The PFIQ Crossword Puzzles

The PFIQ crossword puzzles were a short-lived feature that ran in seven issues, #36 (1991) through #42 (1993). Their creation was the result of several factors coming together.

I’ve had some interest in crosswords for many years but had never been particularly passionate about them in large part because it was rare to find ones that were hard enough
to be challenging but not so difficult as to be nearly impossible to solve. That changed in the mid 1980s when the Los Angeles Times began running weekly puzzles by Merl Reagle ( Not only
were they just the right level of difficulty, but they invariably
contained witty challenges and delightfully atrocious
puns. I looked forward to every Sunday paper just for the

The real incentive for creating them for PFIQ was my dear
friend Jim Anderson, a longtime Gauntlet customer, who
appeared many times in the magazine simply as Jim A. I
met him in Hollywood when I first started piercing. He was
visiting from New York and had contacted my mentor Doug
Malloy about getting pierced while he was in town. He was
my first Prince Albert piercing.

At that time, I had not yet invented the piercing needle
and was using large veterinary hypodermic needles. Trying
to follow the beveled point of the needle with the jewelry
was virtually impossible. The other challenge was the technique
Doug used of piercing into the tip of a cotton swab. By some miracle I managed to do the piercing, but the procedure was extremely bloody. Despite everything, Jim was a good sport, and over the years became a regular customer as well as a close friend.

Jim lived in New York and worked at the United Nations. He was quite smart and was one of those people who could work the New York Times Sunday crossword in ink. Often, when he visited me in Los Angeles, we enjoyed having coffee and working the Merl Reagle puzzle together, laughing and groaning over the puns and other gimmicks they often contained. These were times I remember and cherish.

I don’t know whose idea it was to create a crossword for PFIQ, but I decided to accept the challenge, and using the Merl Reagle puzzles as a model, set about to produce my first one. It wasn’t easy. Thankfully, by this time there was a software program available that made the task possible. Without it, I would likely have simply abandoned the idea.

The first three puzzles I created on my own. I devised the themes and the piercing related clues. By the fourth puzzle, I decided to enlist Jim’s help. He had a quick wit and between us we were able to come up with some outrageous puns that delighted both of us.

Sadly, once I completed and published the seventh crossword, it became apparent that I was wasting my time. Not one reader indicated an interest. Perhaps the puzzles were too difficult for the average piercing fan or maybe they just didn’t care. Whatever the reason, it was obviously a feature that wasn’t appreciated, and so it became history. No one ever lamented its passing.

Two years after the last crossword puzzle appeared in PFIQ, Jim passed away from what was officially diagnosed as cancer. It’s quite likely that the true cause was AIDS, though I’ll never know. He was a dear friend and is greatly missed.

Hopefully, a younger generation of piercing enthusiasts will enjoy our efforts. To download a booklet of these puzzles, click here. Happy puzzling!