EricAlberton Dullness

PlusAmerica'sMostCreativeCrosswords
By the Nation'sTopConstructors

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i:l

'God Blessthe Franklin'
RandolphRoss
by Helene
Hovanec

II
tI
I
I

T T Thcn RandolphRossconstructcd their questionsor opinions regarding the in the Sunday paper. He got his fiftecn
h i s s e c o n dc r o s s w o r d
p u z z l ch i s crossword.
t/t/
minutesof fame from his friends,relatives,
V V aim was to "make a big splash."
Newman was so impressedwith the and colleagueswho bombardedhim with
He had "made every mistake in the book" puzzle that he called Ross immediately to phone calls of congratulations."They
with his first effort and wanted to rcmedy tell him "it was the best first puzzle he had wantcd to know how I did the puzzle,
and
the situation. He had "startcd doodling," ever reccived," and that he planncd to they asked if I was rich and/or famous
createdapluzzle,mailcd it off to The New publishit immediately."My headswelled. now!" It wasa memorablebeginning his
to
York Times and had seen it rejccted imme- I was shockedand thrilled," Rossrecalled crosswordcarccr.
diately.
happily.
Newman's enthusiasmfor hispuzzleancl
However, Ross received a bonus along
Concurrently,Newman had a crossword its publication spuned Ross to do more
wit}rthestandardrejectionnotc-a stylc sheet tournamentschcduledand invited Ross to crosswords.He immediatelyproduced
one
listingthecorrcctway to submitpuzzlcs.
Now participatein it as a contestant.Ross ac- with a Mother's Day theme. Titlcd, ..For
he rcalized that there were rules for the ccpted,and six yearsafter the experience, Mom," Rosscluedeachletter
in Motheras
"M
maximum number of words allowed and the he vividly recollecrshis fcelings:
is for..." and each answer described
"I
ovcrall percentageof black squares.There
couldn't believetherewcre so many somethinga mothermight do:
was also a standardway Lo write clucs. He peopleinto puzzlcs."
Making me eat vegetables
"I
hadn'tknown any of lhescrules.
couldn't bclicve how fast Lhesolvcrs
Opcningmy brokcn zippcr
"I
didn't realize how much work wcnt were." (Rosshad unknowingly sat next to
Teachinglessonsof lifc
into constructing,"Ross recalls.He con- Trip Payne,a supcr-speedysolver.)
Hclping me do my homcwork
"I
ccdcsl.hathis first crossword wasn't subdidn't think crosswordsshouldcause
Enduringmy teenagewoes
mitted in a style appropriatefor any publi- mc this much stress."
Rcadingbcdtimc srorics
"I
cation.After learning the rules he thought,
was afraid that I wouldn't be able to
Ross
alsofit a thcmaticmcssage,"Happy
"Let
mc seeif I cando a 21 x2I ptzzlc." Hc finish."
Mothcr's Day," in the centcrof the puzzle.
dccidcdto submit it in the appropriatcstylc
His fcarsaboutfinishingwereunjustified, After it was published he had it framed for
to Ncwsday'sStanNewman and was only for he did manageto complete eachpuzzle his mother and gave
it to her as a gift. .,She
hoping for a professionalcritique from thc and ultimately rankcd "almost in the top got a kick
out of it."
editor.
half." What really impressedhim, though,
Ross now undcrstoodthat "thcre was a
"I
was undcr thc notion that.hundredsof was the camaraderieof the contestants."I
whole markct for crosswords.I realized
pcoplc made crosswords and each editor got such a kick looking aroundand seeing
thatpeopleactuallypaidyou to dopuzzles.',
rcccivcdmore submissionseachwcck than lonersgcuingtogctherwith othcrsanddoing With Newman's
helpatfirst, andeventualy
heor shecould handle."Rossbclievcdthat a solitaryactivityin a group.I said,'This is on his
own,Rosssetaboutgcil.inghispuzzles
if hc could grab an cditor's attcntion he'd really diffcrcnt.' I understoodthat thcre into
asmany markctsaspossible.His crosshavean excellentchanceof sccinghis work was a subculture and I was learning all words
appearregularly in most of themajor
publishcd.
aboutthc inncr workings of this subculture. publications that advocaLenew-wave cluSo Ross laborcd intensively to crcate a The tournamcntopenedmy eyes to the i n g - C R O S S W
RD magazine, The
tour dc force, a 27 x 2l crosswordentitlcd whole thing."
Washington
Post,
Dell
Champion Cross"One
Good Turn," with a novcl lwist. The
words, Newsday, Games, and all three
main cntries wcre clues rclated t"oroundROUNDANDROUND
puzzlc clubs. Moreover, Ross producesa
ncss-roulette whcels, round thc clock,
s
s
full-pagc crosswordevcry three wecks for
ColumbusCircle, circulatcs, roundcd off,
lr
w
F ir st magazine,a mass-marketpublication,
turn around.But the at"tention-grabbcr
was
o
E
in which hc haslotal control overthepuzzle.
a rclal.cdquote placcd clockwise in the
N
G
His
Fjrsr assignmcntwas one of his first
centcrof the grid and clued as "whecl-ofK
o
regular commissions and is extremely
fortuncphrase"(shown at right).
E
popular with the magazine'saudience.
Ross sent the puzzle to Newman, the
D
S
In rcffospect,onc can see that Ross has
ncwcrosswordeditor ofNewsday.Ncwman
o
w
thc idcalbackgroundfor a crosswordcareer.
wasmaking his own splashby introducing
B
H
As a child, hc solvedrhesyndicatcclJumble
ncw-wavecluesto puzzlerswho hadhoned
ONSPOTSEiISERE
ptzzle in the newspaper.After rearranging
theirsolving skills on cut-and-dricdcrossscramblcdlcttersto form four or five words,
words.Eagerfor feedbackfrom the public,
Ross'seyeswcreopcncdevcn
widerjust he'd thcn use the circlcd lettersto answera
Ncwmanaskedsolversto wril.eto him with a shortwhilclatcrwhenhispuzzlcappcarcd
(Continuedon Page 7)
September/October
1993
C R O S S WR D
P a g e5

L

Ross (from Page5)

have the entire school library at my convenience.I ask the librariansthe strangest
cartoonclue. He graduatedto solving easy questionsand they find the answersfor me.
crosswordsin the massmarket magazines, For a puzzle called 'Literary Luncheon' I
QUOTE-WORDPUZZLE
especiallythose published by Harle. And, askedthem to find any books that had food
WITH A TWIST:
after a while, when he started to notice in the title; they did a searchand got me a
Ross'squote-wordp:uzzle
is unconstructors' names, he became an avid list. I asked for a directory of amusement like
anyother.Eschewing
the
usual
JackLuzzatto fan.
parksand they found onein a Fodor's suide
formatwherebythe quotedwords
Both parentswere crosswordaficiona- of America." The librarianshave accJssto
areplacedhorizontallyor vertically
dos-his dad tackled thepuzzlesinThe New an information data bank wherebv a kev
in
thegridoneletterata time,Ross
YorkTimes while his mom preferredthose word is typed in and the computersearche;
constructed
his quote-wordcrossinThe Daily News. Additionally, rhe Ross for appropriate words and titles.
word
placing
by
eachword of the
family togetherplayedthe word mine game
In his Syosset,New york, home Ross
in The World Telegram and Sun. Every hasacomputerwithaCD-ROM containins quoteinto onesquare.Thefilledin crossword
eveningafter dinner they'd get togetherto an almanacanda dictionaryplus listingsoi
revealed
aquotereadform as many words as possibleusing only book, movie, and song titles. He usesthis
ing downthecenterof thediaeram
the letterscontainedin the profiled word.
extensivelyto fact-checkclues.
thusly:
Ross didn't limit his puzzling to word
Ross's wife and two children-a 16puzzles- he was also a big jigsaw fan. ..I year-old daughter and l3-year-old
sonAGEnda
did every jigsaw in creation. I had closets are nol crosswordsolvers."Nobodv in mv
ISlet
full of them," he remembers.Sometimes, housedoesmy puzzles.My kids thlnk I'm
trAy
after completing a jigsaw, he'd have it nuts. When we're in the car and I ask them
theQUESTION
framed and presentit to a friend.
word questions,they're not entertained."
runOF
In addition, Ross's educational backRoss's puzzles are, however, promineedareMINDer
ground was conducive to an intellectual nently displayed in his school
librarv.
OVERtip
pursuitlike puzzling. A native of Kew Gar- availablefor anyoneto takeanA
sotve.His
becomesaMATTERof
dens, New York, Ross graduatcd from puzzlesarethe only onesallowed there.for
record
College
with
a major in mat.hand a it's his domain.
SEEIF
Queens
minor in education and English. He then
Ross's ideascome from varied sources.
asYOUcantell
received two advanceddegreesfrom Co- "As a principal I see every subject
DONTuse
being
lumbia Teacher's College-a master's in taughtby the teachersin my school.As
MINDers
I'm
Math/Education and a professional di- watching a teacherteach a lesson I
often
hITsa
ploma-giving him the necessarycreden- come up with an idea." He'll quickly jot
sheDoESNT
tials for a New York State school admin- down the ideaon a scrapof paperand file
it
ASAMATTER
istrator.
in his crossword folder. ..Ideashave also
He taughthigh schoolmath in New york
come to me in unlikely places-when I'm
FLAG MAKER'S DOZEN?
City, quickly advancingto chairmanshipof driving, standing in line in a book
store,
Rossplacedall the post office
the math depafimentat Seward park Hish
abbreviations
of the 13 orieinal
School. And, just a short while later, f,e
When Rossdoessit down to constructan
becametie youngest.principal
inNew york
actualpuzzle,he triesto clue his crosswords coloniesinto a 15 x 15 grid, rising
City. He was only 33 years old when he with phrasesthat make him chuckle. preeachtwo-letterabbreviationin one
tookoverthereinsatNewtown High School ferring to clue out of his head,he refers
square.In addition, the two theto
in Queenswith its 4,300-memberstudent his extensivereferenceworksfor
matic
entries(bothof which are16thefactual
body. After five years he moved to checkingof all his clues.
letterslongF"American Citizens"
Plainview,Long Island, where he presides
He tries to place his surnamein all his
and "Thirteen Coioniss"- glfssasa tcnuredprincipal responsiblefor 1,350 puzzles. "I like it to be my signature."
crossedin the center of the grid
students.
While he uses many of the well-known
with NC (the p.o. abbreviationfor
As a principal,Rosshasan eleven-month namesfor Ross (e.g. Diana and Betsy),
he
North Carolina) smack in the
contract.He spendsmuch of his free time hasalsoclued it as"yours truly." A not-somiddle.
on weekends,evenings,and vacationscon_ sympatheticeditor changed it. He
under_
Rossoriginally soldthis puzzleto
structingcrosswords.Any appropriatetime standsthat editorsstamptheir
own style on
Games magazine.Editorwill Shortz
is usedfor puzzling."When I'm on a plane the puzzles in thcir publications,
often
loved it and was eagerto publish it.
nowI do crosswords.I don't readanymore." changingclues and grids. He
was particu_
He tncs to sell eight crosswordsa monthUnfortunately, Games declared
larly tickled wirh the way editor Henry
four 2ls and four l5s.
bankruptcyjustatthistimeandShortz
Hook changedhis clue for ..tepee,,,from
He usesMel Rosen'scrosswordprogram "Tonto'stownhouse"to "Tonto's
had
to return the puzzle. Ross then
erection.',
to print out the puzzle but does the actual
R o s s s p e n d sa b o u tf o u r h o u r s o n a 2 l
sold it to Dell Champion puzzles
composingon graph paper. He types his x 2 l c r o s s w o r d ." s o m e t i m e s
t h e p u z z l e whereit waspublished.Wh encames
clues on a word processor. When he's f l o w s a n d s o m e t i m e sI h a t e
to put in
wasresrurectedshortz remembered
thinkingup rhemes,he avails himself of the a n o t h e r b l a c k b o x . I w a n t t o
f
i
l
l
i
n
a
s
the
puzzleand wantedto publishit,
resourcesclosestto him. "I'm fortunateto
page
but
(Continued on
it was too iate.
9)
September/October
1993

TWOROSSORIGINALS

C R O S S WR D

Page 7

Ross(from Page7)
fcw black squares as possible." His
favorite reference tool is the Franklin
s p e l l c r , a n a u t o m a t e dd e v i c e t h a t p r e sentsall the dictionary entries for an
a r r a n g e m e n to f l e t t e r s . H i s m o t t o i s :
"God
bless the Franklin Speller."
R o s s h a s h i s o w n h i g h s t a n d a r d sf o r
t h e p u z z l e s h e c r e a t e s .T h o u g h e d i t o r s
w i l l a c c e p t a m i n i m u m o f s e v e nt h e m e
entriesand a maximum of 144 words.

Ross tries to have nine theme cnlries
and a maximum of 140 words in his
g r i d s . " T h e r e ' s a c e r t a i na e s t h c t i cc h a l l e n g e " t o a t t a i n i n g t h c s eg o a l s .
S i n c eg e t t i n gi n t o t h e p u z z l eb u s i n e s s
Ross spendsmoro time on social act i v i t i e s r c l a t e dt o p u z z l i n g . W i t h a c o r e
g r o u p o f p u z z l e r s ,h e m e e t s w e e k l y a t
the home of George and Dorothy
Bredehorn solving word games and
p u z z l e s f r o m G e o r g e ' s e x t e n s i v ec o l lection. He was also a member of the

National Puzzlcrs'Leaguc for a while,
and he regularly attends crossword
contests.
Rosslovcs his subsidiarycarecrandsees
himself creating crosswords indefinitely.
"When
I retire, it'll bc a great avocation.I
don't do it for the moncy,but I do setaside
the money I earn from my crosswordsinto
a specialfund."

tr

HELENEHOVANECisaNewYorkCitvbasedwriter/editor.

THEMESAND CLUESFROMRANDYROSSPUZZLES
D6jaVu All Over Again

pagcant winner?

D6ja coup

A counter revolution

Fertility clinic

D6ja due

Rcmindcr to pay

pagcant winner?

D6ja flu

lVintcr rclapse

MBA pageant

D6ja vicw

Another look

winncr?

D6ja voodoo

That old black magic

tr{cchanics'pagcant

D6ja woo

Falling in love again

winncr?

D6ja you?

Haven't we met before?

Most gullible pageant

Misspcller

Misconccption

Wctrbcr and Rice

Chocoholic animator? Malt Disncy

pageant winncr?

Chocoholic boxer?

Soothsayers'pageant

Chocoholic
comcdienne?

Bill of Fear

GIVTW star?

Imogenc Cocoa

Sandwitch and a
cold bicr

DecipherDecipher
Misinformcr

Orco Spccdwagon

140 or more words.

wcight?

Nutty as a fruit srlad

Moan about onc's
Cry in onc's litc bccr

Place to lose weight
Pcnsadictcola

Talks about one's

Have a courtroom
Stumblc on the truth
Spill the beans

Bend the rules

Wcight watchcr's

l\{ake fun of an F

Dcgrade dc grade

relicf from

R i d i c u l et h c r o l l c r
Skim milk of magncsia

Drop the charges
Break the record

Margarine balls

girls are made of?

Aspartame and spice

DoublePlays
Ibsen with Burrows,

Gum up the works

Swerling and Locsser Guys and a Dolls House
O'Ncill work with

Scratch the surface

'

Dcform de form

Hare
Misdcmcanor

Counsclors' pageant

It's in the mait

Macbcth of a Salcsman

Uscdcar dcalcr's
promise

It's as good as ncw

Shakespearewith
Miller

Misguidance

English teachcrs'

September/Octoberl
993

Promises Promises
Burcaucrat'spromisc I'm here to hclp
Dcntist'spromise
This won't hurt
Drcssdcsigncr's
promisc
It's an original

Much Atlo Atrout plcnty

Annie Christie

Shakcspcarc with

Bcst bchaved pagcant

winncr?

application

Noshcr'spromise
Politician'spromise
Promiseto a
bartcndcr
Promiscto a creditor

Mechan, Strouse and
Charnin

Pageant
Winners
winner?

Dcridc de ride

What weight-watching

Have a waxing
accidcnt

coastcr
Crumplc an

turkeys?

Have a watch-factory
accidcnt

Dcsirc de sire
Dctest dc test

Have a turntable
accidcnt

with the king

Dcfine dc fine

lVcight watchcr's

Have an explosive

Dcsign de sign

Spccify the penalty

Chews the low fat

indigcstion?

Have a measuring

Deprcss dc prcss

Crcatc a billboard

Abhor thc audition

wcight problcm?

Have a kitchcn

Make the mcdia
mclancholy

lVant an audicnce

in Florida?
Brcak thc hatrit

In this 21 x 21 ptzAe Ross's feat was rwofoldcombining an originaltheme with a grid with a verylow
word count, just 134 words insread of rhe accepable

Crazcd about one's

Hale a convcnt

accidcnt

Hallowecn lunch?

WeightWatching

Oops!

accidcnt

Frcsh booberrics

Misfortune

ovcrwcight?

accident

Monster checse

Hallowccn dessert?

Nestle Howard

Chocoholic rock star? Bon bon Jovi

accidcnt

toppcr?

Stool pigeons'

Chocoholic rock

accident

l{istrusting
Misdirection

pageant winncr?

Chocoholic PBS host? Alistair Cookie
group?

Halloween beverage? Dccoffinatcd coffee
Halloween crackcr

winner?

Chocoholic

A Strectcar Namcd Evita

Misalignmcnt

Movicmakers'
Rocky Road Balboa

FiddlcronaHotTin Roof

Williams with

N{ismanagcmcnt

winncr?

Chocoholics

Williams with Stcin,
Bock and Harnick

I'll havejust one
No tax increase
One more drink

Stcinbcck with Eliot
and Webbcr

Of IVIiccand Cats

C R O S S WRD

Page 9