A good friend passed away a little over a week ago. We had never met, but I still considered him a friend. His name - Merl Reagle - and he authored the best crossword puzzles. Ever!
I have always loved doing crossword puzzles. About 15 years ago I discovered Merl Reagle's puzzles in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. I was quickly hooked. His puzzles were smart, clever and his play on words was amazing. The trick was to figure out the theme and the rest was easy - well, not easy, but easier.
My Sunday morning ritual (as long as I attended mass on Saturday night) kind of went as follows:
Go outside and retrieve the newspapers.
Get comfortable on sofa.
Get my lap desk and mechanical pencil
Find the Living section of The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read Lisa Scottoline's weekly column "Chick-Wit"
Pull out Merl's puzzle
Lose track of time working on the puzzle.
Sometimes I would finish the puzzle in one sitting. Sometimes it took the whole day working on and off. Sometimes it took a few days. Sometimes I couldn't finish it, but more often than not, I would. Figuring out the theme was so much fun.
So, on Sunday, August 23rd I followed my routine. And later in the morning I logged on to my computer only to find that Merl had passed away the day before. And because he only prepared his puzzle weekly, that puzzle I was working on would be his last. I was devastated.
Merl appeared in the documentary "Wordplay" about the annual crossword puzzle tournament in Stamford organized by Will Shortz. It was fascinating watching Merl create a puzzle. And now there will be no more.
So, the past two weekends I opened the Inquirer looking for Merl's puzzle only to feel a twinge of sadness when it isn't there (I have been secretly hoping that the Inquirer would re-run old puzzles). I've tried to do the NY Times puzzle, but it's way more difficult. And not nearly as much fun.
So I think I will order some of Merl's puzzle books (I purchased a few several years ago and finished them all) so I can continue my Sunday routine. But it won't be the same know Merl will not be around to create new ones.
Rest in peace Merl. Thanks for hours of fun. And many new words learned.