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!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Worst. Clue. Ever!

I just ran across what I think may be the worst entry, and clue, I've ever seen in a crossword:

Entry: ENRI

Clue: Matisse, to a Cockney

If there's a bounty for finding stuff this bad, I'll take my money now.



Anonymous Trip said...

OK, so where did you dig this one up?

5/09/2007 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Francis said...

USA Today?

5/09/2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

I'm not supposed to blog about my work, of course. But I think I'm permitted to say that it's an old 21x21 that is (ahem) available to me, and it was written by ... Alfio Micci. Good guess, Francis! Write author, wrong venue.

5/09/2007 2:50 PM  
Blogger Jas P. said...

I've never constructed a crossword puzzle, so I don't have a good grasp of what kinds of corners one might paint oneself into. I've written a lot of verse, though, and ended up committing crimes against words that I'd never have suspected myself of being capable. Of.

But I take comfort from Aussie versifier, painter, and man-about-tits, Norman LIndsay, who once said, "The exigencies of rhyme may be excused from a too-strict insistence on verisimilitude, so that the general gaeity may be promoted."

Maybe there's some correlative here. More to the point, though, Dave... if you'd painted yourself into an ENRI, what would your clue be?

5/10/2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

I'm all for promoting gaiety, and in fact my favorite puzzles are the Something Different puzzles of my friend Trip Payne, who gives utterly absurd clues that are nonetheless quite solvable, like "odometer reading on a very slightly used spaceship" for OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.

But the thing is, although I can see the occasional tweak as being okay (I actually wouldn't have blinked at 'ENRY), "Matisse to a Cockney" doesn't even make sense, because it implies that the Cockney is dropping an H that never got pronounced in the first place! Or are we assuming that Cockneys drop the aitch when they spell? It actually makes less sense the more you think about it.

The fact is, you never paint yourself into a corner with an utter non-word like ENRI. That's a corner too far. If you find yourself there, you redo the corner. Shift some theme words around. Add a black square. Because an entry like that is the opposite of what Norman Lindsay suggests: It's an irritant to the solver, and it's an embarrassment to the constructor, since it's obviously being used to paper over an ugly fill.

I actually went to the drawing board and found that the problem could not be easily solved without rethinking the premises of the original construction, which involved triple-stacked eights in the corners. A single cheater block in there would probably solve all the problems.

But I took the hard route and tried to preserve as much as possible, and found a different fill that involved rewriting about a quarter of the grid and its clues.

Which is another reason a constructor shouldn't let a puzzle like that go out: because when a solver sees ENRI in a grid, the whole thing starts to smell like a deadline.

5/10/2007 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, you are insane.


5/10/2007 11:28 AM  

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