Date: April 11, 2010
Byline: Gary Stern
The nation's most decorated crossword puzzler is Miriam Raphael of Rye Brook
Growing up in Mount Vernon, Miriam Raphael did the crossword puzzle in the paper most days with her dad.
When she left home for Mount Holyoke College, she relished having a paper — and the puzzle — to herself.
Later, while raising three daughters, she revved up her crossword speed. There wasn't much time to dwell on 6 ACROSS.
"I'm a word nerd," she said. "I've always had a good vocabulary. And it was something I could be good at. We tend to persist at things we're good at."
Persist she has. Now 84, Raphael, a longtime Rye Brook resident, recently won the 80-and-over senior division of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the second year in a row.
She has won 27 trophies at crossword tournaments — including a national title in 1979 — the most ever won by one puzzler, said Will Shortz, crossword editor of The New York Times.
"Mimi is an inspiration because she is such a good puzzle solver at her age," said Shortz, a Pleasantville resident who founded the national tournament in 1978. "Once you get older, you're not fast enough to win the whole thing, but Mimi usually wins her division. She's still going strong and is a dear person who people love."
Although she took a little time off after the February tournament, Raphael is back to her usual puzzle schedule. She does The New York Times crossword every morning online. Then she does all the puzzles in The Journal News, except Sudoku, which she does only early in the week.
"I can do word puzzles, but I can't do logic puzzles," she said.
She also zips through crosswords in several magazines.
The retired English-as-a-Second-Language teacher has time on her hands these days but doesn't need much for puzzles. She takes five minutes or so for easy ones and maybe 20 to 30 minutes for the toughies, such as the Times' puzzle on Saturday.
"I finish them every day," she said. "But some days take longer."