‘The Rifleman’ Schoolmaster Created New York Times Crossword Puzzles for Decades

by John Jamison
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Think back to the 1950s—the days of Superman, I Love Lucy, and toward the end of the decade, The Rifleman. The show was a classic Western in every sense of the word. At one point, it even played host to one of the leading Shakespearean actors of the time. But wait! He was also a professor and, get this, a specialist brought in by the New York Times to write the Sunday edition of their crossword puzzle.

What couldn’t Arnold Moss do? The man only stopped by The Rifleman set for a single episode of the show’s 168 episode run, but all likely felt his presence. When people say “you’re a gentleman and scholar,” they might as well be saying “you’re Arnold Moss.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described him as a professor and scholar pursuing a Ph.D. in French and being capable of bringing Shakespeare to life as well as any thespian around. In a 1960 episode of The Rifleman titled “The Schoolmaster,” Moss simply presented a version of himself to the camera. After all, he was way overqualified for teaching at a schoolhouse in the New Mexican Territory of the 1880s.

Arnold Moss only made the one appearance on The Rifleman, but don’t let that fool you. One-off guest-starring roles on TV shows were just his style. Perhaps he was too busy with his academic work and the arguably more important work of cooking up near-impossible Sunday crossword puzzles to stick around too long on any one project.

“I don’t dabble. I work at everything very seriously,” Moss told Journal and Courier of his crossword and Shakesperean work in 1977. Yeah, he did.

Moss’ puzzle work earned him one of the coolest titles of all time—cruciverbalist.

‘The Rifleman’ Star Chuck Connors Was a City Slicker Through and Through

Much like Arnold Moss, Chuck Connors was far from the spitting image of a frontiersman, or for that matter, a cowboy. He had a Western look about him, sure. But The Rifleman star hailed from Brooklyn and had never even smelled a horse, let alone ridden one.

So what did he do? Well, Chuck Connors set out to turn himself into a cowboy.

“After two years in pictures, I had never been in a Western, and my secret desire was to be a Gary Cooper. I was tall, thin and looked like one of those guys,” Connors told reporter Rick Du Brow in 1961. “I had a Brooklyn accent, didn’t know how to ride a horse, and wore a crewcut that hardly looked western.”

Connors started speaking in a drawl, bought himself a horse, and grew out his hair. Boom. A TV cowboy was born. He played Lucas McCain successfully on The Rifleman from 1958 to 1963.

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