Last night I missed a party.
A D.C.-based sports magazine I do crosswords for held their “Bash at Bugsy’s” yester-eve, and I held in my possession a postcard bearing the sweet words, “Bring this invitation and have a beer on us.”
Like Charlie Bucket unwrapping the fifth Golden Ticket; so felt I last week when that arrived in the daily post. I read it twice, nay thrice, nay whatever the word is for “four times,” my heart racing, then cast nervous glances left and right, fearful this prize might at any moment be snatched from my hands by another. Then I sprinted back into the apartment, triple-bolting the door, and wept sweet Rapture for the next 40 minutes.
“… and have a beer on us.” Blessed bountiful harvest!
Thenyesterday, reality crashed in. It was cold outside. Bugsy’s, it turned out, was 13 Metro stops away. That “free beer” would’ve taken me an hour to get to each way, plus a couple of bucks in subway fare. Networking be damned! That’s way too far to go for a Sierra Nevada. The mirage began to fade, and with it my hopes of spending the evening in a haze of meaningful exchanges like:
PERSON AT BAR: “So, what do you do?”
ME: “I make crossword puzzles.”
PERSON AT BAR: “I see … say, would you excuse me for a moment?”
Ninety-nine percent of what crossword makers do is e-mails, fax, and telephone. We form a network of clever folk with laptops, connected to each other by the ether, zapping our creations and comments electronically, with little need to ever meet real live humans in person.
Normally, the main time we convene is March, at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournamentin Connecticut. During this three-day extravaganza we take over the Stamford Marriott and turn it into word geek central. What’s the tournament like? Let’s just say that at 2 a.m. down in Ballroom C, you can pretty reliably find a pickup game of Big Boggle. I think that conveys the scene rather succinctly.
Even now, it’s a little strange to see other crossword people in meatspace. Last year I finally met Henry Hook, for example. Ask 100 crossword constructors who their favorite puzzlemakers are; in 98 cases, the first two names they’ll say will be Merl Reagle and Henry Hook. These two guys’ crosswords are the reason my high-school GPA was 2.45. I already knew Merl, a famously fine fellow. But Henry I had never managed to cross paths with before. It was—and I mean this in all sincerity—it was like meeting Elvis.
But alack, the tournament’s not for a couple of months. The real world will have to wait; for now, it’s back to rockin’ in the e-world, brewing my little wordly concoctions. I truly am honored if people enjoy solving them half as much as I enjoy creating them.