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ThoseCrossword
Crosswords
PlusAmerica'sMostGreative
By the Nation'sTopConstructors

MessingAround With Words
lGrenHodge
by HefeneHovanec
hen KarenHodgesignedup for polite rejection,put the puzzle aside
for crosswordwith a bird theme(..turkeytrot,"
theMarriott CrosswordCompe- severalmonths.Whensheresurrectedand "round
robin," "eagleeye," and .pigeon
tition in the early '80s, she modifiedit shesentit to Tie NewyorkTimcs hole").
His congratulatorynote was the_
thoughtshe was "a hot-shot solver', and editorEugene
T. Maleska,whoalsorejected maticallywritten,"your avianopusis
"would
cer_
anticipated
thatshe
doprettywell.', it. He did, however,offer Hodge some tainly not for
thebirds."
"very
Shewas
surprisedto discoverhow helpfulhints-stay awayfrom overworked
Hodgewas sufficiently buoyedby this
good everyoneelse was." No slouchat
solving (she did finish in the top halfl,
Hodgenonetheless
sawthehandwritingon
All In A Day'sWork
thegrid and realizedshe'dneverbe ableto
CommandPerformance
Plantationovynerts
moveherpencilacrossthediagramat lightSafarl leader's
Ralslngcane
ningspeed.("And thatwasbeforethecomJob
cornmandto author Nevll,shoot
Herballst'sJob
petitiongotsostiff! Thatwaswaybeforeall
Marking thyme
Chefs commandto
Parfumler,sJob
Making scents
thetop solversstartedcomingto Stamford
Alistalr, cook
Journalist
Ecdlsirst's Job
Dancingbare
to compete.")If she wanted to play the
Latecomer's
game,she'dexpendher energieson con_
commandto actor
Ralph, wait
structingpuzzles.
WriteOn
Teacher'scommand
In retrospect,her decisionto becomea
Lex, to r Rornan
to rctress
Donna,read
cruciverbalistwas a natural evolution of
author
Glrlwetcher's
V9ord for word
herhobbies,educationalbackground,and
The "Pentt
commandto producer Norman, leer
Sentencestructure
personality.
Hodgehadbeensolvingpuzzles
Llbrarlan
One for the books
sinceshewas sevenyearsold, honingher
Coward's manuscrlpt Yellow pages
HeardButNotSeen
skills.withthe crosswords,anagrams,and
"Beastsof the Round
varietyword puzzlesfound in thepopular
Tabld'?
Shuffle'Em
Knightly Gnus
children'spuzzlemagazines-Child Life,
"Mrs. Colombo
Meets
LEAD
Crooked
deal
My WeeklyReader,andJack andJitt. As a
Mr. Oop"?
Kate and Alley
SLIP
Loosetlps
fifth-grader,she and a friend even conBaltic
versionof
SIIORE
Crazy
horse
structed
theirowncrosswords
althoughthey
'iThe Price ls Rlght"?
"didn't
Letts Make a Deal
STUN
Mlxed nuts
know thefirst thing aboutsymme"Shoemakerand
EANTH
Broken
heart
fy, unkeyedletters,tabooson two-letter
Son"?
VILER
Awl In the Famlly"
Choppedtiver
words,etc."
STEW
Wild
west
Hodge's academicand professional
TREES
Bum steer
MadeFor EachOther
backgroundwere tailor-madefor a word
peruon.
Veudevlllian and
Shemajoredin Frenchat ConnectiRule
Breaklng
talent scout composc
cutCollegeand earnedan M.A. in liberal
Lottert
e
song?
studies(specializingin world literature)
Buttons and Bowes
commlssioner?
Spy
end comedian
from WesleyanUniversity. She,s been
Chancesczar
Dalry klng?
become vigorous?
teaching
Milk shelk
Frenchto high schoolstudenrsin
Hale and Hardy
Ruler's
salary?
Senator
IVfadison,
pittance
and conductor
Amlr
Connecticut,for manyyears.
Deposea ruler?
do business together? Bayh and Szetl
Thedisciplineand solirudeneededfor
Klck the khan
Happy
prince?
Novelist and pubilsher
constructing
fit Hodge'spersonality.
Jotly raJah
She's
Confer
a
tltle?
are
lrresponsible?
even-tempered,
Call
lt a dey
low-keyedand self-effac_
Fast and Luce
mg.
to continueconstructing.
After her first experienceas a ptzzle themes,don't useforcedentries,keepthe acceptance
She
competitor,Hodge returned home and word countlow, slart off with a 15 x 15 leamedthroughthe puzzlegrapevinethat
Henry Rathvon,editor of Four_Starpuz_
plungedinto creatinga2l x 2l crossword. puzzle.
Following this advice,Hodgekept sub- zler (a Gamcs spin-off),
Whenshefinishedir, sheblithelymailedit
neededcross_
to Gamesmagazine.It was promptly re- mitting puzzlesto Maleska,who kept re- words.So Hodgesenthim lotsof puzzles,
jectedby Will Shortz,editor at rhe rime, jecting the puzzleswhile simultaneously all of which he accepted.Shereialls, ..I
whosaidthatGamesdidn't needany new encouragingher with complimentarylet- think that whenGameslearnedmy puzzle
lers-"you have a flair for this kind of hadbeenacceptedby theTimes.
constructors.
Hodge,recognizingthis asa
theywere
thing," etc. Finally, Maleskaaccepteda
(Continued
on page7)
July/August
1994
CROSSWRD

THEMESAND
CLUESFROMKARENHODGEPUZZLES

Page5

Hodge(from Page5)
moreeagerto publishme."
Hodge's first crossword,for Four-Star
Puzzlerwasappropriatelytitled "Games,"
with thesethemeclues:
Chess

Kind of pie

Poker

Flreslde ald

Checkers

Nixon's dog

Domlnoes

Half masks

Solitalre

Lone stone

Pool

Tlde or steno

Ratlvon's editorial relationship with
Hodgewasidealfor theneophyteconstructor. "Our stylesjust clicked. Henry was
reallyniceaboutleavingthingsprettymuch
intact.If he wantedto changeclues he'd
call me to discussthem.I can't think of a
nicerpersonto work with."
Rathvonalso encouragedher to create
luger pazzles.Her first 2I x 2l drewupon
herfacility with languages.
Called"French
Twist," the themecluesincluded:
Words from the nven

Caws celebre

Contents ofTrlgger's
feedbag

Oat culsine

Hodgenow hasno problemplacingher
crosswords.
They're foundin manyof the
top publications--CROSSWRD magazine, Dell Champion Crosswords,Mel
Rosen'sPen and Pencil Club, Newsday,
Games, etc.Shedoesmostof herconstructing during the summerwhen she'son vacation from her teachingchoresand sells
about25 puzzlesayer.
In 1987 Hodge embarkedon another
subsidiary career<rganizing her own
crosswordtournaments.
Shewasmotivated
to do this after attending the Dartmouth
LibraryTournament.
Thatcontestwasvery
differentfrom the annualone run by Will
Shortzat the StamfordMarriott Hotel (describedin the May-June1991 issue of
CROSSW RD Magazine).
Entrancecostswerea mere$5 and that
includeda "fabulouslunch" preparedby
the Friendsof theLibrary. In lieu of monetaryprizes,thetopwinnersreceivedsilver
Reverebowls. Approximately65 people
solved puzzlesgiven to the tournament
director by Dr. lvlaleska.Hodge was appalled at the quality of the puzzles.They
were ones that lvlaleskahad acceptedbut
hadn't yet published."They were almost

unedited.Clueswere illegible; somewere
pastedon in different type styles; some
clueswereunreadable
youcouldn't
because
decipherthe numbers.The only thing that
madethis bearablewasthat I knew everyone else was struggling under the same
conditions."
Althoughshedoesn'trememberexactly
wheresheplacedin thecontest-"I knowI
didn't win a silverbowl,"-she doesrecall
comingawaywith theintentionof running
her own contest."I turnedto a friend who
had accompaniedme and said, 'We could
do this muchbetter."'
So, sheset,tle wheelsin motionto start
an annual competition. Her goals were
modest-a small,non-competitivecontest
to be used as a fundraiser for her local
library. She approachedseveralacquaintancesand asked,"If I were to run a little
tournament,would you be willing to help
and/ordonateyour services?"
Nora Cash,wife of veterancontestattendee,William Cash,volunteered
toassist
Hodgein any way possible.Shecontacted
local businesses
andaskedthemto donate
prizes. ConstructorsAlex Vaughn and
(Continuedon Page9)

lgtrtoyTheFunandChallenge

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Hodge (from Page7)

After a lunch break,they solve another
two rounds.All puzzlesare completed
Robin and Norman landis agreedto con- by early afternoonwhen the prizes are
struct puzzles gratis for the tournament. awarded.Hodge usesa computerpro(Hodgetakescredit for being thefhst oneto gramdevisedby NormanLandis for the
discoverVaughn and get his work pub- scoring. Her friends mark the papers
lished.He hassincehadpuzzlespublished and do whateveris necessaryto ensure
in thetop magazines.)
In lateryearsDonna the smoothrunning of the contest.
StoneandCathyMillhauseralsocontributed
It's a really low-key affair. Thereare
puzzles.Hodge,ofcourse,alwaysincludes no dividers on the table (as thereare in
oneof her own puzzles.In the early years the more competitivecontests)and the
she'dconstructtwo puzzlesfor thecontest. top prize of $35 is hardly a draw for top
TheConnecticutShorelineContest,now contestantsto travel to central Coninits seventhyear,is heldatthecommunity necticut. Thosethat do attendare there
centerin Westbrook,Connecticut,just a primarily to have fun.
stone'sthrowfrom Hodge'shome.All proHodgelovesthiscontest.It's heroneday
ceeds,after expenses,are donated to the to shinein the crosswordworld. "I'm nol
WestbrookLibrary. Attendancehasgrown sure I'll ever have a puzzle in a major
over the years and is now steadyat 40 tournament,
but I loveto standup thereand
participants."The facilities can'[ hold any watch peoplesolve a puzzleI've put tomorepeople."The contestis alwaysheld getherandseethemchuckleovertheclues.
on a Saturdayin the early fall.
This is theonly opportunityfor me to have
Contestantspay a nominal fee (origi- this experience,andit's a nice feeling."
nally$10,Hodgeraisedit to $20 in 1993).
Hodge'sremunerationfrom crosswords
Early arrivals are treated to a breakfast is extraincome.Sheexpendsenergyon this
buffet preparedby the Friends of the Li- secondarycareer,not for the money,but
brary.Contestants
thensettledownto solve becausesheenjoyswhatshedoesandshe's
threerounds of puzzles in the morning. goodat it.

"I love
the idea that something I do
provides pleasure,fun, amusement,and
diversion to bunchesof people that I,ll
nevermeel But I know they'rehavingfun.
I seepeople doing puzzlesand carrying
arcandGamesmagazineandTheNewyork
Times crossword. I know people are
working the puzzles.I seethem enjoying
other people'spuzzlesand I know that's
thewaytheycanreacttomine.Besides,it's
just fun to messaroundwith words."
Hodge's messingaround with words
spawnedyetanothercrossword-related
enterprise---creating
and sellingpuzzlebuttons to contescants
at crosswordcompetitions. With the help of a friend, Kathy
Pierson,shedevisedbuttonswith someof
the following slogans:
Grid and bear it
I'm a lex maniac
Old editorsneverdie; theyjust keepadit
KarenHodgeinlendstokeep"adit"aslong
aspossible.

n

HELENE HOVANEC is a New york Cirybaseduniter/editor.

That'sright.
The man in the middleis not
wearing a CROSSW RD
Magazine
T-shirt.He'swearinga
shirtsoldby somebody
else.
Don'tbe like the man in the
middle.Beliketheguyontheleft
or the womanon the right.Get

yourveryowncRossw RD

MagazineT-shirt and wear it
proudly.
CROSSW RD MagazineTshirtscome
inMedium,
Largeand
ExtraLarge.Eachshirtis $9.95
(Add$3 postageand handting,
regardless
ofthenumberof
shirts
ordered). New York State
pleaseaddappropriate
residents
salestax.
Send your order to:
CROSSW RD MagazineTshirts, 713 Francis Drive,
wantagh,N.Y.11793-1039.
or
order today by VISA or
Maste0ardby callingtollfree:

1-800-456-5455.
July/August
1994

CROSSWRD

Page 9