Bernice Gordon's first crossword for The New York Times appeared in the paper in 1952. Her last published puzzle appeared in The Los Angeles Times in December, 2014, a couple of weeks before her 101 birthday. She died on January, 29, 2015.
Bernice Gordon, 101, Crossword Puzzle Writer
A career started out of boredom
In the early 1950s, Ms. Gordon was a bored, stay-at-home mom. A great lover of crossword puzzles, she decided it couldn't be too difficult to make one. It took many tries, however, before she was finally able to satisfy Margaret Farrar, the first puzzle editor of The New York Times. Initially, Ms. Gordon earned $10 or $15 a puzzle. By the end of her career she was making several hundred dollars a puzzle.
Known for wit, innovation, and prolific creativity
Ms. Gordon's puzzles were known for their wit and trickiness, sometimes delighting her fans, other times causing a minor scandal among the more conventional solvers. To the end of her life she created a puzzle a day, working primarily in the wee hours of the morning. She relied on a huge number of reference books for information and, through her 80s, worked by hand on graph paper. When she hit 90, however, she switched to a computer.
Over a 60+ year career, Ms. Gordon also published crossword puzzles in The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Enquirer and, via syndication, in newspapers throughout the United States. She contributed over 150 puzzles to The New York Times, alone. Her work was also collected in book form.
Her final New York Times puzzle
Bernice Gordon's final puzzle for the Times, a collaboration with David Steinberg, was notable not only for its cleverness, but the two probably set a record for the largest age gap between crossword collaborators. At the time of their collaboration, Mr. Steinberg was 16; Ms. Gordon was 100.
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