Friday, November 11, 2005

Crosswords with the Bergers

Crossword puzzles have been popular in the Berger/Haines family for many years. I can remember waking up on many a weekend morning to find my parents lovingly absorbed in the Sunday New York Times puzzle, often solving it with relative ease. So when Dan told us all that noted crossword puzzle writer David J. Kahn was giving a talk at the New York Public Library last night, the whole family was excited to attend.

I will spare you the details of the talk, but I will give you a few choice tidbits and tell you a little about the people who show up at these free library events. Dan and I were the youngest people not directly related to Kahn by at least 15 years. The average person in attendance looked like he had not showered or shaved in a week, and not held a steady job for 10 years, or ever. That is not to say that most of them were idiots. In fact, most of the people there were crossword and other puzzle obsessives, asking Kahn about all facets of the crossword creative process.

Kahn informed us that the Saturday puzzle is the hardest every week, and that puzzle writers get paid very little for their hard work ($150 per daily puzzle that takes 3-5 hours to write, $600 per Sunday puzzle that takes 10-15 hours). One crazy man in the audience told Kahn of the theory that puzzles are easier to solve later in the day because the answers are already out in the airwaves.

Finally, there was a crossword contest in which everyone in the audience (maybe 75 people) received the same puzzle and raced to solve it first. The top three finishers won prizes. After about 12 minutes, Papa Berger raced up to the front, having seemingly solved the puzzle and earned family bragging rights. Alas, he was turned away, having forgotten to fill in two squares. About 2 minutes later, Mama Haines made the leap of faith and was rewarded as the third person to finish the puzzle correctly. Congratulations. (I finished about 5 minutes later.)

All in all, a fun and informative evening. And I know how people love Su Doku puzzles, which have sparked a renaissance in the puzzle industry, but apparently the next big thing will be Kakro puzzles, which look more difficult, but perhaps more fascinating as well.

1 comment:

  1. Lucy is an unreformed crossword puzzle junky. The thought of the lovely Bergers around a table doing puzzles warms our hearts.