Crosswords That Will Never Be, Part II
But then I got to thinking: wait a minute! We've gone way beyond Steve Urkel! We could do an entire crossword about famous African-American nerds in pop culture! And I don't mean hip-hop artists like Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who can out-Star-Wars, out-gamer-speak, and probably out-Monty-Python-quote the best of them. I'm talking fictional characters. To take only a few, you could have "African-American nerd from 'Family Ties'" for STEVE URKEL (10 letters), and "African-American computer geek from 'Bloom County'" for OLIVER JONES (11 letters, alas, not a balancing 10). [And I know his full name was Oliver Wendell Jones, but that takes us to a completely unworkable 18 letters] And then throw in "African-American techie from 'Star Trek' " for GEORDI LAFORGE. (13 letters. Will none of these balance? Damn!)
And I was all set to do a little research (was there a black nerd in any of the Revenge of the Nerds movies?) when I realized there was no point at all to my search. No one would ever print the puzzle, even though it is---if I may say so---a hilarious idea, and one that would work just fine in a comedy sketch. (Does Franklin from 'Peanuts' count as a nerd? How about Tony Sinclair from the Tanqueray commercials?) There ought to be a way to talk about, and make fun of, the way in which, right around the late eighties, white writers with guilty consciences helped create the early images of black nerds. And in so doing, paved the way for actual black nerds like Wayne Brady and Condoleezza Rice.
Anyway I'm saving the idea. And maybe I'll dust it off again in six years. I imagine crossword editors will be a little more open-minded once Barack Obama becomes President.