I can do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle.
This is not a boast, but rather a pithy summary of my most noteworthy talents.
Some people can time the stock market; some can sing like angels; some can draw like Michelangelo. All are very marketable talents.
I can do the NY Times Sunday puzzle.
Like whatever other talents I have there is no correlation between the talent and making money. Even someone who can wiggle his ears, or touch the tip of his nose with his tongue can make a few bucks in barroom bets. Walk into a bar and say, “Hey, five bucks says I can do the NY Times Sunday puzzle”, and you won’t get many takers; and if you do they will all be drunk or asleep by the time you finish.
In other words, doing the puzzle is not a spectator sport. There are tournaments but you won’t be seeing them on ESPN any time soon. There is even a crossword game show.
I’m not betting on its success because it is an activity that is almost synonymous with boredom; it is what cops do on stake out, patients in waiting rooms, and commuters and travelers on the interminable ride home.
In other words, what many people do instead of blogging. I do both. I really need a life.
I’m not knocking it. Actually, I used to enjoy sitting on the train or Path doing the puzzle in my usual methodic top to bottom fashion. Very frequently some yenta would look over and say: “My God, you can do the Times Sunday puzzle!” I have to admit it puffed me up a bit. There is always someone, however, who will say they know a guy who can do it in fifteen minutes flat, thus un-puffing me.
It apparently isn’t even that much of a talent. Will Shortz, the Times puzzle editor, took all us Completers down a peg when he said on the Charlie Rose Show that the Sunday puzzle is just a long Thursday in difficulty. Now, for the uninitiated, the Time puzzles increase in difficulty as the week goes along with Monday being the easiest and, according to Shortz, Saturday being the most difficult.
He was like “you Sunday Completers think you’re so special, but your not, you’re just like those mediocre Thursday people but with more time on your hands.” I took exception.
Doing crosswords has come back in vogue because many experts feel that doing them keeps the brain healthy. Take it from someone who does a lot of puzzles, I still need a Dust Buster to clean the dead brain cells off my pillow in the morning.
I think that the only thing that crossword puzzles do for your brain is exercise the part that deals with crossword puzzles. I may be able to come up with a three-letter word for lugubrious, but still forget my Social Security number.
Oh, one more thing: I have always done the puzzle in ink. Take that, Will Shortz!