This Rifleman schoolmaster was a major mastermind behind New York Times crossword puzzles

The cruciverbalist Arnold Moss actually was a teacher before he became an actor.

When The Rifleman brought in the new schoolmaster Mr. Griswald, the overly strict teacher and Lucas McCain quickly butt heads.

What followed was an episode called "The Schoolmaster" where the cowboy dad gets confronted by the teacher, who accuses Lucas of raising Mark all wrong, hitting a nerve.

Playing the schoolmaster was an actor named Arnold Moss, whom critics back then heralded as the best Shakespearean actor in America.

But Moss wasn’t just a phenomenal actor, he also was a serious scholar and one-time college professor.

In 1940, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described Moss: "Scholar, professor, Phi Beta Kappa and only 50 pages short of a PhD on 18th century French, does that sound like a description of an actor to you? Nonetheless it is, and the actor is no other than Arnold Moss."

"I don’t know how I happened to develop such a strange subject to major in as 18th century French," Moss explained in the interview. "Somehow, it fascinated me. I specialized, because of my interest in the drama in the theater of 18th century France."

For Moss, though, Shakespeare was his "first love," and throughout his life, Moss continued bringing Shakespeare to the people on stages across America, telling The Democrat and Chronicle in 1959, "I don’t want to see kids growing up not knowing what it is to listen to the words of this great genius." 

Behind the scenes of his productions, Moss wasn’t one to sit idle, and his favorite hobby also reflects his deep intellect.

From the 1940s through the 1980s, he was one of The New York Times’ favorite crossword puzzle creators.

If you’re a fan of the New York Times crossword puzzle, you know that the easiest-to-solve puzzle is released on Monday, and every day after, the puzzle gets a little harder, leading up to the most challenging puzzle in the Sunday edition of the newspaper.

Well, Moss, the genius that he was, composed puzzles specifically for the Sunday edition.

In an interview with the Journal and Courier in 1977, he said he was just as focused when doing his job as a "cruciverbalist" as he was performing as the country’s finest Shakespearean actor.

"I don’t dabble," Moss said. "I work at everything very seriously."

Watching Moss in The Rifleman, his character reflects this severe, serious nature, and that becomes the source of conflict with the McCains, as both father and son successfully push back against the strict schoolmaster by the episode’s end.

Moss said it’s no accident if those who know him recognize aspects of his nature shining through the characters he portrays, whether it’s on classic TV Westerns or Broadway.

"Anything you play is a reflection, to some degree, of what you are," Moss said.

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cabugi 1 month ago
Quality man. Whatchu got Brad Pitt? Hedy Lamarr … self-taught inventor; Angelina Jolie? 🤦🏻‍♀️
texasluva 1 month ago
I remember this episode of The Rifleman-A strict school teacher tries to punish Mark for damaging a book and other things. Accuses Lucas of not bringing up Mark the right way. Mark and a friend take off to an abandoned mine and are rescued. Teacher learns a lesson.
tootsieg 1 month ago
I love the afternoon Westerns. Watching Wagon Train is like watching a movie every day. Every show is so well acted and produced.
Pacificsun 1 month ago
































From the image, am pretty sure this actor appeared in ST:TOS in the episode "Conscience of the King." It was a pretty dramatic storyline at least for ST. So he's been around for a long time, if so. The background stories presented by MeTV are always so interesting, thanks!
Pacificsun 1 month ago
I'm accidentally catching these afternoon westerns. And really enjoying them. Like Wagon Train and the Rifleman is always excellent. I never thought I'd like them, because I was forced to, growing up. But they are excellent little dramas!
ELEANOR 1 month ago
He looks a lot like Frank Thornton who was a British actor and appeared in "Are You Being Served?" and "Last of the Summer Wine."
KJExpress ELEANOR 1 month ago
Now that you mention it, there is a resemblance. And they both had nice, deep voices.
Peter_Falk_Fan 1 month ago
Kudos to the man who played Kodos of Tarsus IV. That was a great episode, IMHO.

Our local Sunday paper has the NY Times crossword puzzle in it. I'm lucky if I get half of the answers. I prefer the Sudoku and Jumble puzzles.
Big3Fan Peter_Falk_Fan 1 month ago
ELMUJB CSKRO!
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
I wonder what job one would get with a PhD in 18th century French. 🤔
A person could go to France and be a tour guide for castles and museums, become a Professor, conduct an online Master Class in 18th Century French. Here's a wild idea: have a Food Network "game show," where the competition is cooking 18th Century French Cuisine. {Maybe this could be an episode of "Chopped."} Do you watch TFN? I do, I don't watch them all, but I do enjoy watching the competition ones, especially, the ones airing in Oct-Dec.
I was under the impression it meant the French language not French history. I’ve been in France many times and the people I’ve been around in those chateaus didn’t have degrees. Some were from the nearby villages. Just knew the history. I guess it depends.
justjeff 1 month ago
He would be stunned, in today's world, to find that very few young people *do* know "the words of this great genius"...
WordsmithWorks 1 month ago
"Cruciverbalist." Awesome word.
Very cool. I might start telling people I am one and see how they react. 😎
That word ranks along with "Thespian," in folks not knowing what it means. Or they think they do...I ran across an article where it was asking if folks knew the meanings of different abbreviations and acronyms. One of the ones mentioned was LGBTQ. One of the answers for "T" was Thespian. Well, it does rhyme with one of the words!
Sounds like a mistake Archie Bunker would have made. He was always getting his words confused.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Arnold Moss was a very talented man. He has that Shakespearean look to him too (-:
KJExpress Runeshaper 1 month ago
I've only seen him in ST, but the character he played seemed to have such dignity even though he had done some terrible things in the past.
Pacificsun KJExpress 1 month ago
Yes, a very theatrical presence. In that episode, maybe that's why he was cast. In the initial cycle that episode used to annoy me so much. But it's interesting how appreciation of such themes and topics changes as we age. Greater appreciation.
KJExpress 1 month ago
He was great as a Shakespearean actor in the Star Trek episode "The Conscience of the King." I love crossword puzzles so it was interesting to me to discover that he created them. It would have been fun trying to work on one of his puzzles. 🤔
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Yes saw the site that showed Arnold Moss's puzzles solved. The only place you most likely would find his puzzles unsolved would be the NY Times seeing he created his puzzles for their Sunday Edition you most likely would need to subscribe and they're probably Archived.
LoveMETV22 Zip 1 month ago
There is A Crossword Puzzle Game in the Games section of this (MeTV) site. Granted they're not Arnold Moss's but they're fun.
Pacificsun Runeshaper 1 month ago
Especially back then. Imagine bringing Shakespeare to "escapist based" television, as well as an adventurous Sci Fi anthology as ST. GR was so much ahead of his time.
stephaniestavr5 1 month ago
I want to give 2 to my sexagenarian brain, for figuring out what is meant by the word: "cruciverbalist," without having to Google it!
Zip stephaniestavr5 1 month ago
You know more than I do then. And here I even work in a library. I'm so ashamed.
CarolKelley Zip 1 month ago
I think my librarian daughter would agree with me that you ought not to be ashamed for not knowing the meaning of cruciverbalist.
LoveMETV22 Zip 1 month ago
There's no shame. It does explain what it is in the article, however it's not a word people use in conversation or in general.
CarolKelley Zip 1 month ago
I saw my librarian daughter this evening and she said that shame has no place in your work as a librarian. After all, you want patrons to feel comfortable in seeking knowledge and you also should know that you don't know everything.
Zip 1 month ago
That was a good episode, and he did play the strict, serious schoolmaster very well. I guess I know why now... He really was like that.
He did turn out to be pretty reasonable by the end of the episode though.
stephaniestavr5 Zip 1 month ago
Another actor who also did a good job playing a strict schoolmaster, was Richard Basehart. Have you seen the LHOTP ep. where because the schoolboard, {mainly Mrs. Olesen,} thinks Miss Beadle can no longer handle the class, they bring in RB's character.
For some reason, (if it was explained why, I don't remember,) he singles out Laura to be his whipping board. But, by the end, he faces the Wrath of Charles, {along w/rest of schoolboard,} and winds up looking like a whipped puppy!
Zip stephaniestavr5 1 month ago
Yes, definitely!!!
He could be a scary dude. Even on Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, at those times when Admiral Nelson was brainwashed or replaced by a robot replica.

I love when he gets caught yelling in the class and Charles breaks his stick after confronting him.

I also get a kick out of the farmer boy, Herman(who reminds me of some of my cousins for some reason), and the way he laughs when Basehart slaps his hands with the ruler, and his response, "Shows me you can't hit hard enough to tickle." Or something like that.
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