Frank W. Lewis, Master of the Cryptic Crossword, Dies at 98

Frank W. Lewis, Master of the Cryptic Crossword, Dies at 98
Frank W. Lewis, Master of the Cryptic Crossword, Dies at 98

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The New York Times
December 3, 2010

For more than six decades, Frank W. Lewis mesmerized, mystified and 
miffed a circle of obsessed people by writing a devilishly quirky 
cryptic crossword puzzle for The Nation. But there were some bridges 
even he would not cross. 

If the clue =E2=80=9CBEFORE FALL=E2=80=9D led to the answer =E2=80=9CPRIDE,=E2=80=9D for example, 
drawing from the Bible, he conceded that it would be =E2=80=9Ccarrying things a 
trifle too far,=E2=80=9D as he wrote in an essay, to use the clue =E2=80=9CSUMMER.=E2=80=9D

Cryptic puzzles are in a universe by themselves, but even there Mr. 
Lewis was famed for the freewheeling, idiosyncratic approach he took in 
the pages of The Nation, where for years his mind-twisters leavened the 
magazine=E2=80=99s weekly helpings of politically liberal reporting and 

A cryptic puzzle usually gives two clues: one a definition, the other a 
play on words or letters, say an anagram. Mr. Lewis thought nothing of 
giving three clues. Or one. And, fueled by a huge vocabulary, his 
penchant for puns was puckish.

Mr. Lewis, whose day job for many years was to help spies solve 
top-secret codes at the National Security Agency, died of heart failure 
on Nov. 18 in Plymouth, Mass., his family said. He was 98 and had 
continued to create puzzles until a year ago. 


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