Readers React: Merl Reagle -- the puzzle master readers felt they knew

Syndicated Crossword Constructor Merl Reagle

Syndicated crossword constructor Merl Reagle, seen here in 2013, died Aug. 22 after a sudden, unexpected illness. 

(John Pendygraft / For The Washington Post)

For these readers, the obituary Sunday of puzzle master Merl Reagle, who died after a sudden illness last Saturday, hit them personally. The article described Reagle as among the “best known and most beloved crafters of puzzles in the business,” and the nearly two dozen letters written in response (a high number for any obituary) are evidence of that.

The letters express shock and sadness over Reagle’s death; several readers say their Sunday morning ritual of solving his puzzles in The Times made him an honorary member of their families. A handful refer to Reagle only as Merl.

Here are their letters.

Alan Corcoran of Anaheim had his own approach to solving Reagle’s puzzles:


At first I missed Merl’s Sunday obituary (but not his puzzle!); I learned of his passing later in the week.

An avid solver in my 20s and 30s, I’d drifted away from crosswords and favored the more logical Sudoku as my preferred pencil-driven time waster. Merl lured me back with his cleverness, and for the last several years I tried to solve the Sunday puzzle theme clues — and only the theme clues. I’ll admit that I had to resort to cheating a bit on a few, but every once in a while I was able to knock out all 11 or so themes without filling in any of the “regular” words.

I never met Merl, and I was shocked to learn of his death. I’ll miss him this Sunday and every Sunday thereafter.

Valley Glen resident Lynda Fenneman describes her Sunday “ritual”:


I am so sorry to hear of Reagle’s passing. I didn’t know him personally, but he had become a part of my life, the Sunday morning ritual that I looked forward to with such pleasure. I will miss him greatly. He made me laugh, curse, scratch my head and gave me many “aha” moments.

Reagle had a singular mind. I asked myself many times, “How did he do that?”

I always wished he lived next door. He was the best.

Andrew E. Rubin of Marina del Rey does his best imitation of Reagle:

Amusing “royal” punster (10 letters): Merl Reagle.

Though I sometimes groaned at Reagle’s Sunday puzzles, I got great pleasure out of most of them. I held off doing Sunday’s crossword, knowing that it probably was his last.

Gardena resident Robin Karsh writes of feeling sadness:

Sunday morning and Merl Reagle were truly looked forward to all week. Doing his puzzles was a tradition that lasted for years. When I saw that he had passed away, I felt such sadness, as if I had actually known this amazingly brilliant man.


My condolences go out to his family, as I know his wit, intelligence and persona will be missed.

I will miss my connection with him. Thank you, Merl, for challenging me and sharing your Sunday with me.

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