Friday, September 26, 2008


Well, it continues

My health continues to deteriorate. Over the last several weeks, I have lost the ability to concentrate on typing and my confusion continues to grow. My fingers are not cooperating.

The funny thing is that my ability to do crossword puzzles remain. I am extremely proud of the fact that I am able to solve the Friday and Saturday NY Times crossword every week and have done so for a while. Anyone who knows the crossworld knows what an accomplishment this is. I don't say this to boast about my abilities as a solver but to demonsterate that I haven't lost my ability of mind, just my ability to express myself about the puzzles.

I am an isolated individual. I have trouble walking and talking. And the ability to communicate about the NY Times puzzle, particularly through Rex Parker's blog, is important to me. Aside from my wife and two children, this is the only place where I can communicate. And now I have lost that. It has taken me a little over an hour to get this far along in this post and I am exhausted.

I stopped timing myself a long time ago, more because I enjoy the process of doing the puzzles than being able to gloat over my time. Be assured that I don't begrudge Orange or the others for their speed - I just don't share their interest. I enjoy the puzzles My Way, the same way they do. However when it occurred to me that I was never going to be a serious competitor to Tyler Hinman, I lost interest in my times.

When I was in college, I came to that same general conclusion about my abilities as a pool player and quit the game. Just quit. Number 1 or nothing! That was very short sighted of me. I don't intend to quit doing puzzles because of lack of speed.

I'm rambling so I'll bring this post to a close. Goodbye for now. More later.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


To the crossworld, Linda G wrote about the New York Times crossword puzzle every day in her blog Madness ... Crossword and Otherwise and, incidentally, about her family and her job. Or was it the other way around. We learned this week that she will no longer be able to continue her blog. She had gone into hiatus earlier this year and came back just a little shaky because job and family were more important to her than writing about crossword puzzles but that she would try to keep all three balls in the air at once. She apparantly lost that battle.

She used a photo of Ava Gardner as her avatar and, since I never met her, that is how I pictured her. A celebrity photo has never been put to better use.

I solve the Times puzzle every night before I go to bed and my first stop to check my answers was her blog. She was not one of those Super Solvers who blew through the puzzle in less than 5 minutes. As a matter of fact, I have no idea how long it took her to complete the puzzle - she never said. I learned the expression " I declare this puzzle solved" when she reached the end of the line and could not finish. This didn't happen often but enough to humanize her. I shamelessly appropriated the expression for myself .

I was introduced to some other blogs through her site, most particularly Robert Loy's Green Genius where he wrote about his family and country music, Anna Southward's A View from my Window where she presented her poetry and graphics (N.B.: A Crossword Pantheon Moment this blog) and Wendy's I estivate, therefore I am a blog about the music of the Boomer Generation and my youth.

So Goodbye Linda. I hardly knew ye. And every time I see Ava Gardner, I will think fondly of you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


When I was a senior in high school, we were called upon to memorize 10 lines of poetry. Being something of a wiseass, I decided to do The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe which was considerably longer than 10 lines. When it was my turn to recite, I accomplished the feat with just a couple of stumbles. Most of the poem has stayed with me to this day. Oh, I can't recite all eighteen or so verses, but, if prompted, I can rattle off 15 or 20 lines.
All this is apropos of one of the quirks of my Multiple Sclerosis. I say My Multiple Sclerosis because one of the real oddities of this disease is the nature of its symptoms. MS is a disease of brain lesions and how one is affected depends on just where on the brain the lesions are located. In my case, the left side of my brain has the lesions and I have generalized weakness on my right side and my speech center is affected.
I could very well be paralyzed or blind so, all things being equal, I got off lucky.

When I was first diagnosed, I had a real problem with talking and maintaining my balance. I was fond of saying I had to relearn how to walk and talk and crawl on my belly like a reptile. One of the first things that dawned on me was that reciting poetry and talking were two entirely different processes. I'm not sure why that occurred to me but it did. Perhaps you are aware that certain singers, such as Mel Tillis, stutter but have no problem singing because singing and reciting poetry are right brain processess and speaking is a left brain process.
I figured out that I could talk with a minimum of trouble by memorizing what I wanted to say, then saying it. That is a very exhausting enterprise but, to some extent, it works at least in the short run.

All of the above leads me to this: I had a relapse a couple of weeks ago and had to be hospitalized for a few days. My doctor stablilized me and I was released, on crutches and stuttering up a storm. I am an outpatient and am taking physical therapy for my balance and speech therapy for my speaking. When the brain lesions "heal" I will be back to "normal," whatever that is.

Anyway, I missed about a week of doing crossword puzzles but my doctor - who is also a fan of puzzles - tells me that returning to them is good therapy. So I am back.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


We in the crossworld are Word people. We like the look of them, the feel of them, the way they roll off our tongues. They are old friends.

Certain words tend to re-occur frequently in puzzles and are known to the community of solvers as "crosswordese." They are usually 3 to 5 letters long and have more vowels than consonants which are helpful to those who actually construct puzzles.

Anna Southward has constructed a graphic that deliciously displays these words in a beautiful variation of a traditional crossword puzzle grid. Some of these like ABIE, ESAI, ENO and EERO are proper names unfamiliar to most people. And others like ASIA, EEL and TIARA are familiar to everyone.

Depending on how many of them show up in an individual puzzle, what they all have in common is the way they bring a fleeting smile or, perhaps, a grimace to the faces of those among us who work a lot of puzzles.

Anna's website is called "The View From My Window" and features not only graphics but poetry that illustrate the graphics. There is something about the interplay between the two, particularly in a haunted pair entitled "LIPS."

It is a wonderful place to visit and I have done so many times. She describes her site as "random musings in words, pictures, and color. Just for fun." I am hoping the site will be updated soon as I am looking forward to seeing which direction her work is going to take.

Here is the link for you to visit for yourself. Enjoy

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Well, I am part of a community now. I am a regular contributor to Rex Parker's blog on the subject of crossword puzzles . As a result, the number of rules that I had no longer exist.

Granted, I still use my trusty Cross pen. But the varying difficulty of the puzzles throughout the week obviate the need for some of the other rules. I am not as strict as I once was on where I start. The difficulty of the Friday and Saturday puzzles forced me to try to find a toehold anyplace within the body of the puzzle. I still use my trusty Cross pen for Sundays when I still do it in the newspaper.

Tradition, don't you know.

I like the idea of being able to discuss puzzles with others. We are all language mavens to some extent or another. I like being part of this community which is mostly about language itself and reading the comments of other solvers is truly a wonderful thing.

The tangents we go off on!

During this past week there was a discussion on the need for a new word to describe what I like to call meta-cluing, that is a clue that points to the language of the clue itself rather than what the clue describes. Recently we had a clue which was BIT OF COCOA? and the answer was SILENT A, which is an example of this kind of cluing.
So, come on over if you have an urge to participate - or just lurk around the edges - of a spirited discussion of our native tongue!

Monday, February 25, 2008


On Good Friday of 1974, a string of tornados swept through the Midwest causing millions of dollars in property damage and taking several lives. I was living in Louisville KY at the time and, ironically enough, was in the mobile home financing business.

There may be some things more susceptible to wind damage than mobile homes but I’d be hard pressed to think of what they might be.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


One of the nicest things about having a blog is the ability to run off at the mouth about anything that pops into my head. Today, it is atrial fibrilation.

Several years ago, I had a bout of this and was hopitalized for a week. It was shortly after my diagnosis of MS and they were taking no chances. I was stabilized and released.

It is back.

Due to my stress level, I was put on Coumidin and am having blood work done every week. My financial position precludes them from hospitalizing me again.

More about my stress level and financial situation later.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I am not a fan of Dress Bets. You know, those sports bets you make that, when you lose, you have to wear a dress or something equally ridiculous. I never understood the need to belittle another person for sport.

And yet, this sort of thing abounds on Television today and has always been a part of Our Nation's viewing pleasure. Alan Burke, Joe Pyne, The Gong Show, American Idol - all a part of our shared experience. To write this off as "morbid curiosity" misses the point. I think something deeper is at work here but , for the life of me, I don't know what it is. Right-wing talk radio is part of this phenomenon.


On Sunday, September 9, 2001, I was doing the NYT crossword puzzle while my family was at breakfast. I solved it in 41 minutes, a record time for me on a Sunday puzzle. I couldn't wait for my family to get home so I could tell someone.

When they finally got home, I discovered I was unable to speak clearly enough to make myself understood. When I tried to stand up, my right foot flopped around. (I later learned this condition is called drop foot). I didn't know what was happening but I chalked the whole thing up to fatigue as I wasn't working at the time and was having trouble sleeping.

On Monday, September 10, my right leg was no longer under my control and I had to make my way from the bedroom to the living room by holding on to the furniture. I called my doctor's office and was unable to communicate well enough to make myself understood. I handed my wife the phone and she told the nurse what had been happening and, all at once, one word came to my mind - STROKE!

The doctor's office told my wife to get me to the hospital immediately which she did. By this time, my condition was worsening. I was unable to get out of the car and had lost the ability to talk .

The rest of the day was spent in an almost endless series of tests. One of the first of them eliminated the possibility of a stroke which seemed like good news at the time. Meanwhile, my mental confusion grew.

The next morning, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was taken to Radiology for more tests. By this time, I was not able to concentrate at all. I seemed to be in and out of active consciousness.

What I do remember was the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital on a Tuesday morning and, curiously, people talking about airplanes and the World Trade Center. I remember thinking about the plane that had crashed into the Empire State Building back in the 30s.

Then I became aware of silence. There didn't seem to be any people close at hand. I was hooked up to a machine and I could hear voices dimly buzzing at a distance. I learned later that all the staff went into the waiting room when the second plane hit. As I drifted in and out, I tried to make some sense out of what I was hearing, a jumble of dull urgency and some anger and a new thought entered my mind - terrorism.

I awoke and was back in my room.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I do not watch reality shows. In any form. I have never watched American Idol, Survivor or any of their clones.
I call programs of this sort Theater of Humiliation.

In the 50's there were shows like Queen for a Day and The Alan Pyne Show that my mother enjoyed watching. Queen for a Day was on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and my mother insisted that I watch it with her. It was her favorite show and I HATED it

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I like to do crossword puzzles. No, I LOVE to do crossword puzzles. I started doing the daily puzzle in the Washington Post when I was about 10 years old and was absolutely thrilled when I first finished one. I graduated to the New York Times Sunday puzzle about 10 years later.

Crosswords are the most idiosyncratic of pursuits because of their solitary nature. Over the years I have developed "rules" for solving: I do them in pen, my trusty gold Cross pen my father gave me for my high school graduation. I must start at the very top or I don't start at all. I do not go below the lowest point I have reached in the puzzle. I do not look up answers.
In the last 15 years I have totally completed the NYT Sunday puzzle all but a handful of times.

My personal best time is 41 minutes for the Sunday puzzle and 3:45 for a daily one.

More about Puzzles at another time.


Frankly I think I watch TV way too much. I AM disabled so I can excuse it to myself but, if the TV is off, it seems to be staring at me.

I watch as many LAW & ORDER's as I can but only the Original not CI or SVU. In a curious way, the characters seem to be family and I enjoy them.

Now that I think of it, I really do watch too much television


I think I am just talking to myself here.

I would like to add this tidbit. In my former life as an accountant I was convicted of embezzling $35,000 and sent to Delaware State Prison. I was sentenced to 7 years but only served 4 months and was released on parole as they had no room for me at the jail.

All this happened more than 20 years ago

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


This is my first post.

The only reason I started this blog was to be able to get my picture to display on Rex Parker's blog on crossword puzzles. I am a former bill collector, accountant, sheet metal foreman and am now disabled with Multiple Sclerosis.

More about this later