Super Bowl III, since both occurred after Nixon was elected president—enough said. Each June 22nd, Dan celebrates "Doug DeCinces Day," the start of Orioles Magic. We are proud to present our first collaborative puzzle, a Sunday-sized offering called, fittingly enough, Cheer Ye O's.

Loren Smith has an undergraduate degree in French and German from Georgia Southern University and a graduate degree in linguistics from UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition to being the event planner at a West Virginia country club, she teaches a college level English course at a maximum security prison and also gives seminars in business etiquette and dining skills. A regular commentator to the Rex Parker crossword blog, Loren has recently extended her love of puzzle solving to the construction arena, with her debuts appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (click here) and the Los Angeles Times (click here; co-constructed with Jeff Chen). Loren is a self-described avid musher and a snazzy dancer, and shares a birthday with several luminaries (spoiler) as revealed in this puzzle. We are proud to bring you, exclusively, a Recreational Crossword Puzzle of the sort you are unlikely to ever find in a mainstream publication, as well as a Constricted Crossword that was a stepping stone to Loren's New York Times debut.

Rachel Stock Spilker has served as cantor at Mount Zion Temple in Saint Paul, Minnesota since 1997. She grew up in Pittsburgh and received a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters degree in Sacred Music and investiture as cantor from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and New York. Cantor Spilker is married to Rabbi Spilker who (spoiler) was one of the subjects of my puzzle with Joseph Konstan entitled At Your Service. On the occasion (another spoiler) of Minneapolis serving as the host city for the national convention of the American Conference of Cantors, Rachel approached me about a crossword collaboration, the result of which is the Sunday-sized Ta'amei Tashbetz—this has to be among the most specialized puzzles I have ever had the pleasure of working on. Cantor and Rabbi Spilker have three great kids—Eiden (16), Mirit (14) and Liam (9)—none of whom do crosswords.

David Steinberg (no relation to the comedian) is my youngest friend. Having just completed his junior year of high school in Southern California, David has published more than a hundred crosswords in The New York Times and other publications [further information, including list of venues in which his puzzles appear, can be found by clicking on his name at the beginning of this paragraph; if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list of his NYT puzzles]. David leads The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, for which he was awarded a Davidson Fellows Scholarship in 2013 and won first place in Quill and Scroll's 2014 International Writing and Photo Contest; is the crossword editor for the Orange County RegisterLos Angeles Register, and Riverside County Press-Enterprise weekly associated newspapers; and was named the 2012 Person of the Year by Jim Horne. He also creates custom crosswords and runs a website for teens on computer science careers. David has been a member of the National Puzzlers' League since 2011, with the nom Xword Guy.  One of David's collaborative puzzles inspired me to write What's the Difference?. In the Fall of 2013, David was the subject of this wonderful interview with PuzzleNation which I recommend highly. Outside of crosswords, David is an active member of his school's Latin club and enjoys playing table tennis and all sorts of games. David and I collaborated on Definitely Defined, which appeared on August 12, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal.

Jeff Strickler is a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he has served as movie critic, reported on religion, and currently is focusing on a wide array of general-interest stories. He particularly enjoys writing about people who have a passion for what they do, be it their jobs or their hobbies. That interest, combined with his love of wordplay, drew him to the crossword puzzle community. His first crossword, They Sure Managed, was constructed with me to accompany this article.

Markand Thakar is Music Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (BCO), Co-Director of Graduate Conducting at the Peabody Conservatory, and Music Director Emeritus of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. Former Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, he holds degrees from The Juilliard School (BM in composition and violin), Columbia University (MA in music theory) The University of Cincinnati (DMA in orchestral conducting), with additional studies at The Curtis Institute, the Ciprian Porumbesco Conservatory of Music in Bucharest, Romania as a Fulbright Fellow, and the International School of Bartending (diploma … a music student's gotta make a living). He has appeared as guest conductor of some 40 orchestras across the US and Canada, and has authored three books: Counterpoint: Fundamentals of Music Making (Yale University Press, 1990), Looking for the "Harp" Quartet: An Investigation of Musical Beauty (University of Rochester Press, 2011) and the forthcoming On Conducting. Recordings for Naxos, CRI Records, and Cedille Records. After stops in North Carolina, Bucharest, Cincinnati, State College PA, Athens OH, and Denver, Markand has settled in Baltimore with his wife, violist Victoria Chiang. And he only very occasionally, and with debilitating pangs of guilt, checks the "reveal current letter" button. I am pleased to be reacquainted with Markand after over forty years [see if you can spot us both on the far left side of this photo] and to co-construct his crossword debut, Concerted Reaction.

Jonathan Vaughan (on right of photo) was the James L. Ferguson Professor of Psychology at Hamilton College, and mentored my daughter Deborah's research activities while she was an undergraduate there. Jon and I collaborated on The First Continentals' Congeries, and a sequel was on the drawing board. Updated September, 2014: It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Professor Vaughan's passing.

John Verel is a long-time consultant on computer issues for several East coast clients. He graduated with a B.A. in Economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Finance from the School of Management also at SUNY-Buffalo, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Pace University. We "met" after Arthur Rothstein tracked down a pro-Gail Collins comment that John posted on the Rex Parker crossword blog, on which John is a regular contributor. Recently, John collaborated with another joint friend, Jeff Chen, on his debut published puzzle, this gem that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. We look forward to more great puzzles from him. Finally, we were pleased (spoiler) to observe one of John's personal milestones with Connecticut Transfer.

Carl Voss, a native of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, recently returned to his home state after 20 years on the East Coast. He has a doctorate in music composition from Columbia University, where he taught music theory as an adjunct professor for five and a half years. He has written orchestral and chamber music, and plays viola and piano. Though not (yet) a crossword constructor, Carl took second place in the expert division of the Second Annual Minnesota Crossword Puzzle Tournament (2013). He is also an avid club and tournament Scrabble player.

 

Alex Vratsanos is one of the youngest members of our august company, and already has had several puzzles published in the New York Times [if you have privileges to xwordinfo.com, click here for a list]. He was also honored by inclusion in the Twenty Under Thirty compendium. Click on his name for the story of one of his great triumphs, a puzzle that scooped another one that Michael Shteyman and I had in development for 10 months. Alex grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, roots for the Yankees and Eagles, started crossword construction in 2006 at age 13, and is an avid chess player (username: chessnut237) and tournament Scrabble player.  Having completed four semesters studying chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, Alex is at this moment taking classes in accounting, marketing, and English at Lehigh Carbon Community College, and eventually plans to transfer to Kutztown University to further study accountingMartin Herbach . We are delighted to present Stan(d by) the Man, a previously unpublished puzzle with a sports theme, along with Everybody Loves Christopher Raymond, a nerdy tribute to a favorite professor, You Rule!, a tribute to another Barany friend, For Every Eager Donor, a fundraiser for a community-based economic development project, and He's Number 2!, a tribute to a favorite athlete constructed on the eve of a much-chronicled retirement. The first puzzle that Alex and I constructed together, Great Dane, was appeared on September 20, 2013 in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A few months later, Alex interviewed Will Shortz as a part of a school assignment that you can find here. Alex is proud to have litzed over 150 puzzles for David Steinberg's Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. With respect to the latter, you may enjoy this interview on the occasion of Alex being named Litzer of the Month (February 2014). On his (spoiler) 21st birthday, Alex was honored in A Tale of Two Crossword Prodigies.

Mark Wieder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1968, just before I started, so our long friendship dates back to our overlapping time at The Rockefeller University in the 1970's. There, I ran the chess club (RUCC, pronounced "rook") while Mark was our strongest player.

 

Tom Williams is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Tufts University, where he studies situated natural language discourse (talking with robots) in the Human-Robot Interaction Lab. He was a classmate of my daughter Deborah at Hamilton College, where he spent much of his time in rehearsal with the A Capella group he helped to found [Tom has a solo in this video clip from his group]. Tom enjoys nerding out about board games, beer, and books, and recently started playing around with crossword construction. Tom's sensational crossword construction debut on these pages was Guess Who?, followed by Elba Was He ..., Crossword 2.0, and Three Days in Nerdvana. Stay tuned for several other projects that are underway. Added note: Tom's grandparents, Hermine Weigel and Jay G. Williams, are both scholars and authors, with the former having written about opera, and the latter focusing on Judaism, the Bible, etc.

Letitia Yao is my friend and colleague in the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. She received her B.A. in chemistry from the College of Wooster and her Ph.D. from our Department. After Letitia completed a postdoctoral stint at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF*), we were lucky to be able to convince her to return in 1997 as an NMR research associate . When Letitia is not helping me and my students with our NMR issues, or serving as the staff advisor for the department’s Women in Science and Engineering chapter, she carefully test solves our puzzles on a myriad of topics reflecting her own eclectic background and interests.

* Amazingly, UCSF is unrepresented as an answer word in the xwordinfo.com database. However, solvers of New Year's Eve Blinkmanship will recognize 24-Down.

Bar for rapid navigation: George Barany // Susan Ainsworth // Martin Ashwood-Smith // Jeff Aubé // Steve Bachman // Barbara Barany // Evan Birnholz // Marcia Brott // Sabina Brukner // Ralph Bunker // Zhouqin Burnikel // Richard Caldwll // Jeff Chen // Josh Conescu // Michael David // Nate Davidson // Charles Deber // Marti DuGuay-Carpenter // Noam Elkies // Kristen Evenson // Dan Feyer // Jed Fisher // Charles Flaster // Lloyd Fricker // Ben Geisbauer // Hayley Gold // Elizabeth Gorski // Todd Gross // Robert Hammer // Michael Hanko // David Hanson // Brent Hartzell // Martin Herbach // Nancy Herther // Donna Huryn // Jon Jeffryes // Ben Jones // Karen Kaler // Dan Kantor // Jay Kaskel // Joseph Konstan // Miriam Krause // Meghan Lafferty // Ken Leopold // David Liben-Nowell // Sandy Lipsky // Mark Lipton // Paul Luftig // Robert Mark // Christie Martin // Deane Morrison // Jan Morse // Andrew Myers // Jane O'Brien // Jenna Orkin // Tom Pepper // Chris Philpot // Phil Platt // Arlene Romoff // Amelia Rosner // Ellen Ross // Arthur Rothstein // Marjorie Russel // Kurtis Scaletta // Paul Schoenholz // Michael Shteyman // Dan Silversmith // Loren Smith // Rachel Stock Spilker // David Steinberg // Jeff Strickler // Markand Thakar // Jonathan Vaughan // John Verel // Carl Voss // Alex Vratsanos // Mark Wieder // Tom Williams // Letitia Yao

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