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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gambit crossword constructor Merl Reagle dead at 65

Posted By on Sat, Aug 22, 2015 at 3:22 PM

Merl Reagle played an animated version of himself (left) in a 2008 episode of The Simpsons.
  • Merl Reagle played an animated version of himself (left) in a 2008 episode of The Simpsons.

Merl Reagle, one of the world's greatest crossword constructors and a weekly contributor to Gambit since 2008, has died at 65, according to reports in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

According to reports, he became ill on Thursday with pancreatitis and died this morning in a hospital in Tampa, Florida, where he lived. Reagle is survived by his wife, Marie Haley.

Reagle sold his first puzzle to The New York Times in his teens. His weekly puzzles became staples of alt-weeklies in the 1980s due to their pop cultural references, clever wordplay and ingenious themes. Reagle later became a staple of Sunday crossword pages in daily papers across the country.

In the world of crossword constructors, Reagle was a legend; he appeared in the 2006 crossword documentary Wordplay and two years later was immortalized when he played an animated version of himself on The Simpsons

Tomorrow's edition of Gambit will be the first in many years without a crossword puzzle. We were used to getting a cheerful email each Wednesday with the subject line "gambit puzz" and Merl's lower-case signature, along with that week's crossword and sudoku. This week, no email arrived — and Reagle did not respond to calls or emails, which never had happened in seven years. We feared something was very wrong, and hoped it would not be this.

Here's Merl explaining his method of working in Wordplay:

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