Shenk

DreamTeam:Hook,Reagle,
PlusAmerica'sMostCreativeGrosswords
By the Nation'sTopConstructors

A CompleatCruciverbalist
MelRosen
byAlexVaughn
CROSSW RD Magazineispleasedtoannouncethat
Mel Rosen is the official recipient of the fourth annual
Wynner award as the 1993 Crossword Puzzle Personof
the Year.
One of the nation's top editors, a clever, witty constructor,theco-authorof theunofficial bible of crossword
consffuction, and a pioneer in the use of computers in
oday,he's one of the puzzlepublishing world's busiest editors,
overseeing
contentsof severalbook
seriesfor RunningPressandof thepopular
program,TheCrosswords
mail-subscription
Club. But as recentlyas sevenyearsago,
Mel Rosen was unawarethat his career
wouldheadin anysuchdirection.He wasa
full-time computeranalystwith IBM and
hadno seriousplan to be anythingelse.
"Then, in 1987, the companystarted
offering early-retirement,inducements,"
"I wasgiven
saysthe52-year-oldFloridian.
thechanceto retire,startdrawingpension,
althoughI was still in my forties, and do
supplemental
work for IBM as a part-time
techwriter."
Rosenjumped at the offer, becauseit
meanthecouldnow switchmajortime and
energyto one of his passionatelyloved
avocations,
crosswords.However, as appealingasthecareerchangewas,it brought
nervousness
to Rosen'shousehold,he admits.Giving up the economicsecurityof
life was scary.
corporate
"On thefirst morningof my retirement,
my wife, Peggy,asked-with concernwhetherI hada five-yearplan," he recalls.
"I said,'Five years?Honey,I don't know
whatI'll havefor lunchtoday."'
But Rosen'snew livelihood quickly
He hadbeena puzzleconstrucblossomed.
torsincethelate1960s,sellingdiagramless,
variety,anddaily- and Sunday-sizecrosswordsto outletsincluding TheNew York
Times, D ell Magazines,andGamcs Magazine.His reputationas a creatorof witty,
wasalreadysolidlyin place.
elegantpuzzles
Moreover,since1981,he hadbeenediting
abookseries-simply calledCrosswordsfor RunningPress.(Times puzzle editor
him to
EugeneMaleskahadrecommended
1994
January/February

crosswords, the well-rounded Rosen has established
himself as a dominant force in the puzzle business.
Mel's versatility, quick senseof humor, and engaging
personalitycombineto makehim oneof themostpopular
and respected figures in puzzledom. We at
CROSSW RD magazineare honoredto recognizehim
for his brilliant work.

the publisherfor anotherproject,and the
relationshipgrew.) Just a few yearsafter
Rosen'sretirement
fromIBM, hisRunning
Presscommitmentstripled.He wasgivena
secondseriesto edit,ThePen& PencilCIub;
thena third, an "omnibusreprint" seriesof

ROSENON EDITING
What happenswhen Mel Rosengets
his handson a crosswordconstructor's
work?
"Some
editorsmakea lot of changes,"
Rosensays."I try notto.Eachconstructor
hasa uniquestyle or 'voic€,' and I think
this voice deservesto be heard.
"ButI'll makechanges
iflfeell must-if there'smorethanalittleobscurityinthe
puzzle,for example,or if I needto getrid
of repetitionamongthatpuzzleandones
on neighboringpages.
"SometimesI'll make
changes!o remove 'crosswordese'
suchas the seemingly inevitable ERNE, ESNE, ORR,
ATLI, andso on.
"My personalpetbugaboois theoccasionalinstancewhereaconstructor's
clue
doesn't grammaticallyagree with the
answerword. One may be a noun, the
othera verb,for example.I will always
changetheseso that clue and answer
agree.A legitimate clue for IVY is not
'Climbs the wall.' That kind
of thing
makesme climb the wall."
previouslypublishedprzzles,updatedand
in largerprint. To date,Rosen'sbooksfor
the publisher(all series)have sold more
thanonehalf million copies.
Next, as if thebook workloadwerenot
demandingenough,Rosenin 1992became
editorof TheCrosswordsClub.Theclub's
original editor,Will Weng,was in failing
CROSSWRD

healthand could not continue;editorship
passedsmoothlyto Rosen,a longtimefriend
andpuzzlecontributorof Weng's.
Today, Rosen estimatesthat between
editing for RunningPressand The CrosswordsClub and occasionallyconstructing
crosswordsfor othermarkets,hehasa hand
in the publicationof some500 puzzlesa
year.Most areby otherconstructors,who
submitwork to him, but he still "kecpsthe
creativejuice flowing" by fashioninga few
puzzlesof his own.
.
Rosenworks at home,in Tampa."I do
the one-minutecommute,"he quips."My
daily 'trip to theoffice' consistsof walking
from oneendof thehouseto theother.My
businessattire is shortsand T-shirt. A big
day is one when I have to find matching
socks."
Despitehisjoky account,Rosen'swork
bringshim momentsof anxiety.He admits
thatalthoughhesetstimetablesfor himself,
he sometimesslipsbehind.Whenthathappens,andwhenpublicationdeadlines
loom,
he'sforcedto shift into high gear."There's
nothinglike terrorfor improvingone'sefficiency,"he notes.
Rosenproducespuzzleson his home
computerequipment.For Running Press
(in Philadelphia),he sendsa camera-ready
mechanicalof eachpuzzle(grid, clue list,
title, and any other elements).For The
Crosswords
Club (in Connecticut),
hesends
a computerdisk that lets the club's printer
print thepuzzles.
He paysapuzzleexpertin New York to
do test-solvingand error-huntingon The
CrosswordsClub puzzlesbefore they're
handedoverto thepublisher.RunningPress
assignson-staffandfreelancecopyeditors
(Continuedon Page7)
Page5

Rosen(fromPage5)

still a majorportionof thecompany's
busi- tually, tie two collaboratedin writing a
ness.
book, The Compleat Cr uciverbalisr,about
"But beforeI
hadbeenon thejob a year, solving, constructing,and selling crossIBM begantrainingmetobeaprogrammer words. Publishedin the early '80s, in
of the newfangledcomputers.I helpedthe hardcoverand paperback,the book was
companysetup earlycomputersystemsfor enjoyedwidelyby puzzlers.
It is nowoutof
someof Chicago'sbanksand for the Chi- print,butRosenandKurzbanhavehopesof
cagoPoliceDepartment."
producinga secondedition someday.
In 1966, the Rosensmoved to the
In 1981,the Rosensmovedto Tampa,
Poughkeepsie,
NewYork, area,whereIBM wherehejoined an IBM projectinvolving
hadnansferredMel. There,Peggyenrolled information-sharingcomputernetworks
at VassarCollegeand earnedher degree. amongcorporatecustomers.At that time,
Mel took severalVassarcoursesas well. Peggy,too, wentto work for IBM, becom-

to testandcheckpuzzles.
Rosen,however,haslearnedwhatevery
editor knows: No one wins every round
from Murphy's Law. The occasionalerror
creepsthrough,regardless
of prepublication
checkingand proofreading.He is crestfallenwhenthishappens."It doesn'tmatter
whethertle error was made by the constructor,by me, by a proofreader,or whoever.Theultimateresponsibilityis mine.It
happened
on my watch."
Heruefullyremembers
lapses."I learned
too late that an otter is not a rodent.I got
diastolemixedup with systole.I onceconfusedFalawith Asta.Contraryto my clue,
Mel Rosenfavorscrosswords
that have"a little somethingextragoingon" in them,
FDR's Scottienevercostarredwith Myrna
beyondthe snaightforwardtypesof themesand incidentalentries...In both my own
Loy. And once,in haste,Idid theunthink- puzzlesandthoseI acceptfromotherconstructors,I
like whatcouldbecalledgimmicks.,'
able-used the sameword asclue and anHe hasconstructed
puzzles
in
which:
swer. 'Ammo' is not a good clue for
. theonly vowelsappearingin ttregrid wereletterA,s
AMMO."
. everyletter of the alphabetappearedin ttregrid at leastthreetimes
It is Rosenhimself who most keenly
'the positionsof answen in ttre grid were thematicallyrelevant(EAST
INDIA
remembers
theseraregoofs,of course.He
coMPAhrY was at the right, where east would be on a map; sourH BEND
is a painstakingedior who prizescareand
INDIANA wasat the botom; and so on)
acctuacy.
' solvorswere challengedto carchon that they neededto draw pictures,rather
than
write alphabetletters,in certainsquares
"I onceconstructedpuzzle
Rosengrew up in and around Miami.
a
with a breakfasttheme,"hesays."Theclue,waffles' was
"Mine was pretty
a
unevenful childhood," answeredin the grid by EQUIVOcATES, the clue 'Bacon' by sHAKESPEARE
he says."I'm not sureanythingin it foreCONTEMPORARY,rhe clue 'oJ.' by slMpsoN's MCKNAME, et cerera.The
shadowedmy crosswordcareer---except unusualthingherewasthatthe themewasin theclues,not
in the answers."
thatthereusedto be a few olderkids in my
His own varietypuzzlesandthoseof otherconstructors
whichhe haspublishedhave
neighborhood
whobulliedyoungeroneson
included:
thesidewalk,and who oncesaid that they
' crosswords
in whichcluesfor eachrow or columnweregivenin randomorder(not
wouldn'tlet me passuntil I saidsomebig
necessarilyttreorder in which the answerslined up)
wordsfor them. Thatprobablymeantwords
' diagramlesses
in which the pattemsof unfilled squaresformed pictures
of two or more syllables,if I remember
' puzzlesin which morethanoneletterhadto beenteredin every
square(othereditors
thosekids."
and publishershavetheir own namesfbr puzzlesof this stylefRosencalls ttrem
"Squeezzles.")
Rosenattendedthe University of Chi"Before
cago,wherehemethis wife-to-be.
In RunningPressbooks,hehasfeatured"CorraltheClues"puzzles.After filling in all
theendof freshmanyear,PeggyandI knew
cluedentries,tle solvermustfollow additionalinsfuctionsanddererminewhichanswer
we had a future together,"he says."We
wordsareto bewrittenasecondtime,thistime in a solid.,wordsquare',(four squareswide
were married in October of sophomore by four squaresdeep,no black squares)occupyingthe
centerof the grid.
"For me,"
year."
he says,"gimmickslike thesearewhatkeepcrosswordsinteresting."
Neitherof theRosensreceiveda degree
atChicago.AlthoughPeggy'sprospective sincethe schoolwasjust turning coed."I ing a tech writer. Mel's early retirement
majorwaspre-medbiochemistryandMel' s wasoneof thefew malesin classthen,"he camein '87, and the couplehasstayedin
wasphysics,thecoupleweretoodistracted says,"so I got somefunnylooks."
Tampa.
bycompetingenthusiasms
During his years with IBM in
to pay attention
.
to labsandlibraries.TheRosenswrotethe Poughkeepsie,
Rosenlaunchedhis puzzle
Rosenwasoneof the pioneeringcrossmusic,lyrics, and book for the university constructinghobby,sellingfirstto TheN ew word constructorswho first usedcomputtheaterdepartment'sannualmusicalshow YorkTimesand thento othermarkets.
ers to design and print puzzle grid diaoneyear,leavingthemselves
scanttime for
Shortly after he becamea constructor, grams.
"In the
study.
Rosen befriended fellow IBMer Stan
early'80s,whenIBM wasintroThey left school after rwo and a half Kurzban,whomhe helpedandencouraged ducing its first desktopcomputers,
the
years.At about that time, they starteda to becomea puzzle constructoras well. companysetup anin-houselottery
because
family(theyhavetwo daughters)and Mel RosenandKurzbannotonly wereco-work- not enoughof thesemachineshadyet
been
wentto work for IBM in Illinois. "I wasin ers and kindred puzzlemakers,but also producedto let every employeepurchase
theofficeend,notthecomputerend.In fact, played duplicatebridge in an American one,"heexplains."Peggy'snamewas
drawn
computers
werestrangeandnew then.Me- Contract Bridge League club and were almostimmediately,so the first homepC
chanicaloffice tabulatingmachineswere membersof thelocalMensachapter.Even(Continuedon Page9)

GIMMICKS
ARETHESPICE

January/February
1994

CROSSWRD

Page 7

Rosen(from Page7)
weownedwasofficially hers,notmine,but
we both usedit.
"The machine
came with a dot matrix
printer-a typeof gizmothatI hadearlierseen
demonstra0ed
at a comput€rstore.The slore
salespeoplehad boastedabout all the neat
things the product could do, and they said,
'Justlook
at how it canprint outa calendar.'
"WelM
took one look at the calendar's
horizontalrows andboxes,andttreshockof
visualrecognitionhit me.Thedesignlooked
like a crosswordgrid! 'Wait a minute!' I said.

print theresult."
Naturally, this hrst puzzle program of
Rosen's,as well as his later, modihedversions,requiredIBM equipment.Ottrercomputer-skilledcrosswordershave developed
comparableprograms that run on Apple
Macintoshor othermicrocomputers.
Word of Rosen'sprognun soon spread
amongpuzzleconsfructors,
andsomebegan
callinghim, askingto buyit for tieir ownuse.
This show of interestqpurredhim both !o
maketheprogrammoreuserfriendly andto
add new feanres, suchas a hle that stores
definitionsfor theconstructor'sfutureuse.

takinganswerthatfollowed.

Mel and Peggy Rosen'sspaciousone-story
stucco home sits on a pleasant,residential
Tampastreet.Orangeand
grapefruittrees
share
tie backyardwith a pool and a hot tub, and
vividly coloredhibiscusandbird ofparadise
flowersborderthehouse.
Peggy works as a nunager of computer
progfilmmersfor anareafirm thatadministers
a business
information-sharing
network.
TheRosens'two daughtersaregrownand
living on their own.
Oneof Rosen'sbelovedpastimes
is music.
"I grew
up with it," he says."My dadwasa
professionalpiano player specializingin
Dixielandjazz.I still havesomeoldrecords
on
Irrepressiblewit is a staple of puzzles constructedby Mel Rosen.,.I like to use which he played.He
wasn'tfamous,but he
wordplay,whimsy, sneakygags,andwhateverelsefalls into ttrecatchallcategorythat I
played with a few big-time musicians-ttre
thinkof as 'foreheadslappers,"'hesays.Examplesfrom theRosenfile:
trumpetmanPhil Napoleon,
for one.If you're
a jazzbuff, you may rememberttratname.If
. Punnydistortionsof words andphrases
not, trustme,Phil wasmajorJeague.
"Ark wleldertt
..NOAII''
"WitlPhil,
Dadplayedin aDixielandgroup
"Unadvertlsedspecial"
..COUNTERPROFOSAL'
thatwastheaudiencewarm-upbandfor ttreold
"Land ofco-opstt
(CONDONATIOND
JackieGleasonTV show when it usedto be
' Entriesin which either the clue or the answercarriesa meaning
tapedattheMiami
BeachAudiorium.Gleason
otherthanthe first
apparentone (cluesare often followed by questionmarksto signal that rickery is
wouldcomeoutandsitontheedgeof thestage,
afoot)
grinningandappinghistoeswhileDadandthe
"Gray matter?',
..ANATOMY"
boysplayedberweenvideotapingsegments."
"Water colors?tt
'RAINBOVI/''
Mel startedpianolessonsatagefour,andhe
'TIt condition?tt
.PIQUE'
playedin dancebandsduringschool,college,
"'What goesaround comes
andhisPougtrkeepsiedays.
Hestillsitsdownar
.CIRCULAR SAW"
around,t for Instance?tt
thepiano(sometimesfor morethananhourat
"Why the baby sltter was summoned?"..BROUGIfT
a time) and plays for relaxation,switching
TO MIND'
"Bossof TVomen'sShoes?,,
"HEAD OYER HEEL$'
betweenclassicalandjazz. "My latesttoy is a
Yamahaelecfonicpiano,"hesaysgleefully.,.L
'Thematic gags:The 1991Long Islandcrosswordroumament
featureda Rosen canpuncha fewbuttons,anditwill laydowna
puzzlewith a "Tom Swifties" theme:
rhythm beatand a harmony--a 12-barblues
"'-'
sNidTom ldverselytt
chordprogression,for instance.This meansI
I WRITE SPONSORSJINGLES
"t-'
saidTom currenttyrt
canconcentraie
MY DOG IS A LEASf,D MONGREL
on thefun stuff,i.e.,playinga
("rt
jazz improvline, while themachineaccompaslld Totn ruefutlytt
HOW PARIS STNEETSBORE ME
nies.I' m acomboby myself,rightin myfamily
'I can
adaptthat!"'
He reportsthat today there are about 100 room."
SooneofthefirstrolesfortheRosens'
new construclorswho usehis programin one or
Tennis is anotherRosenhobby. Mel and
PCwasto serveascruciblefor the develop anotherof its venions.
Peggyplay in a local club, whereboth play
mentof a crosswordgrid+onstructingproSomeof theseuserslackcomputerexperi- miieddoublesand
hecaptains
themen'sleague
gram."Until then, like most constructors,I ence,soRosenunfailinglytakesall ttretime
team.
hadphysicallypreparedpuzzlesby working necessary!o give kind, helpful answersto
He currently is secretaryof the National
withgraphpaper,artsupplies,andfypewrit€r," theirquestions--although
he
can'
trefrain
from
Puzzlers'
lrague, a puzzle-devotee
groupthat
he says."And I was experiencingthe same detveringoccasionalgood-natured
ribbings. holdsanannualconvention
andissues
amonthlv
foul-upsfamiliartoallconstructon.Youhnish WhenconsEuctrcrDonnaS
tonehadjustboughtnewsletterfeaturingthe members'own word
numberingthegrid spaces,andthenyou see the program,sheapproachedRosenwith a puzzles
of manykinds.
thatyou *ipped number23, say,so all ttre questionatapuzzleconvention.A newcomer
Rosenfindstimefor thesehobbieswhenhe
followingnumbersarein thewrongboxes.Or to computersthen,Stonewas unableto recansnatchminutesawayfrom whatusedto be
yourhand
slips,andsuddenlythere'sa sme€r membertheword"cursor,"sosheaskedRosena hobby: work
with crosswords.He mav be
offelt-tipmarkerinkinwhat'ssupposed
tobe about"the little dancinglight on thescreen." retired,butnoonecouldtellby watching.
.i,ve
a whitesqnre.
DonninghisbestGrouchoesque
leer,
Rosen
never
been
busierin my li[e," he says.
"So I
tr
satdown at our first-generationpC leanedclose
andsaid,"I loveit whenyoutalk
andsartedcodinga prognunthat would put technical."
Connecticutresident
ALEX VAUGHN isan
blackand white squarestogether,enterseStonecrackedupin laughterandhadsome editor of businesspublicationsand a conquentialnumbersin the white squares,and troublepayingattention!o the lucid, painsstructorof crosswordpuzzles.

FOREHEAD
SLAPPERS

January/February
1994

CROSSWRD

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