Crossword error leaves readers puzzled

Posted: Jul. 30, 2013 11:18 pm Updated: Aug. 3, 2013 1:00 am


The realignment of Major League Baseball two decades ago resulted in a rare crossword glitch Friday and a good-natured apology from its syndicated creator, a former Newton resident.

Stan Newman, editor of the Newsday Sunday Crossword since 1988, said he heard from some readers confounded that the correct answer to “Tigers’ Division,” ALCentral, did not fit into the available six spaces.

That’s apparently because Newman, who crafts 30,000 clues per year, flashed back to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 1998 realignment.

Four years after baseball expanded from four to six divisions, the Tigers moved from the American League East, or ALEast, into the newly created ALCentral.

Nine letters, as opposed to six.

A New Jersey Herald reader who said he struggled with the crosswalk all weekend posted on Facebook, “Which non-sports egghead is responsible for this outrageous goof?”

Newman, who said he does not follow baseball closely, mused in an interview Tuesday, “In my business, it’s the things that everybody is sure of, or so sure of, that were wrong.”

Newman said he did not recall crafting the clue and noted that his puzzles go through multiple layers of fact-checking.

“Everybody was so sure that nobody in my chain of command checked, including me,” he said.

“This must have been what happened,” added Newman, a married father of three grown children who lives on Long Island, N.Y.

Newman said he believes it is his first mistake so far in 2013, no small feat given the amount of information he processes, and that he felt badly about the error.

Of crosswords, he said, “It’s one of the reasons people pick up newspapers.”

Newman, 61, is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who worked as a college teacher, consumer market researcher and Wall Street bond analyst before finding his calling in crosswords after the 1987 stock market crash.

“I maintain a relative knowledge of almost everything,” Newman said.

“I know who Lady Gaga is, though I’m not sure I could name more than two of her songs,” he said.

He lived on Longview Drive in Newton from 1975 to 1977 after obtaining his master’s degree in statistics from Rutgers University. During that time, he said he taught math and statistics at County College of Morris.

According to his official website biography, he started a crossword newsletter in 1983, one year after winning three crossword tournaments in 1982 and the first U.S. Open Crossword Championship.

In 1990, he spent three weeks as a contestant on “The Challengers,” hosted by Dick Clark, and won $112,000 in addition to “several cases of Rice-a-Roni and Niagara spray starch.”

He is the author and editor of more than 150 books, including crossword and word games, crossword reference books and a memoir, “Cruciverbalism.”

In 2007, he organized the first crossword tournament ever held at Yale University, and has conducted six seminars at the Smithsonian Institute

Yet Newman, in crafting his crossword clues, has a common touch.

“The one thing you won’t find in my crosswords is obscure, crazy words that no one has ever heard of,” Newman said.

“The puzzles that I put together are known for their variety. They’re supposed to be general, rather than specific,” Newman said.

Friday’s puzzle featured 78 clues, including the Tigers question at 55 Across.

The correct answer to “swimmer’s annoyance,” at 33 Across? Algae.

“Author Hunter,” at 42 Across, was Evan.

What about “Oz visitor” at 30 Down? Answer: Lion.

Newman, asked about baseball, said he hasn’t following the sport closely since the New York Mets won the World Series in 1969.

That year, perhaps coincidentally, was the first in which baseball broke the National and American leagues into eastern and western divisions.

Could that have influenced his errant clue?

Newman quoted Mark Twain, who once said, “It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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