Thursday, August 4, 2011

NPR Puzzle 7/31/11 - No Woman Would Write Nicholas Sparks' Dear John

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
Name a famous person from America's past who has four letters in his or her first name and five letters in the last. Take a homophone of the last name, move it to the front. The result phonetically would be something a woman might write. What is it?
The answer is JOHN DEERE & DEAR JOHN (letter).  It did seem ironic that I got this way quicker than Ross because he's a huge John Deere fan, complete with t-shirts, hats, and other green-and-yellow memorabilia.  On the other hand, I'm the writer, so...

But most of all, I'm happy because I get to mock Nicholas Sparks, whose book Dear John was made into a movie last year.

Here's a guy who ripped off Erich Segal's seminal romance, Love Story, with Sparks' A Walk to Remember.  Couple divided by class marry against parental pressure only she gets leukemia and dies.  Sound familiar?

Now, if a woman had written that romance, there wouldn't have been a hideous disease and no one would have died.  Instead, there would have been a lot of hot sex and a happy ending.  (You can't have a happy-ever-after if one of the protagonists is dead.)

But I get it -- I understand why a man's notion of a Great Love Story doesn't end with the couple living happily ever after.  Because in that ending, the guy's always going to have to put the toilet seat down, take his dishes to the sink and his smelly socks to the laundry hamper (or worse: do dishes and laundry), and remember his anniversary.  There's nothing romantic in that!

In Nicholas Sparks' and Erich Segal's universe, True Love means developing a Wild Passion for an Unsuitable woman, showing everyone she's actually Perfect, marrying her and then LOSING her, thus showing you do too know how to cry with the added benefit that you never need to relinquish the remote control.

Incidentally, Nicholas Sparks' books (and movies) also have lots of reconciliation scenes with one parent or the other.  For a better, and wickedly funny, explanation of how Sparks writes the same story over and over, check out

None of which has anything to do with John Deere, who was born and raised in Vermont, then moved to Illinois.  Here is his life:

Rutland, Vermont -- Birthplace of John Deere (well, okay, not actually in this landscape)

Skipping ahead a bit - this only looks like Vermont, but it's actually Grand Detour, Illinois where JD moved after fathering 9 children and almost bankrupting himself in the process

Middlebury, Vermont where John Deere was an apprentice

Moline, Illinois, where John Deere lived after he got rich manufacturing "the Plow that Broke the Plains"

This was John Deere's home in Moline from the wealthy years.  He was even the town's mayor for a while.  He died in this house in 1886 at the age of 82.

This was the house in Grand Detour, Illinois that John Deere built before he got rich.
Time for --

P I C K   A   R A N G E
Here are this week's picks:
Fewer than 50
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500
500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750 -- Ross
750 - 800
800 - 850 -- JSP
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000

1,000 - 1,050
1,050 - 1,100 -- HenryBW
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250-- Magdalen
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450 -- Grace
1,450 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,550 -- Natasha
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750 -- skydiveboy
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850 -- Dave
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000

2,000 - 2,050 -- David
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350 -- woozy
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule:  In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")


Mendo Jim said...

I've complained in the past that Will Shortz seems to approach the NPR Sunday Puzzle not so much as Puzzlemaster as Puzzlecareless.

The obvious, and perhaps only, avenue into this challenge was via "what a woman might write" and I have to admit I took it.
Not being as generous as Magdalen, the answer is "Dear John," not "Dear John (Letter)".

A man is just as likely to write "Dear John" as a woman.

And, even though Wikipedia offers up "Dear Jane (Letter)" as a man to woman alternative, I'm not going to buy it: the notion of the "Dear John Letter" is firmly enough established as to be uni-sex, unless of course one wants choose one or the other as the inconstant gender.
So, I'd say that a man is as likely to write a "Dear John Letter," as well.

If Magdalen is right, the lack of a sent-in-by citation may mean Will came up with this on his own.
He is likely not the first person to play with "John Deere/Dear John" and with some thought he could have come up with something a lille less chauvinistic.
A serious possibility: "Reverse the words to name an unwelcome kind of correspondence."
Less serious: "Reverse the words to name a stop in the woods for Bambi's family."

I have a Ford tractor, a New Holland baler, and a John Deere hay rake.

Would it be uncool to ask the gender ratio at your recent convention?

Magdalen said...

Mendo Jim -- I did look up "Dear John" to see if it counted on its own, or needed the "letter" part to be complete. I'm satisfied that it means the letter a woman writes to break up with a man. You could say a man was writing a Dear John (letter) but there's a strong risk you'd be implying that he was breaking up with his boyfriend.

Romance Writers of America does have men as members, even ones who write novels. (One guy was a finalist last year in the Golden Heart contest for best unpublished romance, I think his was a romantic suspense.) But you're right -- I would guess that fewer than 1% of the attendees at the convention this summer were men.