Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Tag: rex parker

Bryan Joiner does the NYT Crossword Puzzle

Of all the posts I’ve written for this blog, the one that reliably gets the most return hits—even years later—is one entitled “Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle,” about a blog with something close to that name. Apparently, people who love crossword puzzle blogs also love to read about crossword puzzle blogs, which is something I never would have anticipated. In fact, having not read the post since I originally wrote it, I couldn’t tell you what’s in it offhand.

I will, however, read it now. Here it is, in its entirety:

I just noticed that I have been added to the sidebar at Rex Parker Does The NYT Crossword, a blog that tackles my the NYT XWord with far more skill and panache than I do — and wanted to direct anyone interested over there. If you like the puzzle at all, it’s worth a look. The drawings by Emily Cureton are pretty special as well.

In fact, I was thinking of entering the annual crossword tournament in Brooklyn just after reading the blog. On the same note, I took the annual Jeopardy! online test on Tuesday. It did not go so well.

I distinctly remember the fallout from this—”Rex Parker” himself (a pseudonym)—wrote a comment admonishing me to enter the tournament. I did not, partially because of the expense involved and partially because the train ride from Astoria to downtown Brooklyn is a pain in the ass, and one not worth it for someone of my skill level. The New York Times crossword puzzle gets harder as the week goes on, and at the time, it took me a long Saturday of staring into a mostly-blank grid, scouring through every esoteric index in my brain to fill even half the puzzle. Despite what sounds like a cordial and warming atmosphere, I would have been paying upwards of $200 to come and get squashed like bug.

Now, things have changed. I do the puzzle every day, and I’m okay enough not to feel like I’m throwing my money away. More importantly, I moved to within four blocks of the Brooklyn Marriott, which hosts the convention. It was a complete coincidence, as far as you know.

What I’ve learned about the puzzle, though, goes beyond common answers like golfers Ernie Els and Isao Aoki, who were blessed to be born with short, vowel-started last names. Last year my grandfather died, which was kind of expected and kind of surprising. He was 90 years old and had lived through a long list of illnesses that never outwardly bothered him. He just kept pulling through and pulling through, and it never seemed like the last time was ever at hand.

Well, the two things I remember about my grandfather is that he was always doing crossword puzzles and taught me how to play chess. Not only that, but the only time I would play chess was with him—I love the game, but it’s hard for me to reconcile the intimacy of the game with non-family members. I can play my brothers, but if I play someone else, it’s uncomfortable. I’d rather beat their ass in Scrabble, or get my clock cleaned in checkers.

When my grandfather was not playing chess, though, he annihilated crossword puzzles. He was a quiet, mischievous WWII  veteran and I’m a babbling, occasionally bumbling post-Draft city boy, and I have the exact same hobby. It’s certainly not an intentional homage (as much as I love my grandfather); it’s just something I love to do. To that end, I get upset whenever I hear crosswords or their constructors described in critical terms, which can happen. Everything that has an obsessive subculture can foster these sorts of things, and in truth, it probably makes the end product better over the long run. But for me, puzzles have always been about joy, and I think most puzzle lovers are in my camp. This year, I’m going to find out for certain. I’ll be the guy at the tournament with the smile on my face from start to finish. I probably won’t be the only one.

If any of the readers of this blog also like crosswords, today’s NYT puzzle is one of the finest Sunday puzzles I’ve ever seen and well worth your time, FWIW, and the partial inspiration for this post.

The Art of Tweeting Gracefully

I’m on Twitter. Sue me. Just make sure to Tweet about it 43 times too.

The last time an Internet phenomenon spread this quickly, it was YouTube. Between the moment I first heard about it and the moment one year removed from that, it had grown from a wisp of an idea to a full-fledged powerhouse. YouTube was the place for Internet video, period, end of story. It served a niche that hadn’t been filled, and did it so well, that it became the brand name for online video. “YouTube” is to video what “Kleenex” and “Band-Aid” are to their markets.

Twitter did the same thing. It’s the blog for people who are too fussy, too important, or too busy blogging to blog. You can find virtually anyone on Twitter, which is what makes it different than blogs. People, and their 140-character thoughts, are easily turned up, making your tweets available to anyone who wants them, and not just in the Wild West internet way: in a controlled, stable environment.

It seems great, right? Well it isn’t.

The problem is that not all Tweets are created equal, or, to be more precise, not all Twitterers are created equal. I care more about what my friends have to say, though I’m careful to mind Twitter as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, our actual relationship. But how am I supposed to find them when CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller Tweets every five minutes, all day? I have (albeit briefly) worked on the White House Unit of a major news operation, so I understand the amount of news created and the importance of every piece of it. Right now, though, it’s 9:26 in the morning and Knoller has tweeted 21 times today. 21 times!

He is far from the worst abuser (and as far as overtweeting goes, you’re not going to find a more informed, more important stream. He’s still clogging my inbox); according to most sources, Tila Tequila tweets about as often as she breathes. In light of a recent lawsuit she’s filed against her NFL-playing boyfriend, her Tweets are “protected,” which means I can’t see them without sending a request that would certainly be accepted. That won’t happen. But “Tequila”‘s Tweets get to the heart of what Twitter really is: the greatest marketing device ever invented. You can connect with brands, people, imaginery characters and they will talk to you — sometimes directly.

Here’s an illustration: the other day, Major League Baseball was giving away a jersey for the 500th person who Tweeted the slogan for their recent advertisement, which was “Beyond Determination.” I tried, twice, but wasn’t number 500. For the contest, you had to go to MLB.com to view the commercial. When I was there, I noticed a repeated spelling error, and I snarkily Tweeted about it. Within 90 seconds, MLB had sent me a direct message — which came ONTO MY PHONE — thanking me for catching the error and attributing it to an third-party company. I immediately felt bad about being snarky, but felt “closer” to MLB as a company — hey, someone was reading! — than I had before.

Contrast that with last night, when I was doing today’s New York Times Crossword Puzzle early. (I’m something of an addict) When I realized the phrase “Don’t Tase Me Bro” appeared in the grid, I jumped for joy — and lunged for my computer to Tweet “Rex Parker,” who runs a great NYT crossword blog. My elation was diffused within minutes, when he responded to my “I’ve been waiting two years for this” Tweet with a zinger of his own: “Good 2 yrs ago when Onion did it 1st.” Now, since I had apparently missed one instance of it two years earlier in a crossword I don’t do, was I not supposed to be excited? I’m not sure that helped.

In short, the rules of Twittering can be summed up with a Tweet-length primer: Be nice, be interesting, and may your tweets be sparing in number. I’m just the messenger. Don’t tase me.

Rex Parker Does The NYT Crossword

I just noticed that I have been added to the sidebar at Rex Parker Does The NYT Crossword, a blog that tackles my the NYT XWord with far more skill and panache than I do — and wanted to direct anyone interested over there. If you like the puzzle at all, it’s worth a look. The drawings by Emily Cureton are pretty special as well.

In fact, I was thinking of entering the annual crossword tournament in Brooklyn just after reading the blog. On the same note, I took the annual Jeopardy! online test on Tuesday. It did not go so well.