Martin Postranecky | 5 Dec 21:04 2010

OBITUARY : Frank Lewis

04 Dec 2010

OBITUARY : Frank Lewis
Frank Lewis, who has died aged 98, was an American codebreaker who set  
eccentrically difficult cryptic crosswords for more than 60 years in the
American political weekly The Nation.

Many cryptanalysts were recruited during the Second World War after
displaying a fondness and aptitude for crosswords. Lewis, however, 
discovered the joys of the puzzles only after being seconded to Bletchley
Park. On his return to the United States he joined the National Security 
Agency, but embarked on a side-career as a crossword setter.

He was particularly cunning when punning. When he clued "Doth thith make
the heart grow fonder", the solution - "Absinthe" - prompted
groans from coast to coast. Of his clues that contained a question- or
exclamation-mark, Lewis's personal favourite was "Little skipper"
Answer : "Truant".

His anagrams could be devilishly daunting or pointedly pithy - in one of
his puzzles "Change of heart" yielded the solution "Earth". Such a
clue might affront some British setters, but Lewis ignored the convention
whereby clues divide into two or more components, one of which is a
definition of the answer. Indeed he would think nothing of using multiple
components, or sometimes only one. His clue "S", for example, led to
the solution "Largess".

But he did not always submit to his flights of fancy. Though tempted to   
provide "Summer" as the clue to the answer "Pride" ( summer, in                    
American parlance, also coming before a fall ) Lewis conceded that such a  
clue would be "carrying things a trifle too far".        

Many solvers struggled with "Upbraided after dinner" before realising
that the solution was "Dessert" - the inversion ( going up ) of
"tressed", meaning "braided". But such was the popularity of his           
puzzles that even registered Republicans were known to subscribe to the           
famously liberal Nation, purely to be able to settle down with a Lewis    

....In 1939, while languishing in the death benefits section of the civil 
service, he was headhunted by Colonel William Friedman, head of the US 
Army's cryptography operations, who gave him a job helping to break the 
code used by the Japanese navy to coordinate its wartime fleet.

Towards the end of the war this assignment led to a posting at the 
Bletchley Park code breaking station.

At Friedman's invitation, Lewis then followed him back to Washington and 
the National Security Agency, helping American spies to crack top-secret 
codes. He remained at the NSA as a cryptanalyst until his retirement in 
1969. Much of his work remains classified..../snip/