There are millions of people that play crossword puzzles, with many doing so on a daily basis. Crosswords are a fun way to pass time while also training your brain, after all. Often, though, we don’t think about the people who made the puzzles we enjoy so much. There are some names that are well-known because they’re part of our daily lives, however. Here are the five greatest crossword writers of all time and how they contributed to the world of crosswords.
5. Brendan Emmett Quigley
The first writer on the list is Brendan Emmett Quigley, who started making crosswords professionally while in his early twenties. Quigley was said to be a prodigy at crosswords from a young age and grew up idolizing some of the greats that he now shares this list with. Quigley has had his puzzles used in all of the major publications and helped crosswords become more mainstream with younger people.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, Quigley got his big break by having his puzzle featured in the New York Times and has since had his work featured around the world. Quigley runs his own website with crossword puzzles at varying levels of difficulty. Even at big tournaments, Quigley’s puzzles are used quite often.
4. David Steinberg
Some people are just born with the gift of creating great crossword puzzles, and that certainly applies to David Steinberg. The Philadelphia native was just 15 years old when he had a puzzle published in the Los Angeles Times, then went on to become the youngest editor for a major newspaper’s crossword when he joined the Orange County Register.
Steinberg had moved around the country while growing up before settling in California and has constructed crosswords for all of the major news sources in the United States. Steinberg took on the position of Puzzles and Games Editor with Andrews McMeel Universal, and his total crossword count is well into the hundreds.
3. Merl Reagle
Another crossword writer on the list to have developed an interest at a very young age is Merl Reagle, who started making his own at just six years old. Hailing from New Jersey, Reagle was able to get his first puzzle published at only 16 years old with The New York Times. Reagle was one of the biggest names in crosswords throughout the 1980s and 1990s, working for several large companies and organizing tournaments.
On top of that, Reagle was an avid musician and was part of a rock band in his earlier days. Reagle achieved mainstream success and was even featured on an episode of “The Simpsons” due to his popularity. Sadly, Reagle passed away at 65 years old in 2015 but left behind a long-lasting legacy in crosswords.
2. John Halpern
While a lot of the crossword writers that we focus on tend to be very formulaic and straightforward, John Halpern is a cryptic crossword writer. Known for his wittiness and puns, Halpern began making his crosswords while he was still a student who thought that the crossword writers at The Guardian were artificial intelligence. He went to work for the publication to find out they were indeed human.
Halpern has become a legend in England with crossword clues that are talked about at water coolers. After he was able to make his cryptic crossword writing a gig that he could live off of, he was able to put more time into them and they only became better. He became so popular that his crosswords were even given a show on British television.
1. Will Shortz
Of course, you can’t mention crossword writers without talking about the most famous of them all, Will Shortz. Shortz, an Indiana native, is seen as the gold standard in crossword writing, thus earning him the nickname of The Puzzlemaster. In 1993, he took over the crossword section of The New York Times where he became a household name.
Like Reagle, he received a lot of attention in the mainstream and was also on that episode of “The Simpsons” that we mentioned earlier. Shortz has appeared on many other television shows, as well, including “How I Met Your Mother”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and more. All in all, Shortz has created over 10,000 crosswords with The New York Times.