Most of the feedback I get on this blog is from people disagreeing with me. Most of the comments I leave on other blogs are at least nitpicky. Heck, most of my blog posts spend more time whining than praising. All this for an idle hobby that I happen to love. What gives? I can't even imagine what Will Shortz's inbox must look like. We crossword enthusiasts seem to enjoy finding fault. I know I do. I hold the crossword puzzle to a higher standard than the rest of the NYT. My readers hold me to a high standard even though I continue to insist that I'm just making all this stuff up!
There's a unique pleasure in finding errors in a Times puzzle, perhaps because you know how smart the people involved are and how much effort goes into vetting them. I whined yesterday about CD-ROMs being unusable for backing up. There was a flurry of disagreement and through it all I was happy to engage in the most picayune argumentation. It felt good to add a JNote to the Feb 3 puzzle when a reader pointed out that the Titanic did not, in fact, send an S.O.S. This gotcha game, to quote the Decider, seems to be part of the crossword gestalt.
Here at the JimH Blog I have a simple policy. Again, I quote: Bring 'em on. Hit me with your best shots. I'm happy to engage. One of the great things about the crossword community as evidenced by commentary around the blogosphere is that nobody takes the attacks personally. It’s all good fun. Let’s exercise those Gotcha muscles. Hey, what you staring at? You saying I’m wrong?
Defending the Crossword Puzzle Moment
In my Crosswords and God post I included a Crossword-based God nonexistence proof where my Crossword Puzzle Moment (CPM) theory was mentioned. Some of the comments weren't about the proof itself which is, of course, just silly wordplay, but rather argued the validity of my CPM theory. One reader asserted without specifying an alternative that the CPM was not in fact the essence of enjoying Crosswords. Fine, it's a personal thing. Your pleasure-center may be different. Another insisted the joy of crosswords wasn't in recalling facts but in decoding clever clues and sussing out tricky themes. This is what I want to address because I agree, so I haven’t done a good job explaining my position.
For years I only did cryptic puzzles and in fact I disdained American-style crosswords. I love those thrills of decoding clever clues and that's what cryptics are all about. The revelation for me was that American puzzles are not, as I had thought, completely bogus because they provide an extra endorphin boost I had never imagined. Cryptics and Sudoku and chess and even writing a crossword analysis program on a computer are all logic problems. I love logic problems but American crosswords add an extra dimension I find intriguing – that stirring of long-dormant memories you didn't think you had. I get a kick every time that happens. Again, your mileage may vary.
To answer another email, subscribing to the CPM theory or not doesn't change the proof. The moment of discovery, whatever it is, is something God can't have. She can't go from not knowing something to knowing something and still be omniscient. The proof remains as valid or as stupid as it was before. And again, it's just amusing wordplay, nothing more. I'm sure the classic ontological arguments are stronger.
After all that I don't have much energy for the Feb 22 Puzzle by Mike Nothnagel and David Quarfoot (answers.) I didn't know one crossing (Wesley or Lesley? Papa who?) but it was a completely fair and a nicely professional Friday puzzle. I liked "Strip alternative:" TBONE. Oh, and "Shortening in the kitchen" was even better: TBSP. Only a true geek would know the RETE algorithm was a neural net. I might employ that algorithm if I ever try to write a crossword solver program.
Seeing Mike's name reminds me that my stats site doesn't properly credit people like him who do both solo and tag-team puzzles. He should be credited with 17 puzzles. David Quarfoot should have 24. I'll get around to fixing that some day.