PRIVATE Crossword Friends of George Barany

This is where I "test" biographies before they go "live"


Beneath these introductory remarks, and my own photo, you will find (in alphabetical order) the names, photos (or placemarks for the camera-shy), and brief biosketches of some of the brilliant individuals with whom I have had the pleasure of collaborating on crossword puzzle construction and/or on beta-testing each others' works.


Bar for rapid navigation: George Barany // Brad Wilber // Alayne Schroll

George Barany (that's me) is the convener of this virtual colloquium. Click on my name (to the left) for biographical information, and on our main page for my crossword bona fides and philosophies. My day job is in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, and many of my friendships go back to my time at Stuyvesant High School and at The Rockefeller University (I did not go to college). I have several crossword collaborators who I know only in cyberspace, although I try to look them up whenever there is some flexibility in my professional travel.

David Steinberg (no relation to the comedian) is my youngest friend. Now a student at Stanford University, David has published nearly 200 crosswords in The New York Times and other publications [further information, including list of venues in which his puzzles appear, can be found by clicking on his name at the beginning of this paragraph; click here for a list of his NYT puzzles]. David leads The Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, for which he was awarded a Davidson Fellows Scholarship in 2013 and won first place in Quill and Scroll's 2014 International Writing and Photo Contest; is the crossword editor for the Orange County Register and Riverside County Press-Enterprise weekly associated newspapers; and was named the 2012 Person of the Year by Jim Horne. He also creates custom crosswords and has been a member of the National Puzzlers' League since 2011, with the nom Xword Guy. One of David's collaborative puzzles inspired me to write What's the Difference?. In the Fall of 2013, David was the subject of this wonderful interview with PuzzleNation, and in June 2015, he was profiled in this article in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News, both of which I recommend highly. Outside of crosswords, David enjoys playing table tennis and all sorts of games. David and I collaborated on Definitely Defined, which appeared on August 12, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal, and on a very tricky puzzle for the Orange County Register. For an important personal event in November 2015, David was the honoree of a double-feature of DESERVING IT BAD, AT NINETEEN? and RATED GEE.

Alayne Schroll was my first graduate student.  She completed her Ph.D. in 1986 and proceeded to fill a temporary teaching position at SUNY Plattsburgh.  From there, she moved across Lake Champlain to Saint Michael's College in Colchester Vermont.  She rose to the rank of Full Professor and is the Leavy Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry.  She served as Chair of the Chemistry and Physics Department for 7 years and Coordinator of the Biochemistry Program for 15 years.  She was happy to pass the administrative duties onto younger colleagues and is focusing on teaching, including the development of a new course in biochemistry, and research.

Martin Ashwood-Smith

MARTIN'S RAW NOTES- born in London England 1957. - emigrated to Canada in 1969 when my father (a microbiologist) was offered a professorship at the University of Victoria.- attended UVic in the late '70s and obtained a BA degree in history. - interests: Astronomy and science in general, skepticism, magic music (classical and electronic), weightlifting. - first became interested in crosswords when I saw a friend try and construct a cryptic crossword for the student newspaper. We both teamed up and constructed cryptics for the student paper for several years.
- Around that time Games Magazine came out, and I became fascinated by the American-style wide-open grids by Mike Shenk, Merl Reagle and Henry Hook. I tried to emulate them (poorly) and it only took seven-eight years of practice (on paper) to come anywhere close to the "masters".
- During the '80s, I sold puzzles privately, with varying degrees of success to local magazines. It wasn't until 1990 that I sent a puzzle to Makeska at the NYT (a quote/quip theme with 78 words). Amazingly, ETM accepted the puzzle, and everything else I sent him (some went into S&S books). Oddly, I had no bad experiences with ETM... he was very kind to me. - a word about stack puzzles (as in triple and quad stacked 15s). One of my other hobbies has always been magic (as in card tricks, not the black kind!). Wide open grids, especially the occasional stacked 15 at the time held a kind a magical fascination for me... in the sense that the constructor was cheekily pulling a kind of trick on the solver... 15s levitating without any black square support! I know that night sound a little silly, but the effect on me when I saw a stacked 15s grid at the time was similar to seeing a good magic trick. So my answer to bloggers who sometimes gripe that fancy stacked grids have a "look at me" quality to them: they're supposed to! For me that's part of the fun.
- 20 years on, computers have made constructing triple stack 15 puzzles much easier... but not quad-stacks. They are still a bit beyond autofill (unless you get very very lucky)... so they maintain their slightly magical allure for me!

- I've about 1,000 crosswords published since my NYT debut in 1991.
- Over 70 in the NYT and about 550 in CrosSynergy/Washington Post.
- Also: Games Magazine (Orneries), Dell Champion, Simon and Schuster books, LA Times, Newsday, NY Sun.
- Solo books: "10 Minute Crosswords", "Take a Break Crosswords", "Easy Rider Crosswords", "Wide Open Easy Themeless Crosswords".

Alex Vratsanos is one of the youngest members of our august company, and already has had several puzzles published in the New York Times [if you have privileges to, click here for a list]. He was also honored by inclusion in the Twenty Under Thirty compendium. Click on his name for the story of one of his great triumphs, a puzzle that scooped another one that Michael Shteyman and I had in development for 10 months. Alex grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and started crossword construction in 2006 at age 13. Having completed four semesters studying chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, Alex plans to transfer to Kutztown University to study professional writing, and is at this moment taking classes in macroeconomics and technical writing at Lehigh Carbon Community College. We are proud to present Stan(d by) the Man, a previously unpublished puzzle with a sports theme, along with Everybody Loves Christopher Raymond, a nerdy tribute to a favorite professor, and You Rule!, a tribute to another Barany friend. The first puzzle that Alex and I constructed together, Great Dane, was appeared on September 20, 2013 in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A few months later, Alex interviewed Will Shortz as a part of a school assignment that you can find here. On his (spoiler) 21st birthday, Alex was honored in A Tale of Two Crossword Prodigies.

Brad Wilber originally hails from Oneida, NY in the Mohawk Valley. He holds a Masters in Library Science from Syracuse University, and since 1997 he has been a reference librarian at his undergraduate alma mater, Houghton College, near Buffalo. After spending most of the 1990s constructing crosswords chiefly for Simon & Schuster and for Dell magazines, Brad expanded his horizons, and at last count, has had over 150 puzzles published in the New York Times [if you have privileges to, click here for a list], Los Angeles Times, and Newsday. In 2014, he became the crossword editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and he also joined the rotation of constructors at CrosSynergy. One of Brad's librarian specialties is classical music; for 15 years he maintained a popular blog on future seasons' repertory at the Metropolitan Opera [read more about this fascinating situation by clicking here]. Brad's other hobbies include book collecting, movies, and watching favorite sports like baseball, golf, and particularly tennis. We are delighted to share his extraordinary Crawl Space puzzle, a collaboration with Matthew Sewell originally published on Andy Kravis's Cruciverbalist at Law site; be sure you check out the accompanying interview and midrash. An earlier interview with C.C. Burnikel also makes fascinating reading.

Jeff Aubé was introduced to the pleasures of organic chemistry through undergraduate research with Robert Gawley at the University of Miami, and continued with graduate and postdoctoral work mentored by Steven Baldwin (Duke) and Samuel Danishefsky (then at Yale). Jeff is now a professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Jeff’s describes his interest in crosswords as "strictly a fan and frequently frustrated solver" and blames it on his high-school job as a Sunday morning doorman in Hallandale, Florida.

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