A Puzzler’s Puzzler: On Frank W. Lewis

A Puzzler’s Puzzler: On Frank W. Lewis

A Puzzler’s Puzzler: On Frank W. Lewis

Lewis was a true Renaissance man, a lover of music, history, literature, language, botany, geography, sports, boating, cards—the list is endless—all of which enliven his puzzles.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

Even if you don’t know a rebus from an anagram or a double-entendre from a pun, you have no doubt noticed Frank W. Lewis‘s cryptic crossword puzzle each week on the last page of the magazine. Frank, who died peacefully November 18 at the age of 98, had supplied The Nation with his brain-teasing (some would say brain-frying) puzzles from 1947 until his retirement at the end of 2009. His fans were and are legion (Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Vonnegut and Katha Pollitt among them), steadfast and demanding. 

Frank was a true Renaissance man, a lover of music, history, literature, language, botany, geography, sports, boating, cards—the list is endless—all of which enliven his puzzles. He also had a past about which he never told all: during World War II, he was a cryptanalyst for the National Security Agency, where he worked in the dark days BC (before computers) cracking German and Japanese codes. As Civilian in Charge of the Japanese Section, he broke the Japanese shipping code and was credited with shortening the war in the Pacific. He was awarded the (very rare) Exceptional Civilian and Outstanding Civilian medals (the only person to win both). 

Meanwhile, stationed in England, Frank had fallen for the cryptic crosswords he’d found in the papers there and to amuse himself had begun to make his own. Back home after the war, he found only one magazine that featured a worthy cryptic—The Nation. When a vacancy opened on the puzzle page, Frank filled it by winning a contest judged by Nation readers. And thus began his sixty-two years as our puzzle setter. 

For the past year we’ve been running “Frank’s Golden Oldies” while we look for a successor to the master. Early in the New Year, we will announce the results of our search.

Farewell, Swank Filer.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that moves the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories to readers like you.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy
x