In his editor's note in this week's Post magazine, Tom Shroder enthusiastically introduced a new crossword created by Merl Reagle. "He is widely credited with revitalizing the form, and adding new layers of humor and wordplay to the traditional intellectual challenge," Shroder writes.
True enough–I like Reagle's puzzles. But what Shroder's column doesn't mention is that the switch to Reagle was in keeping with the paper's recent cost-cutting efforts. Last September Post crossword editor Fred Piscop announced on Cruciverb.com, a site for crossword constructors, that his services were no longer going to be needed after March 2008.
Shroder confirmed Piscop's statement via e-mail today. "Fred is right to say that we were very happy with his work, which has been outstanding for many years, but that the genesis of the change was the need to find smart ways to deal with the financial pressure of shrinking resources that absolutely everyone in our business is being forced to deal with," he writes. "That said, when I began looking around for a less resource-intensive replacement, I was absolutely thrilled to discover Merl Reagle's puzzle was available. Merl is brilliantly clever, a true innovator, and he has a great sense of humor that he manages to instill in his puzzles. So we're very happy to have him."