Sunday, November 22, 2009

OK by me

What are you giving thanks for this week?

Me, I've got an enviable bounty: wonderful family, hilarious friends, health (decent), youth (fading) and a comfortable life that's continually interesting, at least to me. My horn of plenty overfloweth and I am constantly grateful for my extraordinary good luck.

And there's one more blessing on my list as of this morning, when NPR Weekend Edition Sunday puzzlemaster Will Shortz was kind enough to use another puzzle I wrote as this week's listener challenge on his weekly radio puzzle segment.

I've always liked puzzles, mysteries and trivia. I like the New York Times crossword, Cox and Rathvon's "Puzzler" cryptic crossword in the Atlantic, Will Shortz on the radio, Donald J. Sobol's Two-Minute Mysteries and Agatha Christie when I was a kid, Trivial Pursuit, Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery, early 1980s Games magazine (whose then-staffers would go on to edit the WSJ, NYT and NY Sun crosswords), Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune as both viewer and contestant, the "radio game," baseball trivia, word puzzles, the challenge of competitive poker, card tricks, number tricks, mind-reading tricks, memory tricks.

I like solving things, knowing things, learning things, amazing people by remembering things, stumping people, being stumped, teaching things, being taught. I like breaking out a deck of cards and taking 20 seconds to blow someone's mind. I like when someone tells me an interesting piece of trivia, and if it's good enough I'll never forget it. There is so little wonder in banal, prosaic everyday life that I take pleasure in the small moments of awe and discovery we can all choose to engage in.

Taking it to a meta level, I've discovered in recent years that I don't just like solving and posing puzzles, I like creating them too. Happily, there are forums like Weekend Edition where we can share them with others. It was a thrill when Mr. Shortz used a puzzle I wrote on the radio last July, and it's a thrill again today.

Here's my new puzzle:

Think of a word containing the consecutive letters O-K. Remove the O-K, and you'll get a new word that's a synonym of the first word. What words are these?

Solved it? You can enter here for your chance to play a different puzzle with Will Shortz on the radio next week. Good luck.

One of the abiding blessings of the Internet is its uncanny knack for bringing like-minded people together. I frequent several blogs about the New York Times crossword and the NPR puzzle, and also post a standing offer on this blog to provide a hint for the latter. Between these blogs' communities of adherents and my own regular email correspondents who ask for (and, I'm not ashamed to admit, provide) NPR puzzle hints, I've got a nice circle of puzzle people around me. Some of them I've met in person, others I know as email pen pals and many more just as fellow blog commenters.

One of them, a brilliant MIT alum and ace crossword solver known as "Bob Kerfuffle" on the popular Rex Parker crossword puzzle blog, sent me the following email today, which he has given me permission to post here:

Dear Mr. Bass,

I feel that I know you from Rex's blog, so I am emboldened to share my thoughts on your Sunday challenge with you.

I am disqualified from sending in an answer since I have played the on-air puzzle with Will. (More than 10 years ago, but it seems once is enough.)

If you take the word OKAY and drop the OK, you get AY, which my dictionary says is a variant of AYE, or in other words a synonym for OKAY.

Taking things a step further, if you take the word "O.K." and drop the OK, you get "______", and since according to the Latin, “Qui tacet consentire vidétur,” or Silence gives Consent, that would be synonymous also!

And I will faint if either of those turns out to be your intended answer!

Thank you for your contributions to Puzzledom.

"Bob Kerfuffle"

Not my intended answers, but you gotta love it. My dad also came up with a funny guess: HOOKER and HOER (pronounced "whore").

So this week I'm giving thanks to Will Shortz for yet another fun adventure in puzzling. It started every week on the radio and every day in the newspaper, then his Wordplay movie was released on my birthday, then I went to his American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, then I competed in a Chicago crossword tournament, and now I'm gradually joining his stable of puzzle contributors. Perhaps someday I will try to conquer the obvious final frontier, i.e. constructing a New York Times crossword puzzle, but it's already been an entertaining ride for which I feel thankful.

Or to put it more succinctly, as Ali G might say, "Gratitude."


Bob Kerfuffle said...

OMG! I never meant to defraud Ben or anyone else. I mentioned in today's (11/22/09) Rex Parker blog going to the Necco factory outlet when I was a freshman at MIT. Absolutely true. I was also a sophomore at MIT, and a junior, and a senior. What I was not and am not is an alum. I dropped out after my seventh semester.

Just want to keep the record straight. and my apology to Ben if I somehow misled him.

"Bob Kerfuffle"

Ben said...

You did not mislead, I merely misinferred.

Emily Gordon said...

In honor of your latest and thoroughly unpuzzling puzzle triumph:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

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