June 4, 1995|By JANE GLENN HAAS The Orange County Register
His puzzles seduce you. They seem so easy in the beginning. A four-letter word for "house, in Mexico."A three-letter word for "crow's call."
Before you know it, you're gnawing the pencil eraser, struggling for an eight-letter word for "police pavement-pounder" ("flatfoot'') or 15 letters for "bawls out" ("reads the riot act'').
Stanley Newman has caught you in another of his crosswords. Just thinking about it makes him giggle.
You will never be as good as the master.
"If you can't solve it right away, look up the answers," he said. So patronizing. So understanding.
"Well, how else will you learn? I mean, we can't all just pick up the puzzles and do them like that."
But Newman can, of course. In ink.
Newman, 42, is managing director of puzzles and games for Times Books. He holds the world record for the fastest solution of a New York Times daily crossword (2 minutes, 10 seconds). He edits New York Newsday's nationally syndicated crossword and has edited 25 crossword collections.
Ever wonder how it's done?
First, Newman thinks of a theme. Try "Mishmash: Not for Namby-Pambies," the title of Puzzle 19 in his latest New York Times SkillBuilder Crosswords - Strategist Level (Times Books, $8.50).
That's the puzzle that opens with a three-letter word for "crow's call."
Everyone knows the answer: "caw."
How about 23 across: an 11-letter word for "a skeet shooter's target."Everybody get "claypigeons''?
Now try to think of an eight-letter word for "avails oneself of" (21 across). Uh oh.
The first letter of 21 across is the fourth letter of 6 down. And 6 down asks for a five-letter word for "a musical show.""Opera," right?
If you persevere, you'll figure out that the musical show is "revue," which makes the fourth letter a "u," which is the first letter of "utilizes," which means "avails oneself of."
"What you do is start with the long words," Newman said. "I figure out those words and put them sort of where I want to in the puzzle box. Then I put in some black squares in a pattern that looks nice and make up the rest out from there."
What kind of a man can be so twisted?
A man like Newman: a New Yorker with an attitude.
"Just call me the `crossword czar,'" he said.
He's addicted to words. One of his pleasures is old books and magazines, which he pursues in used bookstores during his travels.
He wasn't always a wordsmeister. Once he was an ultimate numbers nerd, a bonds analyst on Wall Street who figured out if a city, state, business or venture could potentially pay back investors' principal plus interest.
Newman was sacked, he said, during the Wall Street collapse of 1987.
Unemployed, he turned to his hobby - crosswords - laboriously working them out in his home.
He created puzzles from scratch, proposed a book on puzzles and never thought about Wall Street again, except as an investor.
"Now I make more money than I ever did analyzing bonds," he said. And giggled.
Newman contends that a strong parallel exists between mental fitness and physical fitness.
"In both cases, the key to improvement is to evaluate your current skills, then devise a customized program to improve them," he said.
For crossword addicts bent on improvement, Newman created the SkillBuilder series that includes beginning and advanced puzzles. Later this year, Random House will publish his UltraHard puzzle edition and his Masterpiece series.
In the world of crossword purists, Newman is considered a populist, not a traditionalist. He uses slang, for example, and pop culture. His light-level puzzles of this nature appear in People and Sport magazines and usually highlight current events.
"I might think of a way to use Lance Ito's name, for example," he said.
His stated goal is modest:
"With the SkillBuilder and other projects now in the works, I will be bringing to national attention the value of puzzles and games as a means of increasing one's intelligence and creativity."
It would be easier to like him if he didn't spend his leisure time thinking up trivia questions such as, "Of all the historic sites administered by the National Park Service, name the only one that moves on a regular basis."Answer: the San Francisco cable cars.
Source : http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1995-06-04/lifestyle/9505310160_1_crossword-eight-letter-word-stanley-newman