Meet Team Fiend

In reverse alphabetical order, here are the regular contributors to the Diary of a Crossword Fiend venture:

Dave “Evad” Sullivan got his moniker when he first posted at the old NYT Puzzle forum under the member name “evadnavillus.” He was at first mistaken for a Croatian housewife obsessed with American crosswords named Evadna Villus. He just had his fifth daily puzzle accepted for publication in the New York Times, and has had over 20 puzzles published in other media outlets. He lives with his partner in Panton, Vermont, where they raise chickens, vegetables, bees and goats. Along with tending to all things technical here at DOACF, Dave has helped out fellow bloggers Brendan Emmett Quigley, Tyler Hinman and Matt Gaffney.

Nina Sloan is an ever enthusiastic, frequently frenetic, deceptively dramatic New Yorker. She is an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, where she can be found binding books, arranging music for her a cappella group, and of course, solving and constructing crossword puzzles.

Darby Ratliff is a student working on her PhD in American Studies who uses crosswords as a break from research (until she starts researching puzzle history). She started solving crossword puzzles a couple of years ago and can frequently be heard commenting when someone references a word mentioned in one of the puzzles she did that day. She lives with her girlfriend and their dog Midge in St. Louis, Missouri, where they proudly rep the Buffalo Bills year-round.

Shannon “norah sharpe” Rapp (she/her) is a research administrator at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, as well as a mom to two cats and one middle-schooler. She started making crosswords in 2020 and began writing puzzles for her blog in early 2021. Since then, she has written puzzles for AVCX+, Lil AVC X, Fill Me In, Crucinova, LA Times, Inkubator, and Lollapuzzoola 2022 with more to come. Shannon also writes for Daily Crossword Links and Crossworld News and Notes along with fellow Fiend blogger Matt Gritzmacher, and sometimes she tweets about crosswords. She’s a recent convert from digital solving to the beloved 0.9 mm Pentel. You can probably find her at the next ACPT, talking up indie puzzles to anyone who will listen and plotting to win the E division eventually.

Jim Peredo is the only known crossword constructor of Guamanian heritage. Formerly an Air Force communications officer, he settled with his wife and three kids in the Tacoma, WA, area. He’s had puzzles published in multiple major venues, but his biggest claim to fame was when chose to highlight his submission for their book title mash-up promotion on their website. His brainchild, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go the F**k to Sleep: Inspiring tales of living with narcolepsy,” earned him 5 Likes on Twitter. 

pannonica currently lives with a cat. Just one. no cats. A cat. Unofficial DOACF quotation mark reorienter.

joon pahk is a full-time dad and part-time puzzlemaker with his own puzzle website. here at diary of a crossword fiend, joon blogs matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest. outside of crosswords, joon’s main interests are trivia and sports, especially soccer. he can’t stand pets or long walks on the beach.

Erin Milligan-Milburn is a pediatrician in the Philadelphia area. She started solving crosswords as a child but didn’t discover the competitive world until 2012. Since then, she has worked her way into B Division, where she will be stuck for life. Erin has constructed 1.6 puzzles so far and would love to find a free live-in babysitter so she can work on a few more. When not solving or blogging very intermittently, she enjoys sleeping, talking to her dog Lilac and her cat Luma, and trying to find local ramen nearly as good as that one place in Akihabara where you order by ticket vending machine.

Sophia Maymudes is a Seattle-based software engineer. She writes a monthly crossword for the Provincetown Independent (link: and her work has been published by the NYT, AVCX, and Inkubator. She enjoys public transportation, thematic Spotify playlists, and coming up with three new fun facts every time she has to write a bio about herself.

Jenni Levy is a veteran of the Will Weng and Eugene Maleska puzzle eras, and heir to a family crossword tradition that goes back to Margaret Farrar. The Cruciverbal Internet has opened her eyes to indie puzzles, 0.9 mm Pentel pencils, and the delights of crossword competitions. Everything she knows about The Simpsons, she learned from crossword puzzles. She is also a palliative care doctor, mom to a social media marketer extraordinaire, and an avid Yankees fan.

Zachary David Levy grows Japanese maple trees, makes crossword puzzles, and owns the world’s largest collection of souvenir travel magnets (maybe). He lives outside of NYC with his wife and kids. He is technically a doctor.

Adesina O. Koiki (Ade or Addie for short) of Brooklyn is a relative newbie to crosswords and the crossword world. His first crossword tournament was Lollapuzzoola in 2011, and he’s been competing in the ACPT ever since. He’s the founder/editor/jack-of-all trades of the sports website, A Lot of Sports Talk, and also a freelance reporter/editor at ESPN The Magazine. He’s spent time on the radio as a play-by-play broadcaster for one of the Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliates (Delmarva Shorebirds, Class-A) in 2007, and still does play-by-play here and there to stay sharp. He also likes to cook any cuisine involving chicken and/or cornbread.

Malaika Handa is a software engineer in Brooklyn, who discovered the indie puzzle scene after tweeting about how the NYT crossword had too much baseball in it. A few months into constructing, she started the 7xwords project which has spiraled (some might say out of control) into a crowdsourced almost-daily puzzle blog with over 150 contributors. Most of her time is spent playing volleyball, hanging out at cute cocktail bars (recs are always appreciated!!), watching Taylor Swift’s tiny desk concerttweeting, and re-reading teen fiction.

Matt Gritzmacher dove headlong into the indie crossword world in 2017 and hasn’t looked back. He operates the Daily Crossword Links email newsletter and is always happy to talk puzzles. Here at Crossword Fiend he’s covering the Monday BEQ and Wednesday New Yorker. He has no constructor credits yet, but he’s working on it while living in North Carolina with his wife, two cats (Zelda and Angus), and two dogs (Franklin and Remy). His non-puzzle hobbies include cycling and choral singing.

Matt Gaffney has been a professional crossword puzzle writer since 2000. His subscription-based weekly crossword contest is here and his subscription-based daily 10×10 is here. He also writes crosswords for The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Washingtonian, and The Week. At Fiend he blogs Pete Muller’s Monthly Music Meta and occasionally pinch-hits for other bloggers.

Matt Forest makes a living as a mechanical engineer in Minnesota, and likes to dip into crossworld in his spare time. A crossword solver since childhood, he started going deeper down the rabbit hole in late 2021, dabbling in construction and joining Twitter to connect with other puzzlers. His first published puzzle was a giant M-shaped grid for Crucinova. He has since launched his own puzzle blog (, and is eager to get more puzzles out into the world.

Emily Flynn is an academic librarian in Columbus, Ohio. In 2020, she started solving crosswords and reading up on their history, which quickly led to an interest in construction. Her first puzzle was part of Malaika Handa’s 7xwords project. She’s now hooked and working on other crossword submissions.

Eric Conrad is a SANS Faculty Fellow, information security consultant, public speaker, and co-author of the CISSP Study Guide. He lives on Peaks Island, ME, is a meta crossword puzzle solving enthusiast, and enjoys restoring golden age (1978-1983) arcade games.

Laura Braunstein, a librarian in northern New England, is the co-founder of The Inkubator, puzzles by women — cis, trans, and woman-aligned constructors. She has had puzzles published by the New York Times, Puzzle Society, Universal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Women of Letters, and is a team member with the American Values Club Crossword. She has constructed for the 2018 Indie 500, Boswords, and Crossword Tournament from Your Couch. She covers the Friday WSJ contest for Fiend. When not crossing words, she edits Wikipedia, bikes and skis on mountains, and discusses politics with her kids.

Gareth Bain: Born ’86, Port Elizabeth, South Africa in a hospital (we have those); shelter veterinarian based in Gordon’s Bay, also South Africa. Has been known to publish the odd puzzle. Also fond of baking and bird-watching (though combining the two would be a bad idea). Of late has also begun amassing a motley crew of mentally unstable puppers.


Players retired from the team:

Janie Smulyan has a background as a performer and lyricist, and is a (minimally) published constructor (still workin’ at it!).  For two years she blogged the daily CrosSynergy puzzle (with more than a little help from Evad!); for a little over a year, the Sunday Washington Post’s “Post Puzzler” (once a month); and blogged the Crossword Nation puzzle (weekly) until July 2018. She couldn’t be less impressive as a solver if she tried (and she has…); nor more obsessed by crosswords (and she is).  She counts herself as one of the many here “…bedazzled by language and addicted to [what] Cyril Connolly called ‘unbreakable toys for the mind.'” (Alistair Reid)

Ben Smith is a project manager in Somerville, MA who’s been into crosswords since 2011 and into puzzles for much much longer than that.  He hasn’t had any crosswords published yet, but he has had puzzles at a few NPL conventions (when he left a stack of them on the table in the handout room) and has cat-herded a few BAPHLs.  At Fiend, he blogs the AV Club crossword and BEQ’s Thursday puzzles. He finished 261st at the last ACPT and 7th in the Outside Track of the Indie 500.  Outside of crosswords, Ben blogs about SNL and other TV shows for What Else is On, bakes awesome things, and is generally Good At Internet.

Doug Peterson constructed his first crossword in 2003 and had no idea what he was getting into. He’s an accomplished constructor (over 500 puzzles published) and solver (ACPT 2008 Rookie of the Year), though you can’t always tell that from his blog posts. He gets distracted easily. Now where was I? Oh right. Doug blogs the occasional puzzle when we can rope him into it. His hobbies include attending crossword tournaments and watching old episodes of Sanford and Son.

Andy Kravis is a puzzlemaker, editor, and trivia writer in Brooklyn, NY. Since 2011, his puzzles have been published in the NY Times, the LA Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fireball Crosswords, AV Club, 20 Under 30, Crosswords with Friends, Outside the Box Puzzles, and sporadically on his own blog, Cruciverbalist at Law. He is one of the co-directors of the Indie 500 Crossword Tournament, and he co-teaches the JASA Crossword Class. He finished 6th at the 2018 ACPT and won Lollapuzzoola 10.

Jeffrey Krasnick of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, has won four Foreign Division trophies at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where he has finished as high as 29th overall. Jeffrey blogs the LA Times puzzle every Thursday. Jeffrey was mentioned on 53 episodes of the Fill Me In crossword podcast and has the spreadsheet to prove it. Jeffrey wishes he could spend more time at Walt Disney World and in February, 2013 had his first published crossword.

Jared Hersh is a college math teacher in Santa Barbara, CA. He accidentally became a member of The Crossword Community after sending an email to the late, great podcast Fill Me In. His other main crossword credential consists of a plan to finish in the 10th percentile (no, not 90th) at his ACPT debut next year. In addition to being bad at crosswords, Jared is a competitive runner and sleeper. While the running is free of performance-enhancing drugs, the same can’t be necessarily said about the sleeping.

Angela Olson Halsted (a/k/a PuzzleGirl) doesn’t blog much any more but can occasionally be talked into covering a puzzle or two. She has had several puzzles published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, one solo and the rest collaborations with either Michael Sharp, Doug Peterson or Jeff Chen. When Angela isn’t solving puzzles, she’s a legal secretary who lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and two children. She’s a sports fan who loves the Washington Nationals and follows Iowa Hawkeye wrestling. She seriously doesn’t have enough time for her hobbies.

Neville Fogarty is a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Kentucky who’s been solving crosswords since preparing for a game show in 2007. He had his first crossword published in the LA Times in 2008, and while still contributing there, he also blogged the LAT Tuesday and Thursday puzzles here at The Fiend. He also publishes a weekly crossword when he’s not playing racquetball or ultimate Frisbee.

Victor “Judge Vic” Fleming, of Little Rock, Ark., spends his days at the courthouse and his nights at the schoolhouse—he’s a judge and a part-time law prof. The teaching gig involves a seminar, “Law & Literature,” in which he gets to exercise his B.A. (yes, he was an English major). He has authored books of stuff other than crosswords, authored and co-authored books of crosswords, and edited books of both crosswords and non-. Since 2005, he’s had close to four dozen crosswords in the New York Times (about half of those collabs) and hundreds in other venues. Vic also golfs, guitars, and grandparents.

Rachel Fabi is a longtime solver, newish constructor, and twice-weekly blogger of crossword puzzles. She is a professor of bioethics in Syracuse, New York, where she can often be found climbing on fake rocks and hiking around real ones. She’s a Jeopardy! champ who enjoys bad puns, good trivia, and arguing about health policy and ethics on the internet (@faBioethics on Twitter).

Sam Donaldson is a law professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta. In 2008, he attended his first American Crossword Puzzle Tournament as a 40th birthday present to himself. Later that year, his first crosswords were published in the USA Today, the New York Times, and the New York Sun. Since then he has published dozens of crosswords in various venues. He has also published two word search books. Once upon a time, he blogged the weekly Boston Globe puzzle here at The Fiend, and from April 2011 to April 2013 he covered the daily CrosSynergy puzzle. Sam tag-teamed with Janie and Gareth to review the late, great Washington Post Puzzler, a Sunday freestyle crossword, from April 2013 through March, 2015. From March through August of 2015 he reviewed the weekly puzzle from the late Merl Reagle. A perennial contender for People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” Sam has been approached by several high-level Nigerian officials to receive substantial sums of money in exchange for his bank account information.

T Campbell is a writer of comics, blog posts, books and more. An occasional contributor to the Fiend, he’s preparing to publish On Crosswords, a 63,000-word rumination that began with his work here. He’s produced the 14,400-square Ubercross C-Spot, the largest known crossword to follow standard American rules (no repeated words, no two-letter words, no uncrossed squares and totally solvable). Other crossword credits include Crossworlds: 50 Crosswords for the Science-Fiction Fan, a 2500-square “warm-up” called the Ubercross Fiddy and the cross-comic story Crossover, guest-starring Amy Reynaldo.

Derek Allen is an accountant currently living in Mishawaka, IN, but is hoping to move soon to where it never snows (although being snowed in does allow more time to solve puzzles). He is a rabid sports fan (favorite sport: tennis!), avid Jeopardy! watcher, and while he has had an appearance on Sports Jeopardy, he is dreaming of appearing on actual Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek. He has run three marathons and hopes to run a few more someday. Being a compulsive puzzle solver, he can’t remember the last day that passed without him solving a crossword puzzle!

Erik Agard is a co-founder of the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory, a resource for aspiring puzzlemakers from underrepresented groups.