Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm In Crossword Geek Heaven!


Image from Wired Blog.

We record The Simpsons on our DVR at home and I usually half-watch it while I peck away at my computer nearby.  Last night, Doug put on an episode and I glanced over to see Lisa doing a crossword puzzle on an upright board. I said, "Hey, that looks just like Wordplay."  Wordplay is a documentary about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament starring the editor of The New York Times crossword, Will Shortz.  You'd think this would be a snoozer of a movie, but it was actually "on the edge of your seat" exciting.  I rooted for the underdog Tyler Hinman, and loved following the lives of the incredibly talented contestants.  Celebrities including Jon Stewart (hysterical), Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton also appeared in it.  Will Shortz is extremely charismatic and plenty of women (including a friend of mine) have mortal crushes on him.  At the end of the Simpsons episode, Will and a puzzlemaker, Merl Reagle, made cameo appearances.  Wow, how cool!  But it turned out to be even cooler when I found out more today.

On my way home, I listened to Sunday's episode of NPR's Sunday Puzzle podcast like I do every Monday.  Weekend Edition anchor Liane Hansen mentioned that Will was going to appear on The Simpsons that night.  It was a brand new Simpsons episode, "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words." And then I read further in the Wordplay blog that all the puzzles that appeared in the episode were written by Merl Reagle himself.  To put icing on the cake, the puzzle that appears at the end of the episode was actually the puzzle that appeared in the Sunday New York Times on the same day!  Wow, how cool is that!

Of course this is only cool if you love crosswords. When I was in high school, I subscribed to Games Magazine and did all the crosswords.  Admittedly, I wasn't all that good at it, as I often took the easy clues.  In my last job, a couple of colleagues and I got together every Friday morning over donuts and did the Boston Globe cross word on-line, trying to make the best time. Most of our times were around 8 minutes, but once I blew through one puzzle in a little over 5 minutes.  I love the instant feedback of knowing when you've hit a wrong letter, so sitting down and doing a crossword puzzle on paper these days is a rare occurrence for me. 

When I asked my husband (a non-puzzler), what he thought about the puzzle appearing in the paper as well as the Simpsons episode, he said, "It's queer, but cool."  I guess you have to be a crossword geek to appreciate it. nerd

11-18-08 Edited to add - I totally forgot to add the Mr. Burns and Mr. Smithers (as voiced by Harry Shearer) read the prizes for the Sunday Puzzle as well. Awesome!

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