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!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The End of a Very Strange Puzzle Era

It brings me mild sadness to announce that my themed Sudoku for Time Out New York--as well as the entire puzzle page that supported it--is being discontinued.  The last one to run will be in the issue about New York's neighborhoods in...maybe two weeks?  I never keep track of this stuff.

It was just under two years ago (I think) that I found out that TONY was planning a New York themed puzzle issue.  Since this city is ground zero for puzzle constructors, I was slow on the gun when I got back to them three days after the announcement.  The only things they had left were the two bottom feeders of the puzzle world: two sudoku and a word search. 

In an effort to make the sudoku somewhat interesting, I suggested that, instead of using the standard 1 through 9, this puzzle could use the letters in the phrase I (heart) NEW YORK in every row, column and square.  

They loved it.  They loved it so much, in fact, that they asked me to do it as a regular feature: every two weeks, I came up with two sudoku--one easy, one hard--and found a nine-letter isogram (i.e., word with no repeated letters) that corresponded with the theme of the issue.  My favorite one was for an issue that was about how to score tickets to sold-out shows, or find ways behind the velvet ropes, or get into exclusive restaurants, etc.  My phrase: I KNOW A GUY.  I tried to make them funny, but the restrictions are pretty severe, so I often had to settle for merely apposite.

But since they're no longer going to be running, I thought I'd take a moment to salute a few of the fallen comrades: either themes words I never got to use, or words that I suggested that got nixed in favor of something less fun.  With a heavy heart, I bring them to you now:

FILMGOERS  (they never did a film issue!)
BOHEMIANS (nor did they do one about art, or about scene kids.  This would've been perfect.)
MURPHY BED (they never did one about tiny living, either)
FUMIGATOR (or one about New York pests)
DOWNSCALE  (they did a Thrifty Issue, but went with DIRT CHEAP, which I agree was a better choice.  But I had this arrow in my quiver in case they did it again.)
CLOSETING or RAINBOW SHT (they did a Gay Issue, too, but these two didn't make the cut.  The second one's a stretch, I know, but it's what I think every time I walk into a gay bookstore.)
ANOREXICS  (They were always doing Fashion Issues, and I always suggested this, but I seem to recall they liked the idea, but wanted stuff that was actually about fashion.  They never did an issue devoted to models qua models.  Damn.)

I'll definitely miss the $150 it brought me every two weeks.  It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but, like most glossy magazine puzzle work, it was a sinful overpayment based not on my own time working but on their standard page rate.  That's the lesson for today: if you have to write puzzles for magazines, never write for actual puzzle magazines.  Write for glossy magazines where they have no idea how puzzles are created and don't know how crappily they normally pay. 

I feel like I should apply this principle to some larger part of my life, but I'm not seeing any helpful metaphoric bridge.  


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