Tom under wood

In the fall of 1970, a co-worker handed me a mimeographed sheet of word puzzles and dared me to try to solve them. She said copies of the sheet had been "making the rounds" in our building. Among the puzzles were such brain-teasers as LINE READ LINE (Read between the lines) and NIGHT CHRISTMAS (Night before Christmas). I found them fascinating.

Later I learned this type of puzzle is a form of rebus - a word and symbol puzzle that dates back more than 2,000 years to the Persian Empire. The secret to solving a rebus is to determine the missing "concept," such as in, on, over, under, before, after, between, etc.

I began creating my own rebuses, calling them Wuzzles, and by 1971 there were more than 200 in my collection. Convinced that Wuzzles would be in demand everywhere, I created a Wuzzles party game (which was not a great success), and also began submitting my Wuzzles ideas to book publishers and newspaper syndicates throughout the country. No one was interested.

Over the next 10 years, the number of Wuzzles in the collection grew. By 1982, there were more than 3,500 Wuzzles, using about 200 different concepts. For ideas, I pored through standard, slang, and idiom dictionaries.

Then came the big break. The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette agreed to run Wuzzles on a trial basis, and they were an immediate hit locally. A few months later, a sales representative from a major newspaper syndicate saw the Wuzzles in The Gazette, told his editor about them, and the rest is history. The Wuzzles feature, syndicated by King Features/NAS, now appears in newspapers throughout the United States and in several foreign countries.

Even today, the Wuzzles collection continues to grow. There are more than 15,000 Wuzzles stored in the computer, using some 500 different concepts.