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PostdoctoralWork
MannyNosowsky
byAlexVaughn
annyNosowskyhad to give up
his chosenprofession,which
was medicine.One result was
thathe becamea crosswordpuzzleconstructor.
He usedto be a urologiston staff at
San Francisco'sKaiser Hospital. But
when he reachedhis early 50s, heart
"I developed
trouble sidelined him.
chest pain, which flared up during
"It
stressfulmoments," he explains.
wouldevenoccurwhen I was performing surgery.Things reachedthe point
wherean operatingroom technicianhad
to be readyto reachover,pull my mask
down, and slip a nitroglycerine pill
undermy tongueso I could finish operating.
"The situationwasimpossible,obviously. If you can't withstand stress,
you can't be a doctor. I had no choice
but to retire."
So, 11 yearsago, he quit medical
practice. Now 62, he stays well by
avoiding high stress,taking medication, and exercising.
But his earlydaysof retirementwere
"Suddenly, I had
emotionallytrying.
nowhereto go in the morning. I felt
Put yourselfin
disoriented,depressed.
place
my
and imagine.As a doctor in
theoperatingroom,you werepowerful.
Ego supportwas all around you. Everyonewasat your bidding.Thenall of
thatgoesaway,andyou havenothingto
do but read the sportspages.No one
needsyou anymore."
In an effort to regain his spirits,
Nosowskysamplednew pastimesand
hobbiesone after another.He took assortedcourses.He becamea personal"For
computerbuff (moreon this later).
awhile, I was into home repair and
h a n d i w o r k .I g o t g o o d a t m a k i n g
shelves,but you know, a housecan use
only so manynew shelves."
He alsodiscoveredcrosswordpuzzles.
"I didn't know a thing about crosswordsuntil the mid-1980s,"he says.
"My wife, Debby, was the crossword
solverin the family." His voice takes
1994
May/June

"That's probablyone
on a kiddingnote.
reasonI marriedher-she's so intelligent! Sheknows that 'Evoe' is a Bacchanaliancry!"
He resumesa serioustone:"Anyway,
I took up solving puzzlesas another
new thing to do. I got into the habit of
doingthe syndicatedcrosswordsin daily
newspapers,
and beforetoo long, I becamepassablygoodat solving.I started
wonderingwhatit wouldbe like to make
up puzzlesmyself.

I senta letter to Stan,careof thepaper.
The upshot was that I becamea subscriber to his American Crossword
Federationpublication."
"I also decidedto take a stabat becoming a constructor.I sent my first
attemptsto Stan, and he rejectedthe
earliestones-which he wasabsolutely
right to do. But after my envelopes
bombardedhim for severalmonths,he
accepteda puzzle. It was my first sale,
andhe usedit both in his newsletterand
in a crosswordtournament."
That first published puzzle of
Nosowsky's,a 15-by-15-square,
was
"POSTDOCTORAL
Its
WORK."
titled
four theme entries were "MARIA
has
Everycrossword
constructor
"PAPA DOC
MONTESSORI,"
"CHE
puzzle
themes DUVALIER,"
favoritesamongthe
GUEVARA," ANd
he or she has created.Manny "PETERROGET."What wastheir theNosowskygrinsrememberinghis matic link? Each was a physicianwho
puzzlethatcoupledShakespearean became famous for doing something
(respectively,for being an educawith anagrams
of their else
characters
tor, a dictator, a revolutionary,and a
names.
thesaurusmaker).
Desdemona'sgreetingfor the
Today, the "postdoctoral" theme
"HELLO
TO soundsrelevantto Nosowskyhimself.
Moor was
OTIIELLO." Ophelia's plea for Interestingly, it is the only medical
he has everput,in a puzzle.
helpwas"HALT ME,HAMLET." theme
Nosowsky'spuzzlesappearin sevCleopara(onhearingthatherbeau eral publications,includingthis magaphilandered)said "NAY, NOT zine. He likes today's so-callednew
ANTONY." And the Macbeth wave crosswordswith their lively, incharacterDonalbainadvisedhis terestingcontent,.He aimsfor the same
in his puzzles.
"CALL
MOM, style
brother
However, his own estimateof his
MALCOLM.''
meritsas a puzzlemakeris humble.He
The puzzle title? Nosowsky likens himself to a ballplayerwho can
managedto keeptheanagramgim- barely crack the lineup and will not be
mick there, too: "SEEK A namedto all-starteams.
In fact,whenthis magazineproposed
PHRASE,SHAKESPEARE.''
to featurehim in an article,Nosowsky
"Then someoneshowedme an ar- was dubious,sayinghe didn't deserve
"Couldn't you
ticle from anEastCoastpaper,all about the attention.He asked,
'new wave' crosswordconstructors
and do a pieceaboutfive or six constructors
editors,who preferredto avoid evoes, andjust includemy namesomewhere?"
That's becominglymodest,but it's
esnes,anoas,and the other typical
know that
that I saw in daily syn- off the mark. Crossworders
crosswordese
dicatepuzzles.The articleinterviewed his puzzlesare first-rate,packedwith
a puzzleexpertnamedStanleyNewman, wit, artistry, taste, intelligence,diswhosenamewas new to me. Intrigued,
(Continued on Page 7)

THEWORDPLAY'S
THETHING

CROSSWRD

Page5

Nosowsky (from Page 5)
tinctivestyle,andwide-rangingknowledge.
His touch with misdirectioncluesis
deft. One recentNosowsky puzzle featuredthese:"Runoff at the mouth?"for
"DELTA." "Error
on the diamond?"for
"FLAW." "Common puzzle
leavings?"
for "ERASURES."
In typical new-wavestyle, he occasionally uses thematic gimmicks that
alter words in some wacky, but consistent,way.His crossword"ETERNAL
FILMS" omitted the lettersEND from
movietitles."1956Quakermovie?"was
"FRILY PERSUASION.""1950
heisr
movie?" was "THE LAVER HILL
MOB." *1937 royal stand-in movie?"
was "THE PRISONER OF ZA."
Nosowskymanagedto make the third
entry cross the other two while still
keepingthelayoutof themeentries(and
the whole grid) symmetrical.As any
ptzzle constructorcan tell you, this is
no easytrick.
He hasmadecrosswordentriestravel
in odd directions(up, backward,or diagonally,as well as acrossand down).
OneNosowskypuzzlefeatureda theme
sentence
that startedoffby goingleft to
right, then hooked a righr-anglerurn
andcontinueddownward,then hooked
anotherright-angleturn and continued
right to left, then hookeda final righrangle turn and continuedupward,
meetingitself where it beganand outlining a large square.
When praised for virtuosities like
these,Nosowsky squirms. "I didn't
originatethe ideas!Other constructors
thoughtof them first!"
As if that dimmed his accomplishments.
He currentlyconcentrates
on making
what today's constructorscall "wide
open"puzzles(whichdisplayunusually
high ratios of white squaresto black
ones).He sendstheseprimarilyto editor
Will Shortzof TheNew York Times.
Eachspringfor the pastseveralyears,
Nosowskyhas traveledto Connecticut
for the Stamford Marriott crossword
tournament.,
which is the country's
largestannualcrosswordevent..There,
he talks shop with editors and constructorsand socializeswith solvers.
Manny (short for Emanuel) comes
acrossin person as soft-spoken,restrained,
maybeslightlycourtly.He sits
quietly,listeningto what you say. He
May/June1994

pausesto digestyour words,thengives
thoughtful,unassumingreplies.When
you meethim, thephrase"gentlemanof
the old school"may crossyour mind.
But he admitsthathis sereneexterior
masks a certain drivenness."I crave
perfection.Probably,what makesme a
pluzzleconstructoris the sameneurotic,
compulsivequality that made me a
doctor.I don't mind spendingthreeor
four hourson one cornerof a puzzleto
makeit better.And I might work on a
whole puzzlefor ten hoursat a stretch.
Non-constructors
could seethis ascrazy
behavior,but it.'s what satisfiesme. I
think other constructorsknow what I

early posts took him to severalparts of
the country,including Brooklyn, New
York, wherehe met and marriedDebby.
He did a two-yearmilitary stint at an
Army hospitalin Fairbanks,Alaska.
He worked in southernCalifornia,
first at UCLA Medical Center,then in
privatepracticein ThousandOaks."But.
I found I didn't like runningmy own
practice," he says."Too much paperwork!"
Finally, hereturnedto SanFrancisco
("I had alwayswantedto go back," he
says),wherehe took a staff positionat
Kaiser.The hospitalis part of the Kaiser Permanenteorganization, a large

LETTERS
FROMTHEEDITOR
How do novice puzzlemakerssharpentheir skills? Often; through the
help of editors who guide, instruct, and give constructive criticism. Here
are Manny Nosowsky's "takes" on some editors who have helped him
develop as a constructor.
StanleyNewrnen,AmericanCrossword Federation "He publishedmy
first work and has beenhelpful all around. I telephonehim now and then
to clarify things about puzzles-any puzzles, not just ones I submit to
him."
Mel Rosen,Thecrosswords club."The grand teacher!He hasprobably
helped more constructorsget started than anyone. He's enormously
supportive. Whether he accepts or rejects yovr puzzle, he,ll send an
informative note telling what he did and didn't like."
Richard Silvesti, CROSSW RD Magazine."He's very faithful about
sendingquick acknowledgmentof your submittals.And you almost hope
he'll catch you in a mistake, becausehe's the king of the gentle,joshing
putdown-which I appreciate.
"Once,
I encloseda note telling Rich that my pazzle was a ,pangram,'
which meansI thought the entriesusedall lettersof the alphabet.But they
didn't! I had goofed and omitted a letter. He wrote back, pointing out that
I had created 'twenty-five twenty-sixths of a pangram.' He finished by
asking: "'Y" did you leaveout a certain letter?' See?He was telling me not
only that I'd forgotten a letter but also which one.
"Another
time, my note on apazzle referred to 'wild Bill Hitchcock.'
Rich wrote back, askingif that was a u.s. ancestorof the British director."
mean."
Usually, he producesabout three
puzzlesper month.
It was a homecoming when
Nosowsky'smedicalcareerbroughthim
to SanFrancisco;he is a native of the
city andspenthischildhoodthere.When
he was 12, the family moved to Minnesota,wherehe got his secondaryand
college education.He graduatedfrom
the University of Minnesotamedical
school.
His internship,residency,and other
CROSSWRD

systemcombininghospitals,medical
insuranceprograms,and othercomponents of healthcare.He says that the
Kaisersystem"is what Bill Clinton's
nationalhealthprogramought to look
like, if that programworks."
Nosowsky was on staff at Kaiser
some20 years,until his unplannedretirementin 1983.
Manny and Debby'shouseperches
high on oneof SanFrancisco's
hills.It
is the "attached" style typical in the
(Continuedon Page9)
Page 7

all over the city can call if they have for placesin puzzle grids where some
questions.
Right now, I'm the mentor letters are already decided (by theme
on
telecommunication-in
otherwords, entries,for example).But he virtually
city (abuttingthe housenext door, no
modems.
on
sending
data
over
Not that never dependson this softwareto give
yard between;higherup slopethan the
"SometimesI'll
I
know
about
everything
the
subject, him a finishedproduct.
neighboron one side, lower than the
but I've gottento whereI can answer let the programshow me what couldgo
other).
The couple have two children, a most of the questionsbeginnersask." in a grid corner,but I can almostalways
daughterin law schoolat Berkeleyand
a son in publishingin New York.
Anotherinterest(besidescrosswords)
thatNosowskydevelopedafter leaving
MannyNosowskyteachescomputercoursesfor 7A-and 80medical practice is computers.His
year-olds
at a San Franciscoseniorcitizen center.lt elderly
workroomis stockedwith PCs,a printer,
womensay they'rereluctantto tacklethestrangenew subiect,
a high-speedmodem,and other equipment.
he luresthemwith this: "My classis theonly placeyou'll lind
He belongsto the SanFranciscoPC
moremenyour age than women."
UsersGroup. This large societymeets
groups
monthly;small special-interest
Nosowsky's computer equipment think up alternativeentriesthat arebetwithin it also meet.
Within the group, he is something helps him with certain steps of con- ter," he says.
"I'll use all the
He believes that in crosswords,as
morethanonly a member;heis a mentor. structingcrosswords.
"For
He explains:
each phaseof com- technologicalaids I can find," he says. elsewhere,computersenhancehuman
Like manyconstructors,he usesthe creativity,but they haven'tyet replaced
puter use, some memberof the group
volunteersto act as mentor-as the grid-designingprogramandothersoft- ir.
personwho will study the subjectand ware developedby pnzzle editor Mel
Connecticutresident
ALEX VAUGHN isan
be availableto adviseotherusersabout Rosen.
publications
editor
of
business
and a conNosowskyalso hassoftware(not by
it. Mentors'namesand phonenumbers
are publishedin our newsletter.Users Rosen)that will makeup fill-in entries structorof crosswordpuzzles.

Nosowsky (from Page7)

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