Frank W. Lewis

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Frank Waring Lewis (August 25, 1912 – November 18, 2010) was an American cryptographer and cryptic crossword compiler.[1] His puzzles were printed in The Nation for over 60 years, for a total of 2,962 puzzles.[1] Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Vonnegut, and Katha Pollitt were listed among the fans of his puzzles.[2]

Personal life and career[edit]

Lewis was born on August 25, 1912, in Salt Lake City, Utah.[1] His father was from England.[1]

Lewis attended secretarial school and the University of Utah, from which he later earned a degree in absentia.[1] He passed the federal civil service test, and earned a master's degree in music from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[1]

In Washington, Lewis worked at government secretarial jobs.[1] Just before World War II, Lewis was approached by Col. William F. Friedman, head of the U.S. Army's cryptography section, who was looking for "very smart" people.[1] Lewis was hired as a civilian and helped break the code used to coordinate Japanese ships.[1] After the war, he joined the National Security Agency (NSA).[1] He was awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service by both the War Department and the NSA.[2] He may be only person to have won two such medals.[2] Much of his work remains classified.[3]

In 1969, he retired with his wife to the Caribbean, but they relocated to Massachusetts after the eruption of the Montserrat volcano.[4]

He died on November 18, 2010, at age 98. He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Sylvia (née Shosteck).[1] They had six children.[5]


Lewis discovered British-style cryptic crosswords while stationed during the war at the Bletchley Park code-breaking station in England.[3] Lewis took over as The Nation's puzzle setter in 1947.[1][6] When The Nation started running his puzzles every other week instead of weekly starting in 2008, the public outcry was so great it resumed printing the puzzles weekly.[1][6] Lewis published his last puzzle in The Nation in December 2009, after which the magazine began reprinting old ones.[1] After Lewis's death, the magazine continued to reprint old puzzles while it searched for a new puzzle setter.[1]


  • Lewis, Frank (2006). Cryptic Crosswords from The Nation. Nation Books. ISBN 1-56025-872-1.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Martin, Douglas (December 3, 2010). "Frank W. Lewis, Master of the Cryptic Crossword, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Long, Judith (December 20, 2010). "A Puzzler's Puzzler: On Frank W. Lewis". The Nation. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Frank Lewis". The Daily Telegraph. December 3, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  4. ^ "Cryptic Crosswords from The Nation: About the Author". Powell's Books. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Frank W. Lewis". Old Colony Memorial. Plymouth, Massachusetts. November 23, 2010. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Kramer, Peter (April 28, 2008). "Homage to Frank W. Lewis". Psychology Today. Retrieved February 26, 2011.

External links[edit]