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.