31-08-2010 03:38 PM
Heres a biography of Jack Luzzatto by Robert D. Spurrier
in the August 1981 issue of The Four-Star Puzzler (which
Will Shortz used to edit). Will passed this on to me after I
inquired. It is probably one of the better bios of Mr. Luzzatto.
Who's Who in Puzzledom
Jack Luzzatto and crossword puzzles have grown up together, moving from
a start in New York City in the mid-1920s to popularity throughout the
nation. Today at every newsstand there are several publications
containing crosswords; it is probable that at least one has a puzzle by
Luzzatto made his first crossword as a 16-year-old student in 1927,
mailing it to the New York World. "They sent back a check for eight
dollars," he recalls, "which was almost a week's pay in those days."
But constructing puzzles was at first only a sideline. He studied art
for four years at New York's Cooper Union, graduating in 1934. For nine
years he labored as a gag cartoonist, making up his own jokes and
illustrating them in a smooth, uncluttered style in pen and ink.
Magazines such as Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle,
and Saturday Review published his cartoons, but Luzzatto explains, "not
An offer from Dell publishers to construct a half-dozen crosswords at
$5 apiece sparked his career, which subsequently "just grew and grew."
For the last 28 years Luzzatto has been a full-time puzzle constructor,
an occupation so unusual that he managed to stump the "What's My Line?"
television panel in 1962. Luzzatto's puzzles have been published by the
hundreds in the New York Times and other newspapers, and in dozens of
books including more than 30 by Bantam alone. He has also worked as an
editor and contributor for numerous magazines, "just about everyone you
could imagine," he says with a smile, "and some you couldn't." Today
Luzzatto constructs puzzles on a regular basis for Americana, Golf,
Scanner, Verbatim, and Games.
Working at his home in Bronx, New York, Luzzatto takes only 30 minutes
to construct a daily-size (15x15 square) crossword, and three to five
hours to make a larger Sunday puzzle. His speed at construction has
allowed him to pursue other interests. He is the father of four, the
grandfather of six, and the author of more than 100 published poems.
Describing himself as "a good hacker" at tennis, Luzzatto also enjoys
Yankees and Mets baseball games and classical music.
Luzzatto's training in art and his background in writing jokes are
reflected in his puzzles. His diagrams are recognizable for their
aesthetically pleasing patterns of wide-open white spaces interlocked
with a rhythmic flow of a smaller than usual number of black squares.
For clues he strives for "wit and ingenuity," citing the following
favorites: "A clash of symbols"—MIXED METAPHOR; "Leaves for a
year"—CALENDAR; "First one to say TGIF"—ROBINSON CRUSOE; and "U.S.
Gov't 'Bonds'"—CIA. Such humor provides solvers with momentary relief
from the struggle to spell some of the unusual words Luzzatto typically
includes, such as the crossword tournament stumper "'Crazy trees,' good
for making billiard cues"—ARBOLOCOES.
Asked to reflect on his career, Luzzatto pauses and says, "A few years
ago I constructed a puzzle that appeared in an advertisement for Kraft
Cracker Barrel cheese. The headline read "Our Pride—Your Joy." And
that's how I feel about my work: It's my pride, and your joy."
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