August 20, 2008

At least I'm thinking of words and roots of words and sometimes in Latin.

crossword.jpg As a dedicated puzzle geek who won't even answer the phone at work until I've finished the New York Times crossword, I suppose I should at least pretend to be offended by Ron Rosenbaum's diatribe against crosswords and sudoku in Slate. But the only thing that actually bothers me in Rosenbaum's view on how I should be spending my time:

"What always gets to me is the self-congratulatory assumption on the part of puzzle people that their addiction to the useless habit somehow proves they are smarter or more literate than the rest of us. Need I suggest that those who spend time doing crossword puzzles (or sudoku) — uselessly filling empty boxes (a metaphor for some emptiness in their lives?) — could be doing something else that involves words and letters? It's called reading." [Emphasis, sadly, in the original.]

Is that really my only option? Can't I listen to music, go to a play, or just watch TV? No, it must be "the full-blooded life that one can find in reading," which presumably excludes blogs — and Slate. Thanks, Ron, but I already spend enough time reading, both serious and frivolous. I'll keep wasting my time on puzzles, you keep wasting yours on essays like this. And when I need to fill that emptiness in my life, I'll do it the traditional way — with alcohol and porn.

Posted by Jesse


Maybe a kindly puzzler will be nice enough to read to ron rosenbaum in a senior center one day when his own brain is fried:


Dunno why Rosenbaum thinks you can read or do puzzles, but not both. One of the more stupid things I've read on Slate (Will Saletan is in a category all by himself, of course, and Christopher Hitchens counts as comedy).

Presumably his problem is that he solves puzzles so slowly that it doesn't leave time for anything else if he does one.

I felt betrayed by the midpoint cliffhanger. On page two Rosenbaum tantalizingly suggests there was an "inciting incident" that generated the essay, but on page three it turns out he just went to a Starbuck's and sat in between someone doing a sudoku and someone doing the NYT crossword. That's it? I hope Rosenbaum never takes the subway, else he might not masturbate ever again.


Late to the table here, but personally, fanaticism (required to complete the NYT puzzle) and addiction in any form cannot be viewed as positive. The particularly disturbing byproduct of an addiction like solving relatively difficult puzzles like the NYT version is that the addicts, far from being subjects of public scorn and derision [like porn and crack addicts], seem to feel they deserve a place in the pantheon of the intellectual elite.

Personally, I used to be able to solve difficult quadratic equations in my head, but I never wore the T-shirt nor used the mug that came with it. Although once, I used a blog to communicate the fact that I was sort of smart in a really narrow and meaningless way.

But I agree his article was poorly conceived.

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