William Lutwiniak

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lutwiniak in 1991

William Lutwiniak (November 24, 1919 – January 24, 1992) was an American crossword constructor who was also known for his work as a cryptologist with the National Security Agency.[1] He composed a total of 8,413 puzzles;[2] his first five thousand were composed between 1965 and 1985, as a hobby.[3]

Early life[edit]

Lutwiniak was born in Jersey City, New Jersey.[2] Lutwiniak began solving crosswords when he was 12, and sold his first puzzle to the New York Herald-Tribune when he was 15;[4][1] he later considered that this puzzle had been "a bit prophetic" because it contained the word "CRYPTOGRAPHICAL".[4] When he was 16, he won a subscription to the journal of the American Cryptogram Association[4] and also joined the National Puzzlers' League with the nom "Live Devil".[5] Over the five years that followed, he was a regular participant in the ACA's activities, which brought him to the attention of William Friedman; Friedman invited him to pursue advanced training in cryptography,[4] and then to join the Signal Intelligence Service,[4][6] which Lutwiniak did on February 1, 1941.[7]


Lutwiniak worked at Arlington Hall under Solomon Kullback until the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, at which point he became concerned that he would be drafted, so he went to the Munitions Building and asked Colonel Harold Hayes for advice; Hayes told him to go to a particular recruiting station and enlist. Lutwiniak did so, and was immediately assigned to work under Harold Hayes at the Munitions Building; when he returned, Hayes promoted him to sergeant so that he could skip basic training.[6][8] By the following October, he had been promoted from staff sergeant to technical sergeant.[9]

During the war, Lutwiniak stopped creating and solving crosswords "because things were serious".[4] In the mid-1960s, however, he found a Margaret Farrar crossword in a copy of The New York Times, and discovered that he was not able to solve it as easily as he had expected; he subsequently began selling crosswords to her.[4] One of his early puzzles, which used cryptic crossword-style cluing such as "center of gravity" for "AVI" and "fourth of July" for "Y", was so controversial (creating, in Lutwiniak's words, a 'big uproar') that the newspaper had to subsequently print an explanation of what the clues meant.[10]

In 1961, he headed the NSA's A5 unit, which specialized in Soviet codes.[11] Later, he became the publisher of Cryptolog, one of the NSA's internal magazines,[12] to which he also contributed articles[13] and puzzles.[14][15]

In 1985, he joined The Washington Post as crossword co-editor for their Sunday magazine,[4] and became more involved in crossword culture; in 1987, he attended a Stanley Newman-run crossword tournament in Baltimore, and created a 15-by-15 puzzle on stage, in 15 minutes, based on suggestions from the audience.[16][17]

Awards and honors[edit]

Upon retiring from the National Security Agency in 1981, Lutwiniak was awarded the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement.[2]

In 1991, CROSSW RD Magazine named him Crossword Puzzle Person of the Year.[4]


  1. ^ a b Puzzle Makers Exchange Cross Words, by Randall Rothenberg, in the New York Times; published August 10, 1988; retrieved February 26, 2017
  2. ^ a b c W. LUTWINIAK, CROSSWORD PUZZLE EXPERT, DIES, in the Washington Post; published January 27, 1992; retrieved February 26, 2017
  3. ^ Crosswords: The People Behind The Puzzles (page 2), by Donald Streitfeld, originally published in the Washington Post, republished in the Orlando Sentinel, March 29, 1987; retrieved February 26, 2017
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i And The Wynner Is... William Lutwiniak, by Helene Hovanec, in CROSSW RD Magazine, January/February 1992, volume II, number 1, via Scribd; retrieved February 15, 2017
  5. ^ KOBUS NAMED HEAD OF PUZZLERS GROUP AS CONVENTION ENDS, by Thomas O'Halloran, in the Camden Courier-Post; published February 24, 1936; archived at DVRBS.com; retrieved February 26, 2017
  6. ^ a b Oral History interviews: William Lutwiniak, interviewed by Robert Farley, 18 October 1981; at the National Security Agency; retrieved February 26, 2017
  7. ^ Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II, by Stephen Budiansky, published 2000 by Simon & Schuster; via Google Books
  8. ^ BOOKS: Secret Messages: Codebreaking and American Diplomacy, 1930-1945, by David Alvarez, reviewed by Stephen Budiansky, in the Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2000, page 138
  9. ^ PROMOTED TO TECHNICAL SERGEANT, in the Ukrainian Weekly; volume X, number 39, October 17, 1942, page 4
  10. ^ The __s and ___s of how crossword puzzles are made, by Cathy Collison, in The Daily Herald, August 27, 1977, page 59; via Newspapers.com
  11. ^ The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, by Matthew M. Aid, published June 8, 2010, by Bloomsbury Publishing USA (via Google Books)
  12. ^ Cryptolog, volume 1, number 2, September 1974; page 2; via Cryptome
  13. ^ Cumulative index: part one: AUTHORS, in Cryptolog, March 1983; page 11; via Cryptome; retrieved February 26, 2017
  14. ^ MiniCrypts, by William Lutwiniak, in Cryptolog, 4th issue, 1988; page 37; via Cryptome
  15. ^ MiniCrypts #2, by William Lutwiniak, in Cryptolog, 1st issue, 1989, page 29; via Cryptome; retrieved February 26, 2017
  16. ^ Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession, by Marc Romano; published June 14, 2005, by Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony; retrieved February 25, 2017 (via Google Books)
  17. ^ When I Die, Bury Me 3 Across And 6 Down: New Wave Puzzlemakers Cross Swords With Traditionalists To Bring New Life To What Enthusiasts Consider An Exquisite Art Form, by William Ecenbarger. in the Chicago Tribune; published September 3, 1989; retrieved February 26, 2017

External links[edit]