Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rex Parker, Duchess and puzzles


This is Duchess, sadly now off on her next adventure with the Celestial Pack.

Isn't this a great photo of her?

I didn't know her, and I don't know her family, but her dad keeps a blog I visit every day.
Rex Parker NYT Xword

For NYT crossword fans, it's delicious to get the results when you're done, rather than having to wait till the next day.

And for me, it's always interesting and humbling (oh so humbling!) to see how casually he mentions the time it took him to finish.

And he posts every day, or has someone fill in.
I really respect that dedication!

When I first found his blog, I had no idea what "themers" were, or that a puzzle had north east corners.

Slowly I learned the vernacular, and what made a "good" puzzle (to me, they all seemed good, other than the ones that required crazy things, like a whole word in one square.)

How I feel reading Rex Parker's blog is, I'm sure,  how some new writers feel reading this blog for the first time.

Do you remember the first bits of vernacular, or "inside info" you picked up here?

And, are you a puzzler too?


The Noise In Space said...


nightsmusic said...

What a fabulous shot! I did not know about this man. I love the NYT Crossword. And while I do it in pen and more often than not, am able to finish it, there are days when I don't and it takes me hours when I manage to. So now, I have a new blog to follow!

I think my first bit of 'inside info' isn't really inside, but the fact that you post queries and explain why they don't work is what drew me to follow. I've been 'hooked' ever since ;)

Lennon Faris said...

The first several times I came across this blog, it happened to be one of the Sunday conglomerations you used to do.

I didn't pick up on the fact that it was a once-a-week thing, or that I was there on Sunday again, or that all the people quoted were blog readers' quotes from that week (I will never be a detective). I thought, this is the most random blog I've ever stumbled across.

But I kept coming back, and now it's the only blog I read every day that I have internet. So much learning to do!

Brenda said...

I’m a puzzler, too, although I tend more towards delish number puzzles like nurikabe. I have a friend who credits her 96-year-old mental agility to daily crosswords.
I’ve garnered too many terms and trends here to mention them all but NORMAN sticks out.

julie.weathers said...

Oh, I'm sure Rex's heart is breaking. What a beautiful dog. I spoke to my oldest son Brandon and he was going to take Skidboot to the vet. She's the yellow mare one of my horse characters in The Rain Crow is based on. Skidboot isn't doing well and Brandon thought he's was going to have to put her down. That will be last of the old horses except Cowgirl who is fat, sassy, and apparently too cantankerous to die even though she's pushing 25.

Re the NYT crossword, Brandon was named after a Times fan. Brandon McReynolds had an agriculture degree, was a very talented saddle bronc rider, and would search out the Times in every town they hit when they were rodeoing. When he wasn't on the road, he worked at a feed mill loading feed. It drove the owners crazy because they wanted him in the office.

Anyway, Brandon would go track down his Times, sit down to breakfast with the guys, get out his pen and do the puzzle. Never crossed out a word. The other guys would attempt some of them, but quickly abandon ship.

Needless to say, Brandon was a horse of a different color and I based a character on him in Dancing Horses, which is alas, gone.

To the post. I pick up all kinds of bits and pieces of information here that I tuck away. I can't think of vernacular off the top of my head, but I know I have. This is a treasure trove of information for a writer or reader and it's a lot easier to find treasure here than Oak Island for sure.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

> Do you remember the first bits of vernacular, or "inside info" you picked up here?

Too many to list them all, but first three are:

1. What makes an effective query tick, and how to spark your own clockwork into motion

2. What makes a kickass story when you only have 100 words

3. A great writing community, ready to share its wisdom and support. (I especially love it when they're asked for their own book recommendations, even though my wallet always gets a pasting in the process.)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet Reid said...

Thenks Lennon Faris for coffee out the schnozz laughter on "this is the most random blog I've ever stumbled across."

And lesson learned: headers that say WHAT THIS IS are almost always a good thing.

Claire Bobrow said...

Yes to NORMANs, but there are lots more bits of inside info I picked up here that are so ingrained now I can't remember not knowing them!

My Dad was convinced crossword puzzles were the key to staving off mental demise, and now Mom is the same. I did a bunch with her on my recent visit, which was fun. I used to do the NYT Daily Mini, but have slacked off lately. Crosswords have become a thing on our family vacations, but not a regular obsession (yet). We seem to become less and less "brilliant" as the week goes on, with the NYT puzzles anyway :-)

Our dear Juno almost joined the Celestial Park earlier this week. With veterinary care, somehow she rallied. Not sure how much longer she has, but I'm so grateful she's back home.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

The first word in the Reef vernacular that I learned was "Colin".

Irene Troy said...

I "discovered" this blog through my online writers group. I tend to come and go in terms of daily reading, largely because I sometimes am far from access to the Internet. (Work related) What is the most valuable thing I've learned from regular reading of Janet's blogs? That if you hope to succeed in writing, you have to approach it professionally. This means putting ego aside and learn the rules, not only of effective writing, but the publishing process. You should nurture your creativity (even if writing non-fiction), but you still need to learn the rules and then follow them. Thinking you are somehow above following the rules set by agents and publishers is a sure-fire way to fail.

Theresa said...

I've learned two kinds of inside info. One kind has to do with querying and the author-agent relationship. The other concerns the Reef, with NORMANs and Carkoon and kale. Though I don't comment every day, this is the first internet site I land on each morning.

I'm not a puzzler, though I listen to the Sunday puzzle segment on Weekend Edition. And in my family, women start crossword puzzles when they are elderly.

I hope Duchess is having fun with the Celestial Pack. Her Earth family is surely missing her. That grief is one of the reasons I haven't wanted to replace our last dog. We are contenting ourselves with petting sitting. Right now we have 2 cats for 3 weeks. (Or 3 cats for 2 weeks. I've never been good with numbers.)

Katja said...

I found this blog by chance. But it was also (later) recommended to me, and I was happy that I could respond with "Yes, yes, I know. I do read it daily." (Made me feel like a grown-up writer, even if I wasn't.)

In the beginning, I didn't understand very much about Carkoon and kale (I think I even got the kale-bit now - nobody likes eating it, so it serves as punishment ?!). And I didn't even know why this place was called The Reef and why people come here to "swim". I mean, if you don't know this, it's really like you find yourself amongst a bunch of crazies, no?!

I know this now. But, I admit, I STILL don't know why John Davis Frain is called the manuscript-John. Sorry, John, no offense here, and I bet it's important.

But I'm grateful I have found this blog - I've really made quite a few friends & I do treasure this!!
I've made sure I've mentioned The Reef in my acknowledgements at the end of my book, so y'all look good in there :).


Katja said...

Ooooo, and I've managed to be shown as 'Katja' now.. no more K OCD. (We have a new computer that I'm using, so that's probably why.)

Craig F said...

When I was an ignorant aspiring writer a sent a horrid query to an agent. A, still, unnamed assistant took pity on me and point me toward Query Shark. She will forever hold a piece of my heart because of that, even if I can never buy her a beer.

I am still an aspiring writer, but no longer completely ignorant.

I only do an occasional crossword, they frustrate me because I try to get ahead of the game and screw it up. I much prefer jigsaws. Jigsaw Planet is a cool place to visit and do a few.

Gorgeous picture of a gorgeous Duchess. Don't know anything about Rex Parker, but respect anyone who can keep a dog in good spirits.

Katja: it is Mr. Manuscript. I don't know why either

CED said...

I found this blog through Query Shark, which I found when I was just learning that "query" was a term of art. It opened my eyes to this whole strange protocol of looking for an agent. What an innocent babe I was.

I'm definitely a puzzler, though these days I tend more towards math and logic puzzles. I don't always solve crosswords. But when I do, I prefer cryptics.

Karen McCoy said...

Lots of inside info on the query process, and good do's and don'ts. Also, spending time editing rather than drafting is time well spent.

Shaunna said...

I’ve lurked on this blog for over ten years. I credit almost everything I know about the industry from reading the archives. Terms I’ve learned as a result: NORMAN, woodland creatures, OP, rodent wheel, Steve Forti, flash fiction, BEA, advance, how to query, and Her Grace, the Duchess of York.

None of those have helped me in my brand of crossword puzzling, which is cryptic crosswords. Richard Maltby Jr. publishes a cryptic in Harper’s every month. That’s why I subscribe. Emily Cox And Henry Rathvon used to publish a cryptic in Atlantic monthly. I stopped subscribing when they stopped publishing the puzzle. They sometimes show up in WSJ, though. Their puzzles are the best.

Any other cryptic crossword puzzlers out there? Once you start, you can’t go back to regular.

Jenn Griffin said...

I arrived on the reef after ITW XIII. Got in line for a first pages manuscript review with the inestimable Barbara Poelle, only Janet had someone at her table she thought Barb could better serve and would I mind switching? Like I was going to say no?!
I didn't know at the time she was The Shark. Her bites were very gentle when they could have been brutal!
I spent a long while reading everything on Query Shark and then made my way over here, where I have been lurking ever since.

My first new word was Forti, followed by Fortissimo, which is not the same as the musical term I learned in band.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

That is an AMAZING picture for Duchess to be remembered by; I feel Rex's pain.

I got started with crossword puzzles in those thick, printed on newsprint style "children's activity books" that my family got me for car trips and the like (I didn't get carsick until I was a car driving adult). From there, we'd have them as school activities occasionally, and then in high school, the librarian would copy the daily paper's crossword for the kids who wanted to do it. To this day, I can do my local daily's crossword pretty handily (even the Saturday/Sunday ones). I pay for the NYT crossword puzzle app on my phone and after practice can pretty reliably do Monday and maybe even Tuesday without having to use the "check puzzle" function. Wednesday is the frequent tipping point, though.

NORMAN is definitely one of the best bits of local lingo I've gotten at the reef. I'm hard pressed to think of other things, actually, since it's so natural, y'know?

KDJames said...

What a terrific pic! RIP, Duchess.

I don't subscribe, so I've never done the NYT puzzle. Back when we got the local newspaper delivered, I'd do their puzzle every day (not much of a challenge). I enjoy this site: (you rearrange the letters to make words; hover over the yellow letters for the prompts).

My parents used to do The Nation crossword every week. Dad subscribed through school (debate resource) and he'd photocopy it so he and Mom could each do their own. It was quite the competition to see who could finish first.

I can't remember the first time I read this blog, or even what brought me here. It was a very long time ago and I was a lurker for years before I commented. I'd have to write several thousand words to relate all I've learned. :)

John Davis Frain said...

The first thing I learned after arriving here was that this was the bestest community of writers I could imagine. And that lesson has only been reinforced following my early days.

But so many other things, chief among them that there are no query police so query widely and query often. I've learned that it pays to be brave, so enter every contest because you win in the long run through the practice even if you don't feel good about your entry. One of the other things I've learned is that some of us have an unquiet mind and that's an acceptable thing.

As to the acquisition of my wonderful nickname (John Davis Manuscript Frain): Janet had added her name to the comment field one day with a particularly jovial story. Ironically, she managed to come in right at 100 words, so I suggested that her story was so compelling it knocked my sox off, and if she'd send me her address and the types of books she liked to read, I'd send her my manuscript.

My flight to Carkoon was cancelled due to weather, and I've managed to avoid the place. (Although I have been to Siberia.)

John Davis Frain said...

Speaking of puzzles (Yep, love the NYT ... until about Thursday, usually. Then I hate the NYT.)

First clue in tomorrow's NYT Mini:
(4 letters) They're tired and stay in a lot.

And today's lesson for suspense writers ... set up a question your reader is dying to get answered -- then don't give 'em the answer.


Megan V said...

RE: inside info- "fiction novel"

Just kidding!

This blog was the first place I'd heard about ARCs though. :)

As for puzzling, well, quick story.

My maternal grandmother was a puzzler. We weren't able to interact much when I was a kid because she lived several states away. But during high school, I was suddenly able to communicate regularly with her (all thanks to AIM)

Among other things, she would try to teach me tricks of the trade re: the NYT crossword. I stopped doing the large NYT crosswords after she passed. Gradually, I started working my way back into the minis, etc. just as a way to feel close to her.

And while this is probably weird to share, one of the reasons I dearly love seeing stories about Her Grace the DOY on this blog is because it makes me feel a little bit closer to Grandma. The reason? Her screen name was CalicoCountess.

DeadSpiderEye said...

No one has yet solved this puzzle. Which could explain why the media can get away with things like; Hillary Clinton for President, or more likely, demonstrate that the slightly under 30 people who've read it are not that bright.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Wow. Sorry I missed this thread yesterday.

My father in law does crosswords. I don't know how anyone else has the time.

This blog is invaluable, that's all. I'd have to say the most helpful thing I've seen on it was Janet's assertion that "you don't have a right to start complaining until you've queried at least 100 (agents)." I would never have set that high a number on my own, but after reading it here, from a human being I know and trust, that became my goal.

Unfortunately, querying is like dating. Or like a tar pit. Or like trying to date in a tar pit. I'm mucking through it. Slowly.