lntroducing'CROssw

RDPicks'
PlusAmerica'sMostGreativeCrosswords
By the Nation'sTopConstructors

CreSS RD

TheQueenof Puns
MauraJacobson
byHelene
Horanec
CROSSW RD Magazineis pleasedto announce
that stess-freesolving-has deservedlyearnedher thetitle,
MauraB. Jacobsonis the official recipientof the third "the queenof puns."
annualWynner award as the 1992Crosswordpuzzle
MauraB. Jacobson'sappealto fellow constructors,
Personof the Year.
editors,and solversextendsbeyondher crosswordex_
Underthe tutelageof MargaretFarrarand,later,Will pertise.She's truly one of the most
charming,self_
Weng,Jacobsonlearnedhow to constructpublishable effacing,andwell-manneredpeople
in thepuzzli field.
crosswords
fit to beprintedinTheNewyorkTimes.But Though she disguisesherself as
a staid wife/mother/
shequicklywentbeyondthebasics,developinga unique grandmother,herrealpersona-a
brilliant wordsmith_
voice in the crossword arena. Her specialty-punny constantlyemerges.
We at CROSSW RD magazine
are
crosswords
with laugh-out-loudpuns,clevercluing,and smiling broadly aswe honorher for
her brilliant work.
TT
7f,"n New York magazinepur- Although Farrar quickly realized what books, and through theLos AngelesTimes
chasedCrc magazinetheedirors Jacobsonhad done, she graciously wrote
l/\/
syndicate.Her work wasrespecledby all of
V V of NewYork madeahastydeci- that she "had looked everywhere
and hereditorswith Will Wengoneof hermost
sion to drop the crossword puzzle. There couldn't find 'hime' in aly dictionary.',
avid fans.When, in 1978,Crrc magazne
was such an avalancheof protest letters Farrarpromisedto reconsiderthepuzzle
if askedWeng
to constructabi-weeklypuzzle,
from irate subscribers(including one from
Jacobsonwould make her recommendedhe refused (becauseof time
consnaints),
the constructor'smother-in-law!)that the changes: After reworking the puzzle
but recommendedJacobsoninstead.Cue
editorsretreatedand quickly reinstatedthe Jacobsonsawher frst published
work ap- then contracted with Jacobsonfor a bi_
puzzle.
pearin TheTimes.Hernextgoalwastoget weekly 2l x 2I
crossword.From 19Zgto
Actually,thecrosswordwasabsentfrom apuzzlepublishedin
theSundayTirncs.And 1980herpuzzleswerefeaturedin Cue and,
only threeissues.Thirteenyearslater,New after reachingthat goal several
times she exceptfor the aforementionedthree-week
Yort's crosswordis an integral part of the stoppedconstructingcrosswords.
hiatus,haveappearedweeklyinNewyork
weeklymix of articles,reviews,and entera
magazinewithout intemrptionsince19g0.
tainmentlistingsandhasbecometheshowHowever,a seriousautomobileaccident Jacobsonworks from her
home in
casepuzzle for its constructor, MauralB.
in the '70s left Jacobsonimmobile for a Hartsdale,New York, where
she
lives
with
Jacobson.
year. To while away the time she again her husband,Jerry,
an
optometrist.
She
Jacobsonstarted solving crosswords turned0ocrosswordconstructing.
As she constructsslowly, spendingthree to four
whenshewas I I yearsold. Her father, an poredthroughherold files shecame
across dayson eachNewYorkpazzle.,.It
takesme
avidSundayNew YorkTimes solver,would
a puzzlethathadbeensentto Farrarbut had one day to do the research-getting
the
letherhavethefirst try at ttrepuzzle.After
neverbeenpublished.Her letter to Farrar's ideas and number of letters
together;
anshehadfilled in asmanywordsaspossible successor,
Will Weng,asto its whereabouts otherday to get thewordsinto thediagram;
he'dcompleteit.
was forwardedto the former editor. Farrar and over a day to do the
definitions.Then
Shewasn't lemptedto try constructing couldn'tfi ndthepuzzle,buturgedJacobson
there'sa day to do thetyping.',Jacobson's
'50s
until a serendipitousoccasionin the
to resubmitit for the Simon & Schuster free-lancestatusallows her
to work at her
whenshefound herself with two copiesof
books.Upon learningof Jacobson'smis- own pace."I work at odd hours.
If we go to
a daily newspaper.After rapidly solving hap, Farrar sent her a package graph
of
a moviein theeveningI might work when
thecrossword,sheusedthe extra grid as a paperand encouragedher to rediagram
the we get back."
jumping-offpoint for her own consruc- puzzle,write
outthecluesin longhand,and
a
tion.Thefirst word sheplacedino the grid
"conshucting
continueto constructotherpuzzles.It was
She feels that
is really
washerhusband's
first name,Jerome,clued the best get-well present Jacobsonever
solving a pazzle-getting words to fit a
as'ComposerKern." She completedthe received,for it markedthesecondbeginning
theme."Whenshegetsan idea,shewrites
ptnzle, clued the entries, and brazenly of hercrosswordcareerand
thedevelopment it on a scrapof paper and files it. So she
mailedtheunpolishedproduct to Margaret ofJacobsonas a lop-notchconstructor.
literally picks ideas out of the proverbial
Farrar,thencrosswordediEorof TheTimes.
JacobsonusedFarrar's graphpaperand hat, usingeachoneas a jumping-off
point
Jacobsonhadtakenseveralliberties by
many additional reams of paper to con- for a finished puzzle.
filling difficult spotswith contrived words structpuzzlesthroughout '70s
the
that apFora seriesof flowerpuzzles,shestarted
thatweren'tto be found in any dictionary, pearedin major publications
such
as Tfte with apunnydefinitionof Marigold:.,What
"hime,"
"residence:
e.g.,
clued as
var." NewYorkTimesandtheSimon& Schuster
(Continuedon page 7)
January/February
1993
CROSSWRD
Page5

Jacobson(from Page5)

usesto createher own clever defrnitions. Newman,Anka,
ets.);aZdiac puzzlewith
While working on a pt:zzle scheduled tlte namesof celebrities
born underthesign
an ambitious mother might say to her forpublicationin January,,.Igot
anideafor beingspotlighted;and azanyApril Fool,s
'Call
daughter if shehada choicebetweena poor a themeenbry,
MeFishmael.,I wro0e prlzzle where the words might
be entered
professoranda financier'sdumb son.i'
that down and startedto think of other bad backwardsin
"I
grid
the
or
circled
letterswill
thenwent to Roget,s Thesaurtu and startsfor the New year."
spell out an additionatpun afler the grid is
goteveryflower listedandsatandthought,
If she's blockedin thinking up defini_ completed. The
'What
standardsalso initude
could I makeout of this?' t Oecided tions she'll file the ideain
the baik of her originalpoempuzzles,suchas..The
Deuce
!o do a seriesof flowerpuzzles."Shecame mind and hope that
when she,swalking, 'With It":
up with four othersin this genre:
playing tennis, or doing somethingelse
Jasmine:"Musiciansplaying a form of anotherclue will crop
'I'n wearing my
up. .,Of course,the
tennis gear
theblueswhichbeganwithragtimeandhas otherpossibilityis
thatI'll think of several
And
standing
at
the
net
becomeAmerica'suniquegift o theworld moreandthey'll have
thewrongnumberof
But
what
am
I
doing
here
of music."
lettersfor the grid." She emphasizes
that
IVhy
should
"What
f
want
to
sweat?"
Carnation:
a manufacturerin De_ beingpunnyis not alwaysspontaneous;
it
troit might call a land wherehis products takes a lot of research
to come up with
and an "interview" plzzle. This one is
werevery popularwith buyersof automo_ enoughthemaricdefinitions
to fill a grid. with a monkey:
biles."
Through
years
the
Jacobson
hasdivel'6Doyou plan any
Orchid: "The responsegivenby a boat- opedsomeregularfeatures
trips?"
thatappeareach
"I hope to go to
houseatiendantto a child who askedwhat year.Shealways
peru."
Lemur,
celebrates
themajorholi_
sortof implementhe shoulduse to row a days-New Year's,
'Tlrhat
Valentine,sDay, St.
is your favorite candy?',
boat."
Patrick'sDay,Mother'sDay,Father'sDay,
"f
prefer
Rhesuspieces"
Thefinal puzzle,"po[pourri,,,conrained Labor Day-with
an appropriatethematjc
'{Vho will inherit
abunchof punnyflower definitions:phlox puzzle.She'll alsoshowcase
your assets?"
specialevents
- "herdsof birds"; mistletoe- ..rope
"A
chimp off the old block"
for (for instance,thepresidentialelection)and/
pullinga rocket"; camellia- ..invitationto or quintessential
"How do you
New york experiences
explain your achieveKazut"; hibiscus- "expensivecrackers,'; (suchastheNew york
Marathon)vis_a_vis ments?tt
hollyhock- "pawned wreath"; flower _ the crossword. ,.Each
'{ do everything
year I do at least
"product
marmoset',
usedfor baking."
oneanagrampuzzle.,,ln 1992it was,.Op_
"Do you like
Jacobsonstressesthat the initial puns era Anagramg"-"e1g gun
water?"
genie" for
"Yes, monkey
oftencomefrom extemal sources.Foi ex_ "Eugen Onegin"; ,,Feet
sea,monkeydew"
of slime" for
ample,"I'll comeacrossapunin something "Mefi stofele";"Tigerloot"
for..Rigoletto";
JacobsonalwaysconsEuctsa yearlyret_
I'm reading.It's not original. I saw onel "I fed Regis" for ,,Siegfried";..Dining
'Yougo
on
rospective
puzzle for solvers to jog their
Uruguay,I'll go mine' andI started ova" for "Don Giovanni";
and ..Meatftav memoriesof the just completedyear.
The
"Madame
to think what else could I do with South
Bufterfly."
.fumbled"for
crossword highlighting 1992 included
Americancountries?I need a starting off
Otherstaplesinclude:a namepuzzle;for newsyitems
like the Grammysong(..Unpoint-a themeidea" Otherpeople', pun, 1992it was "The paul
Game" which fo_ forgettable'),golf s Masters
winner(Fred
uiggera respons€in Jacobsonwhich she cusedon famouspauls
(McCartney,Los,
(Contintrcdon page9)

CLUESFROMTHEJACOBSON
FILE

IVho'sThat Again?
Operastarwho is a pill
Actess who appearedtoo long in
Camille
Areal sweetheartof a barbarian
AirForce general,flyer of
heckicopten
Friendof Wyatt Burp

Courtesylemay
Wild Bill Hiccup

Sentences
Per Se
WallyJohnImmanuelDonald
Bobby
OscarJohnRuth Adolph
PeterElaineDianaSoupy
GeageNiels Lee Carter
IlarpoHonaceEd Kemat

Cox WayneKant Duck Orr
Wilde Bull GordonOchs
SellerslvIayRigg Sales
Ade Bohr Majon Burden
I\4an Mann AmesAtaturk

Oh,Brother!
liledicantchickens?
illappist'scoin?
with a hot piano?

Virgo?
Warningsign at ttreabboy?

PlaceboDomingo
RhondaPhlegming
Attila the Hon

Roastersandfriars
Monasteryunit
Feloniousmonk

Nun of the above
L.ettheprior beware

ChineseMenu Puzzte
Cold-weather
Chineseutensils? Chapsticks
First tenamendmentsto the
Chinesemenu?
The bill of rice
Chinese-noodlesalesman?
Willy Lo mein
ExplosiveChinesevegetables? Bam boom shoots
Aphrodisiacbroth?
wanton soup
LoadedQuestions
Starof Forty Claretl!
HeadyYoungmancolleague?
Secondhand
Ros6'sfriend?
SousePoll canvasser?
SoaveItalian producer?
Author of /lare Today,Gin
Tomorrow?
Snort-ordercook?
CumberlandTap explorer?

CROSSWRD

Lynn Redgrape
TipseyRussell
Minnie ttrehoocher
Elmo toper
Wino Delaurentiis
Bearix Potted
Betfy Crocked
Daniel Booze
Page 7

Jacobson(from Page7)

Jacobson,alsoa scheduledspeakerat the
first 0ournament,
lecturedto thecontestanB
on the nuts and bolts of constructing. "I
apologize if I causeanyone any frusfation," shebegan,and then went on to t€ll
someof the secretsof her rade. Sheconfessedto her main problem-maintaining
the symmetry in a crossword-and then
talked about the taboos. "We can't use
diseases.It's a gameand we're trying to
make people happy." (She has her own
prescription for sicknesc-see sidebaron
this page.)
Shealsotalkedabouther extensivecol-

Couples),the sitcom in the news (Murphy
Brown), andtheword in thenews(potatoe).
As eventsunfold during the year,Jacobson
writes them down and frles them for possible inclusion in this feature.
puzzlesaren'teditedby anyJacobson's
oneat the magazine.While a staff member
doeslook over thepuzzle,heor shewill call
Jacobsonforclarification only. "The staffer
is understrict instructionsnot !o changeso
muchasa commawithout calling."
Jacobsonprides herselfon being almost
error-free."I've been pretty lucky on errors.I'd saymaybetwo a year."Almost all
of the mail shereceivesis complimentary,
with mostof the letterscoming from places
Operatingonthetheorythatlatrghteris
other than New York City. Retirees in
Florida are some of her most consistent the best medicine,Jacobsonfocuseson
medicalmishapsin her inimiable style:
fans.
Although New York's sophisticated
Sick Humor
readersconstituteJacobson'slargestaudiHollywood lltnesr?
Sterlet fever
ence,they canonly communicatewith her
by mail. On a morepersonallevel, solvers Irrltatlonlrom mesre? Kohl sore
SdrlockJrw
havean opportunity to meetJacobsoneach Lossoftaste?
Scrlptococcus
March,whensheattendsWill Shortz's an- Ftlm-wrltertc bug?
nual crossword tournament in Stamford, Bllsterr frmr sert belts? Crr bucklcs
Tlmekeeper'rellmmt? Clockome
Connecticut.No tournament would be
completewithout an injectionof Jacobson Afrllctl,onfnom drlnklng
cola?
Pepslcutcenr
punsinto the intensecompetitive air..
The noise level is noticeably diffeient
whenJacobson'spuzzlesareoncenterstage. MedicalMisquotes
rWheredoctor: nte
Ripplesof laughter travel throughout the
hlghert?
Fer crtheler Incomc
otherwisesilent balhoom as solver after
Notlcerble rbdonrlnrl
solver"gets" the punch line. (She won't
trouble?
Enlnentptom.lne
remainin the tournament room during a
Jot ret doctor?
Plller olsoclety
solvinground in which her puzzle is featured,but she's always interestedin the Songrbout r blllrry
problem?
Llvercqnebadrtome
feedbackfrom the otherjudges.)
Shortz'sfirst tournamentin 1978gener- Bargeln hunter'g
InJectlon?
Shopplngplasnrr
atedlots of publicity (including an extenLeg ellment?
Very dose velns
sive article in sports Illustrated), with
almost all the reporters quoting from
Jrcobson'snow classic"Movies You tvlay Is There a Doctor in the House?
Altment contrectedfrom
Ilave Missed" puzzle:

SICKHUMOR

"TYhythe Flve.Year
.Ivrnhoedt,
Plrn succeeded"
(Muslcrl sequel
to
"Porgy rnd Blss"
favt"
'oYenus'gghort.
comlngscxpocedt'
ePoct.Wrtergrte

"Ferewell Two Armstt

depresslontt
r'FrenchTuztnts
edvmturedt
'Sex on the
regervltlontt
'Top bookle"

'llfopy Dlck"
"DeGrulle of the V[lld"
"Lust of the Mohlcrns"
.The Wlzard of Odds,'

'€hrnglng llmes In
the nurserytt

.The Dldy Dozen,,

January/February
1993

rconver.tlblesofe?
Cremps experhnced
In expendvecrrs?
Ecdyshst's vlnrs?

Crstroenterltb
Mercedccbends
SHptococors

took a few courses0oward her master's
degree.After her daughter was born she
took a leaveof absencefrom teaching;after
beingdeniedan extensionofherleave,she
left teaching.
Her daughter,JoannePye, now grown
with twochildrenof herown,liveswith her
family "on a farm in Cornwall, England,
quite secludedfrom civilization." The
Jacobsonsvisit twice a year for a week or
two at a time.
Jacobsonwasscheduledto participatein
the first ever QE2 crosswordcruise with
Times ediwr EugeneT. Maleskaandwriter
Richard Shepard.The sailing datewas set
for the fall of 1992;JacobsonandMaleska
would have lectured on crosswordsand
constructedsomeoriginal puzzlesfor the
participants. Unfortunately, the QE2 ran
agtoundin the summerof '92, puttingthe
luxury liner outof commission,andcanceling thecruise.Thereareno currentplansto
rescheduleit.
Jacobsonlikes to solvepuzzleswith British cryptics her hands-downfavorite.
"WheneverI'm
in EnglandI alwayspick upa
coupleofbooks at theairporr Thereare 100
puzzlesin a book andttreylas until my next
trip." Although she might completeonly a
minority of $repuzzlesin ttrebmk, strecan
easily finish the cryptic crosswordthat's
publishedabove her pazzle in New york
magazine.Shelovescryptics"becauseeach
answeris solvinga wholepuzzle."
Jacobsonis one of only a handful of lop
construclorswith no editorial responsibilities, although she has edited a series,
Crossword Puzzles With Tlwnus. When
working on this project shehad to expand
herreferencebookcollection.
Workingwith
otherpeople'spuzzleswas an eye-opener
for Jacobson,who hadn't realizedall the
tediouswork thatgoesinto changingclues,
alteringdiagrams,andcheckingfacts.
But Jacobsonis very happy being the
creatorof her own popularpuzzle.She'd
like !o continuedoingwhatshe'sdoingfor
as long as possible.While sheenjoysthe
flexibility of her work scheduleandloves
seeingherpuzzlesin print, herwork is truly
her passion. While geuing organizedfor
the QE2 cruise, Jacobsonworked feverishly to completeall her deadlinesbefore
sailing off. Whenthe trip wascanceledand
Jacobsonwas completelycaughtup on all
her assignments,she had a three-week
stretchwith no deadlines."[ didn't know
what to do with myself," shelamented.E

lection of referencebooks and confessed
that when she gets stuck in a corner she
headsfor the shelves."I have ltalian and
Spanishdictionariesand atlases.I have
encyclopediaswith the lakes in Finland.
All the wordsyou hate."
In Jacobson'spre-crossword
life shewas
a kindergarten teacherin the New York
City school system.She graduatedfrom HELENE HOVANEC is edior andpubHunterCollegewith a B.A. in Englishand lisherof Kids' PuzzleExpress.
CROSSWRD

Page 9