Part of writing for PuzzleNation Blog is constantly learning and unearthing new aspects of puzzle history. Whether it’s the history of puzzles themselves, like the 100th anniversary of the crossword in 2013, or significant moments from history that involved puzzles, like the use of crosswords to recruit cryptographers for Bletchley Park’s codecracking efforts during World War II.
And you simply can’t talk about the history of puzzles without mentioning constructor Bernice Gordon, one of the most recognizable names in crosswords for more than half a century.
Bernice’s first crossword was published in The New York Times in 1952, establishing a legacy of elegant, well-constructed puzzles that would span nearly seven decades. A favorite of both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, Bernice actually didn’t start creating crosswords until she was 35, a late start for someone with such an expansive track record to come.
She set records for the longest tenure as a crossword constructor and eldest crossword constructor — publishing puzzles at 101 years old! — as well as teaming up with constructor and friend of the blog David Steinberg for largest age gap between collaborators, with 86 years between them!
Will Shortz estimated that Bernice published more than 120 puzzles with the Times, and you can check out the lion’s share of them over on XWordInfo, dating back as far as 1965.
Sadly, Bernice passed away early Thursday morning, having left an indelible mark on the world of crosswords, with many friends and admirers celebrating her marvelous life and decades of sparkling puzzly wordplay.
Many puzzlers and admirers have written wonderful tributes to Bernice, but I have to single out the heartfelt words of David Steinberg, who memorialized his friend and fellow constructor in fine form here.
I only know Bernice through her puzzles, but I always found them to be clever, charming, and constructed with grace and skill. And based on what I’ve read about her over the last few days, many of those admirable qualities are reflections of the woman behind the puzzles.
Thank you, Bernice. You will be missed.