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Memories
WillWengandEugeneT.Maleska
byHelene
Hovanec
1993wasa sadyearfor puzzlesolverswhentwoof itsluminaries
diedjustmonthsapart-WillWeng
on May2 andEugeneT. Maleska
onAugust3. Weat CROSSW RDmagazine
decided
to postpone
our
regularly
scheduled
featureto honorWengandMaleska
andrememberlhe
contributions
iheymadeto
the crossword
world.
"This
s a highschoolseniorWillWeng
showedme that a crossword
One of Weng's little-known crosswrote suchan impressiveauto- ptzzle could do many things that a word ventureswas a college
coursehe
b i o g r a p h y t h a t h i s E n g l i s h regular column could do. Margaret andFarrartaughtat The New
Schoolin
teachersaid she was sure he'd be a Farraralwayssaidthatcrosswordswere New York City. The
curriculumcovered
famous writer or reporter some day. entertainment
first. This puzzleshowed solving and constructingregular and
Herpropheticvision wasrealizedwhen me what Weng would allow the puzzle specializedpuzzles-diagramlesses,
this star pupil joined the prestigious to do in the nameof entertainment." acrostics,cryptics,
etc. ThoughWeng
New York Times as a copy editor after
In 1975,Will Shortzlearneda valu- enjoyedit, he remarkedin a letter to
graduatingfrom the ColumbiaUniver- ablelessonwhenWengrejectedtwo of Shortz, "Thank goodness
the New
sity Schoolof Journalism.However,it his puzzleswith this note:
School course is over. It was a nice
"These
wasn't his copy editing skills, formiare both fine technicaljobs experiencebut as Margaretand I told
dable as they were, that made him a but not quite my cup of tea.Patternsof you, onceis enough."
householdname.His love of wordsand this sort not only make for difficult
BeforeWeng retired from TheTimes
hispenchantfor punnypuzzlingearned constructingbut also for tedioussolv- he wrotea farewell
columnin which he
him the well-deservedreputationas a ing, in my view. I have a file full of said, "One
can hardly call eight years
witty wordsmithas he interactedwith such just-word puzzles-so much so as a puzzle editor
much of a career.
millions of solversvia crosswords.
thataboutall I am lookingfor now is an Somemight even say that any number
When Weng took over The Times occasional puzzle with some kind of of yearsasa puzzleeditor
isn't muchof
crosswordfrom Margaret Farrar he modestthemeor connectingidea."
a career.But it has seemedlike a lifefollowed her editorial style for a short
In retrospect, Shortz agrees with time to me and I have enjoyedevery
time. "I tried to imitate Margaret from Weng's analysis."I used words that minuteof it."
beginningto end," herecalledin a 1982 weren'tcommonand didn't conjureup
Whenhe leftThe Times hekeptbusy
article. But he quickly realizedthat he mentalimages."
by editing a seriesof crosswordbooks
hadanopportunityto makehis indelible
Weng's gentlemanner,dry wit, and for RandomHouse,soliciting and edmarkon puzzles,so he relaxedthe rules impeccablemannersearned him the iting puzzles
for The Crosswords
Club,
andopenedthedoorsto an eraofpunny, friendshipand respectfrom manypuz- playing duplicate
bridge, walking for
funnypuzzles.
zlers.For Nancy Schuster,now editor- miles, swimming at the New york
Manyof today'stop constructors
and in-chief of Dell ChampionPuzzles, Athletic Club, and hosting monthly
editorscanpinpoinran influenrialWill Weng was her mentor. "He had a lunchesfor crossword
constructors
and
Wengpuzzleor letterthathada positive graceful way of cluing and he was editors.
effecton their careers.Merl Reaglere- graciousin his relationswith others."
T h e s e l i v e l y l u n c h e o n sa l l o w e d
membersthe Weng-editedpuzzle that Not havinghis own stableof construc- peoplein "the
business"to meetinforimpactedmoston him. Titled "Thanks- tors whenhe took over Farrar'sjob, he mally, chat
socially, and talk shop.
giving Fare," it was published in the openeddoorsfor Schusterin the 70sby Weng's
role seemedto be that of bel970s."As I solved,the thematicclues first publishingherpuzzlesin The Times nevolenthost-setting
a relaxingstage
emerged-freeze-dried coffee, instant and later recommendingher for a free- for interestingpeople
to interact.Conpotatoes,
frozenpeas,cannedcorn,etc. lanceeditorialjob at Dell.
versationswerelively andeveryonealand I realizedthat it wasn't really a
ConstructorFrances Hansen and ways left in a jolly mood.
fresh Thanksgivingdinner. It was a Weng were very good friends. He'd
Will Weng's legacy to crosswords
prefabdinner.Theblandtitledidn'treveal ride out to her homein Metuchen,New was immeasurable.
With his drollness,
the underlyinghumor behind lhe puzzle, Jersey,once a week to spend hours gentlemanner,
acceptingattitude,and
nor did it give away the rheme.All these playingTrivial Pursuitwith her andher word wizardry,
he allowedconstructors
little bombskeptgoingoff. Every thematic friends."Will was very good at it and to unleash
their creativityto the maxi_
cluewasa commenton how a fast society would invariablywin threeout of five mum. His motto
was that crosswords
hadaffectedtradition.
games."
(Continuedon page 7)
November/December
1993
CROSSWRD
Page 5

cluing:"Pleasenotethebrevityof many
of my definitions.For example,'Scent'
f o r ' O D O R ' a n d ' I r e l a n d f' o r ' E R I N . '
were fun, and one of the bestforms of
Today,I might defineODORas 'Whar
entertainment.
.
carbon monoxide lacks' or 'What
W
i
l
l
W
e
n
g
'
s
l
u
n
c
h
e
o
n
s
w
e
r
e
Puzzle editing was Eugene T.
anosmicpeople don't sense.'As for
held at Le Rivage in
Maleska's second major career. For
ERIN, today's clue might read
'Leprechaun's
morethan30 yearshe wasa teacherand Manhattan's theater district.
land' or'Milesian's
home.'...[This]
points
administratorin the New York City
out one of the
The group met approximately
schoolsystem.In thatmilieu manyacdifferencesbetweena good puzzle toevery six weeks. Weng would
coladeswere bestowedupon him, inday and a crosswordin the thirtiesand
forties.In the distantpast,editorsprecluding being the first superintendent telephonethe attendees,advisto havea schoolnamedafterhim during ing them of the date and chatferredprimarydefinitions.This caused
his lifetime.
a repetitionof the sameclues for the
ting with each of them.
But among his souvenirs,and one
words.The resultwas what I call
T h e s e l a r g e r g e t - t o g e t h e r s same
that he liked to pull out and admire
a 'knee-jerk'responsefrom solvers.An
were an outgrowth of lunch
often,was the memoryof his first pubODOR was alwaysclued as a 'Scent'
m
e
e
t
i
n
g
s
t
h
a
t
s
t
a
r
t
e
d
w
i
t
h
lished crossword.He recreatedthis
and a TREE was definedas a 'Woody
"Maleska's
plant.' In the end, the excitementinexperiencein his book,
Fa- W e n g , F a r r a r , H a n s e n a n d
vorite Word Games":
H a r r i e t t W i l s o n ( a s s i s t a n t v o l v e d i n s o l v i n g c r o s s w o r d sw a s
"In
the early forties I beganto sub- extraordinaire to Farrar, Weng,
numbed."
mit daily puzzles to the New York
In later years Maleska used more
and Maleska) many years
Herald Tribune. I probably shouldbe
thought-provokingclues:
enteredin the GuinnessBook of World ago.The group originally met
He has sites to see
Realtor
at Cafe de France and when
Records for the most rejections.The
Something to spin
Yarn
total equaledtwo scorebeforeI finally
that restaurant closed moved
Worker for a colony
Ant
s c o r e di n 1 9 4 3 ! "
two doors down to Le Rivage.
Where to hear fans
"My first
crosswordappearedin the
The group kept expanding and
buzzing
Stands
New York Herald Tribune, without
Something
to
step
on
Gas
prior notification to me, on a sunny by the time I joined the reguSounds from a dentist's
lars included: FrancesHansen,
A u g u s4
t ,1943.
office
"I was
Ahs
driving my father's old car. Maura Jacobson,Alfio Micci,
One way to go
Steady
My bride,who lovedpuzzles,askedme Bernice Gordon,
Lou Sabin,
Platter matter
Music
to stopat a stationerystoreso that she
Mel Taub, Nancy Schuster,Will
Applause on the field
Rahs
couldbuy the Trib and solve the daily
job
Do
an
Inside
Line
S
h
o
r
t
z
,
and Trude Jaffe
puzzlewhile we wereriding. When she
Irresistlbelle
Siren
returnedto the car, she immediately ( s p o u s e sw e r e a l s o i n c l u d e d ) .
openedthe paperto the pagewherethe
Weng always sar at the head
Spreadg not for beds
Oleos
pluzzlewas printed and she gasped.
of
the table but neverheld court.
Man after a fashion
'Gene,'
Fop
'the
she shouted,
puzzleis
A modest person, he'd rather
He's never out of butts
Ram
yours!'
"I had
listen
than talk and would give
alreadyput the car in motion,
The main showcasesfor Maleska's
butwhenI heardthosewonderfulwords his undivided attention to anyeditorial work were thepuzzle pageof
I got so excited that I could hardly one who spoke.He tried to talk
The Times and the Simon & Schuster
controlthe wheel. Finally, I managed to each person alone
crossword
books. And as a regular
for a few
to pull over to the curb and takea look.
contributorto Dell PuzzleMagazines,
minutes.
Thereit was!'Today'spuzzleby Eugene
h i s " C h a l l e n g e r " c r o s s w o r d sw e r e
The
just
final
luncheon,
before solved by millions. For 40 years he
T. Maleska.'The thrill of that moment
is comparable
to thefirst time you make Christmas 1992,was an effort for
contributedfour puzzles a month to
love.It tookmefifteenminutesto smoke Will to organize and attend. He
Dell, publisherof I 15 magazinetitlesa
my pipeandget my nervesinto a calmer hardly talked, preferring
year
with an annualcirculationof about
to listen
statebeforedriving off again."
20 million. Upon his death,editor-into scatteredconversationsaround
Maleskareprinted that puzzle (for
chief Erica Rothsteinwrote this letter
the
table. He ate almost nothing to The Times (which
whichhe received$5) in his book. The
was not yet puband was obviously in a lot of dis- lishedasCROSSWRDmagazinewent
cut-and-dried
clues were indicativeof
that era:
comfort.But Wengwasimpecca- to press):
"We note
with muchsorrowthedeath
bly mannered
atall times-alwavs
Not of theclergy
Laic
of
Eugene
T.
Maleska.One thing your
Makeperfectlyhappy
polite,soft-spoken,
Imparadise
andgenerous obituary
neglected
to mention,however,
FamousBgJiptianstatue
Memnon
with hispraise.He'll bemissed. is that for more than 40 years,
his
-H.H.
Maleskamadeno apologiesfor his
(Continuedon page 9)

Memories (from Page5)

November/December
1993

NO CROSSWORDS
AT LUNCH

CROSSWRD

Page 7

Memories(from Page7)

tor, everythingmust be checkedand good constructorwill sprinkleoffbeat
rechecked,then checked again. No definitionsthroughoutthe puzzle,like
puzzlesgraced the pages of the many matter what, the puzzle had to be as a pinch of salt
and pepper,but will not
titles of The Dell Plzzle Magazines. right asanimperfecthumancouldmake smotherhis concoctionin
seasoning."
We were, in fact, the exclusivemaga- i t . B e c a u s ei f t h e s o l v e r s w e r e n ' t
Maleska worked so far in advance
zinemarketfor his work. In his yearsof happy...Well,it was just roo awful ro that his editedpuzzles
continuedto be
constructingpuzzlesfor us (and make contemplate.
published after August 3. Two late
"Lots
no mistakeaboutit - puzzlesarebuilt,
and lots of peoplethink they summer puzzles reflect his styte: a
they are not written), EugeneMaleska can makecrosswordpuzzles.Very few tricky "Follow
the Directions"by Berbecamethe favorite of millions and can makereally good ones;evenfewer nard Meren:
millions of Dell solvers.No one else makethegreatones.EugeneT. Maleska
"West SideStory,
haseverengendered
LacisumnielmreB A
the volumeof mail madethe greatones.He will certainly
Westerneggs
his puzzleshave;no one elsehas chal- be missed."
Stelemo
Mae West
lengedsolvers in quite the sameway
revreserp efiL
Throughtheyearsthousands
of solvNorthernsPY
his puzzlesdo. His love of music and ers wrote to Dell about Maleska's
operawere apparentin his many refer- puzzles.Indicativeof the fan mail his
l"Tff]i":.Hffi,
puzzles inspired is this letter from a and a punny "Baedeker
Badinage,'by
solver:
JackL. Steinhardt:
"In my
opinion,EugeneT. Maleska's
Road vehlcle alongslde
puzzles are one of the highlights of
the Po
Turin car
your magazine.He's tough (and I selIn a 1983articlein Dell PuzzJe
Why ls Dr. Sagan
dom beat him) but I can usuallycome
MagazinesMaleska was asked, within a word or two of solving his
beingsentto N.M.?
Carlsbad
"Have you
ever come across a puzzles.WhenI seehis nameon ap:uzzle Big job for L.I. water dept. FlushingN Y
Maw! Where's the R.I.
strangersolving one of your I can feel thejoy of battlerising in me.
roadmap?
Pawtucket
On
the
few
occasionswhen I have
puzzles?"To which he replied,
Get
smashed
in
Formosa
Taiwan
on
completed
the pluzzle
"Yes,many
the
times.The first wasa senseof triumph is mostcorrectly,
Onetirne
Hermitage
alum
Lenlngrad
satisfying."
man on the subwaywho, when I
Proddlngby Polynesian
The Times also praisedits in-house
hostess
Have Samoa
expert.
inroducedmyseH,changed
Just
a
few
months
afterMaleska
hisseat
became
editor,
this
letter
wasprinted:
andgotoff atthenextstationrSince
Nancy Joline, one of Maleska'sfaMaleska"has given X-word puzzles vorite constructors(and
the recipient
thenI havekept silent,excepton a delightful
new dimension.They are
oneotheroccasion:WhenI hadthe now more intricateand more challeng- of a 1990Wynneraward)wrote a tribute to Maleska:
"As
interviewfor theprincipal'stestin ing than before - of just the right
a footnote to your obituary of
complexity
to
be
thought-provoking
and EugeneT. Maleska,I'd like to saywhat
New York City, the interviewer
yet not hopelesslyabstruse.I am espe- a challenging,
rewardingexperienceit
happened
to be solvingoneof my cially
thankfulfor theabsence
ofcliches was being one of his crosswordpuzzle
puzzles.When I told him it was andblind crossings.And I am indebted
constructors.
mine, he was amazed,and spent to him for countlesshours of brain"One
thing you learnedearly on was
spraining
enjoyment."
theentireinterviewquestioningme
that Genedidn't take kindly to sloppy
Maleskaacknowledgeda tug of war work. When one
on howI did it!"
day he complimented
betweensolverswho lovedeasycluing me on the accuracy
of my work, I reand thosewho weren't satisfiedunless mindedhim thathe had
oncethreatened
the cluing wasexcruciatinglydifficult. to drop me 'like a hot potato,
if I con_
encesto them in his puzzles,as washis He often repeatedthe following anectinued
to
make
mistakes;
so if mv
unique senseof humor. Every puzzle dote: "One day I receivedtwo letters
puzzleswerenow relativelyerror-free,
showed off his vast storehouseof from solvers. One was from a Florida
he had only himself to thank.He wrote
knowledge.
man who said he was launchinga boy- back that he didn't
remembermaking
"But
even the masterhimself made cott of the Miami Herald (which synthat remark,but was glad he did! It's
mistakes.
Wearingthe hat of construc- dicatedmy puzzles)because
my puzzles going to be hard ro lose the habit
of
tor is quite different from wearing the were too tough. I read this and was
saying to myself, after finishing a
hat of editor. And as a junior editor instantlyandfearfullydepressed.
Then puzzle,'I hopeGenelikes it."'
some20 yearsago,I wasin awe of him I openedthe other one. It was from a
Will WengandEugeneT. Maleskaleft a
andquailedar rhe rhoughtof havingto fellow on ParkAvenuewho claimedmy
legacyof their stylesand philosophiesin
questionhim on clue referenceswe puzzleswere so easyI wasn't fit to
be themanyconstructors
andeditorswhowere
couldn'tverify. But questionhim I did, printed in The Times.I clippedoff the
theirstarpupils.Theirinfluenceson cross_
at the behest of [my] puzzle two letterheadsand sent each note to
wordswill be felt for years.
tr
e d i t o r s . .K. a t h l e e n R a f f e r t y a nd the other address.Never heard from
RosalindMoore...Theyinsistedalways either of themagain."
HELENE HOVANEC isaNewyork Cirv_
thatno matterhow good the construcHis philosophy of cluing was: "A basedwriter/editor.

DON'TTALK
TOSTRANGERS

November/Decemberl
993

CROSSWRD

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