DAVE MACKEY and BOB MACKEY are presumed to be the only set of identical twins who are both published crossword puzzle constructors and trophy-winning competitive solvers. Both began their interest in words and puzzles in childhood, working puzzles out of Dell magazines. At one point their mother would buy them each a copy of the latest Dell Word Search magazine. (The only other publication there were ever duplicate copies of in the house was TV Guide.) Bob, particularly, cultivated his affinity for crosswords in high school, where, in homeroom, he would often finish the daily New York Times puzzle (at that time edited by Eugene Maleska) in ink before the first period bell rang.
Dave took a more circuitous route into crosswords. His first wife, Nancy, had a subscription to Games Magazine, and Dave would often intercept the magazines and do Nancy's favorite puzzle, 500 Rummy. When Dave asked what he could do to stay out of Nancy's way in the magazine, she replied, "I can't stand crossword puzzles. They're yours." So Dave began doing the crosswords in Games (and contest puzzles such as Cartoon Rebuses) and eventually got into the online daily solving thing.
In 2004, Dave became the first Puzzle Brother to actually get a puzzle published. The puzzle "Switcheroo" appeared in the February 2005 "Games World of Puzzles" and was the first of many puzzles Dave's had in Games. Dave's byline has also appeared multiple times in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today. Bob made his construction debut shortly thereafter and has mostly been featured in the Los Angeles Times' hard Saturday puzzle. The two brothers had their first joint appearance in the April 2, 2006 Los Angeles Times with a puzzle called "OO-EE" for which they came up with all the theme entries during a drive on the Garden State Parkway en route to Atlantic City.
Conversely, Bob was the first Puzzle Brother to test the waters of competitive solving when he made his first appearance at the 1998 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He placed sixth overall, one of the best rookie finishes ever, and won the "B" division. He has done well since, in spite of a long layoff from competitive solving necessitated by a diagnosis of leukemia in 2000 (he is now cancer-free). Cited by Will Shortz as one of the top solvers in the tri-state area, Bob was profiled in a memorable article in the Newark Star-Ledger prior to the 2007 ACPT. After his return to competitive solving, Bob has won the 2005 and 2006 Community Blood Services tournaments (the only two held), the 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Westchester Crossword Tournaments, and the "B" division title at the 2013 ACPT, making him one of only two two-time winners of "B" (the other being Randolph Ross).
Dave made his ACPT debut in 2005, but the rookie crown was not to be in the year of Amy Reynaldo's debut. However, he bounced back in 2006 to win the "D" division has finished higher in every year since. In 2010, Dave for the first time had a perfect ACPT, finishing a personal best 51st. He and Bob have also won the Doubles trophy in Westchester in 2006, having finished first correctly as a team on all three puzzles, but this made them ineligible to play the stage puzzle. They have competed individually ever since.
The Puzzle Brothers are now fixtures at many of the major tournaments and gatherings on the East Coast.
All this is made more remarkable by the fact that puzzles aren't even their day jobs. Bob, who is unmarried, is a proud employee of the Shop Rite supermarket chain and lives in Eatontown, New Jersey. Dave is a music teacher for Toms River Regional Schools, and lives in Howell, New Jersey.
PUBLISHED PUZZLES BY DAVE MACKEY
PUBLISHED PUZZLES BY ROBERT MACKEY