Ed Stein ’60 began his love affair with crossword puzzles “back when a bikini meant an atoll in the Pacific, not a bathing suit.”
From filling out the crossword grid of his Scholastic magazine, he progressed from Dell crosswords to the daily offer- ings in The New York Times. Then he had to try his hand at composing one himself. The Times puzzle editor at the time, Eugene T. Maleska, accepted it.
“Beginner’s luck,” Stein says in retro- spect. “I didn’t realize how hard it was to create a puzzle.” Since then, though, he’s had more than a dozen of his creations appear in the Times, the last five done in collaboration with veteran constructor Paula Gamache.
Stein met Gamache about a decade ago, at Will Shortz’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (“I always compete to see if the batteries are still working,” he says). Though they live only a mile or so apart, they work mainly via e-mail.
A longtime member of the team who plans WESeminars, Stein volunteered to lead one on crossword puzzles, and the small room booked in the PAC for an expected 35 attendees overflowed with 130 fans. From then on, Stein’s seminars were scheduled for a lecture hall to accom- modate the puzzlers.
This spring, when Assistant Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement and Events Adriana Rojas ’07 asked him to lead another seminar, she suggested a new twist: “Why don’t you create a Wesleyan- themed puzzle?” she asked. He called up Paula; she was game. Thus was born Wesleyana I, a puzzle with 14 Wesleyan- themed clues.
Meanwhile, this avocation has also become community service. Each week, Stein leads gatherings at assisted living residences, community centers, and elder care facilities.
“I have a special approach to teaching crossword puzzle solving. I don’t give answers. I have them solve the easy clues so they have letters to get the tougher clues. I say, ‘Take chances but write lightly. You may be wrong—but you may be right!’” cONNecT WiTh WesleyaN