Advertisement
  1. News

Friends of crossword great Merl Reagle celebrate his life

A celebration of life to honor the late Merl Reagle, a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle maker, drew about 125 people to the University of Tampa’s Vaughn Center on Sunday. Reagle, 65, died Aug. 22 of complications of acute pancreatitis.
Published Sep. 28, 2015

TAMPA

Superstar crossword creator Merl Reagle once described his puzzles as being a lot like life.

You start out clueless. You pick up a few words. You learn from mistakes.

In one of the Carrollwood resident's crossword collections, he said, "You soon discover that everything is connected to everything else. And in the end, it doesn't matter if you have some empty spots as long as it all adds up to something."

Reagle's life, friends said, added up to the portrait of a remarkable genius.

On Sunday, about 125 friends and fans of the crossword "constructor" gathered at the University of Tampa for a remembrance of Reagle's life. Reagle, a nationally syndicated puzzle maker, died Aug. 22 of complications of acute pancreatitis. He was 65.

Always a gregarious man, Reagle "would have been delighted to be here," said his widow, Marie Haley.

Reagle created a monthly puzzle for the Tampa Bay Times' Floridian magazine as well as crosswords and other puzzles for the New York Times and many other publications.

He was remembered as a good friend and devoted husband with a fast wit whose penchant for puns and clever wordplay was legendary.

Vic Fleming, an Arkansas resident whose own puzzles have been published, said Reagle once told him, "The English language is the best toy a boy ever had."

"He was," Fleming said, "the most jovial guy I ever met."

Reagle was featured in the award-winning documentary Wordplay. It showed famous crossword enthusiasts, including former President Bill Clinton and comedian Jon Stewart, trying to solve a crossword puzzle Reagle had created.

Wordplay's director, Patrick Creadon, flew from his home in Los Angeles to speak at the remembrance and said Reagle, featured throughout the documentary, was one of the reasons it was a great success.

Creadon said Reagle's work will be alive on the Web and in newspaper archives forever.

"I miss him dearly," Creadon said. "But he's not gone. His work is still here. It's his great gift."

Reagle became something of a crossword celebrity who sometimes crossed over into the territory of popular culture. He was a character in an episode of The Simpsons television show.

His crossword puzzles were known for their witty style.

Frank Foley showed up at the celebration of Reagle's life never having met the man. The Tampa resident was a big fan who said he always carried around Reagle's puzzles.

"I was constantly doing his puzzles and always looked forward to them," Foley said. "Now he's gone. There was nobody like Merl. Nobody at all."

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Joanne Glenn, Pasco eSchool principal, addresses the eSchool faculty on opening day of teacher preplanning week in 2018. Pasco eSchool is launching its first online dual-enrollment courses in conjunction with Pasco-Hernando State College in the second semester.  GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
    Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.
  2. Challenger K-8 School students, from left, Jeremy Gonzalez, 13, Jackson Hoyt, 12, Benjamin Harper, 12, and Gianni Labdar, 12, finish meals consisting of fresh salads, quesadillas and nachos during a lunch service on Oct. 15 at the school in Spring Hill during the county's Fresh from Florida Plate Day event. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Starting a farm-to-school initiative has been more complicated than district officials expected.
  3. Tampa Bay homeowners are now able to sell their homes to Zillow. Zillow
    It joins Opendoor and Offerpad in making "instant'' offers.
  4. The microbrewery Double Branch Artisanal Ales is the first tenant signed at The Grove after the acquisition of the Wesley Chapel shopping center last month by Mishorim-Gold Properties for nearly $63 million. Double Branch Artisanal Ales.
    Mark Gold wants The Grove at Wesley Chapel to become the community’s downtown
  5. Jorge Zambrana and Fabiola Montealegre listen to the music at the Town 'N Country Senior Center. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    It all started at the exercise bike, after he approached her. He had a feeling.
  6. District 3 City Council candidates Orlando Acosta, left, and Ed Montanari. Scott Keeler, Chris Urso
    The St. Petersburg City Council races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Partisan politics are leaking into the campaign anyway.
  7. Disco Freak will perform music from the 1970s in a free concert Oct. 27 at the South Holiday Library. Pasco County Libraries
    Things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The driver of a Ford F250 truck took evasive action but collided with the pedestrian, officials say.
  9. Hernando County sheriff’s sergeant  Louis “Lou” Genovese died Saturday after struggling for weeks with an undisclosed medical condition, according to the Sheriff's Office. He was 41. HERNANDO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Hernando County Sheriff's Office
    Sergeant Louis “Lou” Genovese, a deputy since 2006, was 41.
  10. FILE - This June 2, 2017, file image made from video shows the Trump National Doral in Doral, Fla. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, he is reversing his plan to hold the next Group of Seven world leaders' meeting at his Doral, Florida, golf resort. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File) ALEX SANZ  |  AP
    The chief of staff called Trump’s sudden change of course — announced by the president on Twitter Saturday evening — “the right decision.”
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement