Back in the early 70’s, an art director friend (Marty Riskin) told me that a company he did work for, having made a lot of money doing calendars and books featuring a nude fat woman thy caked ”Bridget”, was looking for someone to do “dirty” crosswords. My friend knew I had learned about doing crosswords from a hospital roommate of my grandmother who was an occasional contributor to the New York Times crosswords.
This was the 70s and “dirty” did not mean what it means today. In fact there were no dirty words in the entire book when it was done. It was all double entendres. The “dirtiest” definition was probably this one:
“What goes in long and hard and comes out short and sticky?”
They also wanted a book of other word games, so I did one with word searches, anagrams, mazes, and phony sex tests.
They gave me $1,400 for both books (“Dirty Crossword Puzzles” and “Dirty Fun Book”) and published them for their customers, mostly joke shops and some bookstores.
I got some copies and showed them to my family and friends, including my mother, who was a bit surprised. A couple of months later a former neighbor, the son of my mother’s best friend, saw a copy in the Phoenix airport bookstore and, seeing my name, called my mother to ask if it was me. She told him I wouldn’t have done such a thing.
My mother may not have liked the crossword book, but it got a brief and positive review in Playboy.
The next year the publishers came back and asked for a second crossword book, saying the game book had sold only 30,000 copies and they didn’t want more of them. So we did “Dirty Crosswords Come Again.” This time I got $1,000 and a royalty of a couple of pennies per book, which they never paid.
Some years later, a former employee of the company sued them over compensation issues, and as part of his discovery process, got a list of their products and their sales. He called Marty and told him the two Crossword books had sold almost three million copies! I figure I’d be on the NY Times Best Seller list if they counted books like that.