Crossword crossroads: Butler professor emeritus Jerry Farrell writes a crossword in honor of friend Martin Gardner


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Butler mathematics professor emeritus Jeremiah Farrell typically spends his days teaching history and mathematics, participating as a member of the International Puzzle Party, and dabbling in crosswords.

But this week, Farrell took on a unique task, honoring one of his role models, American writer and polymath Martin Gardner.

Gardner was a jack-of-all-trades, dabbling in literature, math, and magic.

“Gardner wrote short stories, novels and a variety of essays on a multitude of topics,” Farrell said. “He published over 100 books, but perhaps he is most famous for his 25-year tenure of writing the mathematical games column for Scientific American magazine.”

In honor of last week’s 100-year celebration of Gardner’s birth, Farrell was asked to create a crossword puzzle honoring Gardner’s life and work.

The crossword is titled “A Tribute to Armand T. Ringer,” after one of Gardner’s 25 pseudonyms.

“Since his death in 2010, there has been a second affair every October that people on all seven continents have assembled to celebrate his life,” Farrell said. “I was asked by the centennial committee last April to construct a crossword puzzle honoring him and delivered it in early May.”

The puzzle conforms to The New York Times style sheet, and the Times editor, Will Shortz, has called the puzzle “ingenious,” Farrell said.

An event called the Gathering 4 Gardner is also held every two years in Atlanta.
There have been 11 so far, and Farrell has attended each one.

Gardner was highly regarded and influential through his writing, which is still widely produced and respected.

He is well-known for his science-fiction short stories published in the magazine Esquire and his position as editor of Humpty Dumpty magazine for children.

A book of his poems was also published.

Farrell began corresponding with Gardner in the 1970s.

Since then, Farrell and his wife, Karen, have stayed in touch with Gardner and his family.

“My wife Karen and I visited Gardner about 12 to 15 times in Atlanta or at his homes in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Norman, Oklahoma,” Farrell said.

Farrell’s crossword will be included in the celebration of Gardner’s influence on a variety of topics and areas of study, which will continue to have an impact.

“Gardner will be known for centuries with the stuff he has written,” Farrell said. “There are millions of people that are aficionados of Gardner.”