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Reader puzzled over crossword writer change

My wife likes to do the daily crossword puzzles, but we noticed recently Timothy Parker’s byline has been replaced. Please tell us he is just on vacation.

— Anonymous

We at SYA Headquarters did some digging to help clue you in as to what is going on with the crossword puzzles.

The Mail Tribune gets its comics and puzzles from Universal Uclick syndicate, where Timothy Parker worked as a crossword writer and editor since the late 1990s.

But as of New Year’s Day, the syndicate named David Steinberg as its new editor of Universal Crossword after deciding not to renew Parker’s contract.

A cloud of scandal hovers over Parker’s time at Universal after a March 2016 article at fivethirtyeight.com showed similarities between Parker’s work and puzzles originally published in the New York Times.

Universal Uclick issued a press release in May 2016 saying an internal investigation confirmed some of the allegations.

“As a result, Mr. Parker will take a three-month leave of absence as editor of the Universal Crossword puzzle,” the release said. “During his leave, Mr. Parker will confirm that his process for constructing puzzles uses the best available technology to ensure that everything he edits is original.”

Southern Oregon crossword-lovers might be disappointed, but they are left in capable hands.

Steinberg was first published in the New York Times at just 14 years old, and became the crossword editor of the Orange County Register’s 24 papers at 15.

We know the change is tough, but no one said crossword puzzles are supposed to be easy.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.