Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Re-Solutions

Naturalization Oath CeremonyA Very Happy New Year to you all. This is the traditional time for thinking about the future, and my circumstances are perhaps changing more than most in 2011: on January 5, I will become a US citizen at an Oath Ceremony in Philadelphia ... the final step in a process that began in May 2007 with my marriage to Magdalen.

Incidentally, readers are welcome to come to the ceremony as my guest. If you would like to know the exact time and place, please send an email to Ross at Crosswordman.com and I will provide all the details.

Clearly I will need to re-title the blog, but I have also decided it is time to discontinue the daily crossword commentaries. I started writing these with the aim of learning about American culture through crosswords and feel that after two years, I have absorbed the US-specific references to the point where I don't have anything very different to say to the other regular commentators on the New York Times puzzle. If I do now have any original thoughts on the day's puzzles, they can adequately be expressed in comments to Wordplay, Rex Parker, Crossword Fiend, or other crossword forums.

Enid, OKWhen I embarked on the blog, I expected to have problems with the baseballer players (A-Rod!), rappers (Tupac!), US history (CSA!) and geography (Enid!). The aspect that surprised me was the "in the language" phrases - colloquial expressions that we hear often enough, but struggle to find in dictionaries; for example, I been had!, you too?, so sorry! I've come to love the extra dimension these add to puzzle grids, and now half-expect any answer longer than three letters to be a multi-word phrase. The broad scope of American puzzles - as much a general knowledge quiz as a vocabulary test - makes British grids look rather limited by comparison.

In fact, while focusing on US puzzles, I've been solving less and less cryptics and doing no cryptic construction or clue writing. This was brought home to me recently: I was invited to collaborate on a memorial puzzle and found it hard to get back into the mindset, particularly when it came to writing the clues. I don't particularly miss cryptics: after about 40 years solving them at every level, I was finding very little new to keep me interested; our cryptic solving is now reduced to the Araucaria crosswords in a monthly magazine we subscribe to, and I don't particularly miss all the other puzzles I used to solve.

Crossword Man with FalaI will continue to publish material here. I've been creating one kind of post that is I think a little different: the "Cruciverbal Cheat Sheet"; for example Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords and Cruciverbal Canines. As well as gradually improving the existing material, I intend to create new subjects more frequently - around one a month. Magdalen has also decided to continue with the weekly posts on the NPR Sunday Puzzle.

Now that I'm freed from the daily blog-writing commitment, I'd also like to focus more attention on creating US-style puzzles. I made some failed attempts back in 2009 and would like to have another go with the benefit of another year or so of solving under my belt. The challenge for me has been coming up with original enough and "tight" enough themes - I know from the commentaries I've written that it's very rare to find holes to pick in published themes and meeting these high standards is challenging for a newcomer.

Thank you all for reading the commentaries, and for your feedback in blog comments and by email. I've had a lot of fun doing the research for the posts and choosing the images. I hope you'll find something of value in the Cheat Sheets to come.

22 comments:

Magdalen said...

Congratulations, sweetheart -- two years went by fast. (I say that, but of course I didn't have to write all those commentaries. Time may have moved rather more slowly for you.)

I really don't know what I'll do when, for the first time ever, I'll be married to an American!

D_Blackwell said...

About changing the title of the blog - You can still be an Englishman and you can still solve American crosswords. That's okay here. But please, please don't give yourself one of those ridiculous hyphenated identifiers and become, say, 'An English-American Honored With Scottish-Moroccan-Portuguese-Bloodlines Solves American Crosswords'.

I've enjoyed your comments about the differences you've found in crosswords and the interesting posts that have mentioned cultural and language variances.

Gareth Bain said...

Thank you for your daily blogs! Have always enjoyed hearing your perspective. Please do chip in at the other daily blogs regularly!

Beth B. said...

All good things must come to an end!

As I solve a puzzle, I will be thinking
"Hmm.....would Ross have chosen as the
Video of the Day?"

Will Shortz said...

Ross -- Sorry to see you go! Your blog has been daily reading for me for the past two years. I've enjoyed your unique, expert's take on each day's NYT crossword. Best wishes to you and Magdalen.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am going to miss your blog. I was upset to read that you would have to change its name, but then, when I read further and discovered you would be discontinuing it, I was devastated! Thank you for everything you've added to the start of my day since I discovered you last year.

Daniel Myers said...

Whatever shall I do now when I have a nit to pick?!? I shall sorely miss your write-ups. Very best wishes indeed on your future life here amongst the colonists. It's been fun, Ross.

Cheers,

Daniel

Matthew G. said...

Sorry to see you retire from daily commentary, but it does seem true that you've assimilated so well that it's no longer quite a foreigner's perspective! I have enjoyed your work and hope to see your byline on a Times puzzle someday.

Congratulations on becoming a U.S. citizen. My wife is a business immigration lawyer, and her job is getting smart people to become Americans. Always good to have one more!

Doug P said...

Congratulations, Ross! I've enjoyed reading your blog for the last couple of years, and I'm sorry to see it go. But it's nice to know you're still going to be a part of our crossword community. I expect we'll be seeing your name on a NY Times crossword byline before too long.

Evgeny said...

One smart European gone, one smart American gained :-) congratulations. Ross, thank you for your posts, which will be missed. I'm looking forward to reading the cheat sheets.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to see the commentaries go, they were an enjoyable part of my morning. Thank you for sharing them with us for so long, and good luck with the swearing in!

aaronb said...

Thanks Ross for all the commentaries and the compendia of useful crossword knowledge. When I started solving the NYT puzzles about 1.6 years ago I didn't know an ADIT from an ETUI. I've learned a lot from your blog. I look forward to seeing your puzzles in print.
- Aaron

Brian said...

Hey Ross, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry to see your daily blog ending. I've always enjoyed it a great deal, but I know all too well how challenging it can be to maintain the kind of commitment it takes to juggle everything you want to do! I look forward to the future of this blog, and wish you the very best as a new American!

Howard B said...

Thank you Ross, for your unique voice and for your contributions to this community. Wishing you a happy new year, and to enjoy the additional spare time for puzzling or anything else.

Congratulations as well on citizenship! Here's to the future; we'll all see you around, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Crap! How are we gonna see how smaht we are if we can't compare our solving time to yours?

Non-fans in NE...

BTW - Congratulations..me pa was an immigrant, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you ! Your daily blogs will be missed, it has been a pleasure.

This morning, on finishing the puzzle, with no clue as to the theme, we considered googling "Englishman - WTF" to get your insights.

Congratulations, and best wishes.

S&C

Crossword Man said...

Thanks all for your kind messages. I took my Oath of Allegiance yesterday, and am now a US citizen. USA! USA! {Patriotic chant}.

Re solving times: I'll submit these at Crossword Fiend any days I remember to start the stopwatch - so you can continue to feel smug Anon :-)

Maya said...

Hey, congratulations. You were an essential part of my learning about crossword puzzles. I'll miss the daily postings but remain ever appreciative of all your past efforts. I feel like we grew up together!

Jennie said...

Congrats and I will sorely miss this blog! I have learned so much about puzzling from you and I have been in total withdrawal for the past two weeks without your daily comments. Best of luck to you and thanks for helping to educate this plodding puzzler.

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Maya and Jennie. Hope you still find the occasional cheat sheets useful, but for daily commentaries do try Deb Amlen, Rex Parker, Amy Reynaldo, et al.

jonH said...

Belated congratulations to you Ross and thank-you for a great 'go-to' page after working through a NYT puzzle. It was every day reading for me for your insights and extra detail on the solutions. I will miss it and would always google the clue(after my entry was written in ink)along with 'crossword man' to get your page up top. Best of Luck, jon H/NJ

Crossword Man said...

Thanks Jon ... that's very kind.