Politics

Nancy Schuster, Crossword Champion, Creator and Editor, Dies at 90

Nancy Schuster, who began crafting crossword puzzles for a P.T.A. newspaper when her children were young and went on to make puzzles her career — constructing them, competing in tournaments and editing them for magazines — died on April 26 in Newburgh, N.Y., in Orange County. She was 90.

Her daughter, Jackie Novick, confirmed Mrs. Schuster’s death, in a hospice facility. She had been living in nearby Goshen, N.Y.

Mrs. Schuster became a star in crossword puzzle circles in 1978 when she won the first American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held at a hotel in Stamford, Conn. She took home $125 after solving all five of the competition’s puzzles.

She told Newsday afterward that the most difficult clue was in the third puzzle: “Greek festival maidens with baskets on their heads.”

Answer: canephori.

Mrs. Schuster in 2012. Over the years she published 12 crossword puzzles in The New York Times.Credit…Donald Christensen, via American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

“She described herself then as a Queens housewife,” said Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times since 1993, who started and remains its director. But, he said in a phone interview, she was already editing puzzles as a freelancer for Dell Magazines. “Maybe she was trying to hide her credentials.”

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