Jeremiah Farrell

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Jeremiah (Jerry) Farrell (born 1937) is an American professor emeritus of mathematics at Butler University in Indiana. He is well known for having designed Will Shortz's favorite puzzle, the 1996 "Election Day" crossword in The New York Times. He has also written puzzles for many other books and newspapers, such as Scott Kim's puzzle column for Discover magazine.


Farrell was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the oldest of three children to Belle Einsphar, and Paul Farrell, a third generation railroad man. Farrell himself worked for one summer on the railroad, as a "grinder", whose job was to plane down the railroad tracks so that they stayed smooth. He attended Hastings High School, graduating in 1955, and then going on to the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1963 with degrees in mathematics, chemistry, and physics. He later obtained a master's degree in mathematics, and in 1966 was hired as a teacher at Butler University in Indiana, where he worked for the next 40 years, teaching nearly every subject in the mathematics department. He officially retired in 1994, but has continued to teach every semester.

He is best known for designing many crossword puzzles for The New York Times, starting in the 1970s for Margaret Farrar, and then continuing to design new puzzles after the department was taken over by Will Shortz. In 1996, he designed his most famous puzzle, the "Election Day" crossword. One of the words had the clue "lead story tomorrow", with the answer being 14 letters long. However, the puzzle had two correct solutions: One could be "Bob Dole elected", and the other could be Bill "Clinton elected", and all of the "crossing" words were designed such that they could be one of two different words, to make either answer as needed. Will Shortz called it an "amazing" feat, and said it's his favorite puzzle.

With his wife Karen, Farrell has helped to organize the biannual Gathering for Gardner conferences, which started in 1993 as an invitation-only event for people connected with Martin Gardner.

In 2006 Farrell and his wife took over from A. Ross Eckler, Jr. as editors and publishers of the quarterly publication Word Ways: the Journal of Recreational Linguistics, established in 1968.

Contributed works[edit]

  • Zen and the Art of Magic Squares
  • A.K. Peters publications (where he is called a "mathemagician")
  • Discover magazine


  • NYT "Election Day" crossword
  • New York Sun, "A Washington Square Park Puzzle Is Solved", May 19–21, 2006
  • Indianapolis Star, May 25, 2006, "Butler Prof Figures It Out"