Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Turns out my friend Trip does indeed have a blog, and thanks to his referral I just learned the following magnificent factoid:

From 1996 to present, the most common clue in The New York Times daily crosswords has been "See 17 Across." Here's the statistical breakdown.

For you non-initiates, the reason 1996 is important is because that's when Games Magazine's (and NPR's) Will Shortz took over the New York Times crossword from the late and unlamented Eugene Maleska, who drove the Gray Lady's happiest feature straight toward the earth's core. (And he was at the job so long that he damn near succeeded.) In my current job, which involves reprinting very old clunky crosswords, I've learned to dread seeing Maleska's byline. "How many crappy ideas can he fit into a single grid?" you may ask. Obscurity? Alternate spellings? Punny clues so unfunny they actually deaden the spirit? A theme as dry as melba toast? He can do it all in a fifteen by fifteen and not even break a sweat. Then he'll insult you for failing to notice his brilliance. Ugh.

Anyway, after seeing the statistics for Will Shortz, I was wondering what the most common crossword clue might have been under Maleska's tenure. I think it might be:

Long time

Which is about the dullest clue for ERA that I can conceive of. (Other factoid: ERA's the most common word in crosswords. Not a huge surprise, I know. But did you know that ELI is fourth, beating out such stalwarts as ALOE, EDEN, and ALE? Now you do.) I wish I could have a more entertainingly bad clue, but this is Eugene Maleska, and sometimes suckiness isn't entertaining.

On a related (and happily non-sucking) topic, the crossword documentary Wordplay, featuring Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, Bob Dole, and every single one of my friends, opens this weekend. As of this writing, it's got over 85% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, which makes it one of the best reviewed movies of the year, and a damn sight better than Nacho Libre. Go see it when it arrives!


Blogger SamuelAlito said...

Just came back from seeing Wordplay, and was curious why Mr. Maleska was not mentioned. I knew there was controversy when Will took over because some of the old fogies didn't like the idea that television shows could be clues, but I wasn't aware that the new guard so despised the man that Shortz had to call him "the man who edited the puzzle before me." Let us all hope that after our tenures are complete, our successors will not treat us with such indignity

6/25/2006 11:17 PM  

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