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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Will Shortz Blood Oath

My crossword was rejected.
I realize this is what happens when you try. You fail.


First you reread the rejection letter making sure you didn't misunderstand. Maybe you didn't get what "sending my regrets" meant the first time?

Then you fantasize about running your judge through with a broken wooden lance; splinters dipped in poisonous acid rend and burn his flesh. You imagine backing your horse up to step on his face, pealing his cheekflesh away from the skull and revealing the terminator grin of a man who obviously has a satanic black heart pumping ichor through his veins instead of blood. Ants and flesh-eating beetles swarm the open wounds on his face and, still screaming, he becomes a skeleton before your eyes. You sear the promise of his suffering into your brain. He will pay for this insult! Like so many others before you, you swear the Will Shortz Blood Oath. How could he fail to recognize the genius of your puzzle? How could he call it "themeless"? It so clearly had a theme... a cute and clever one at that. By the gods, just how cute and clever do you have to be for that bastard to notice?!

Then you start scheming about resubmitting it under a different name. Polishing it up a bit first. Put some zing in those clues. Or maybe there's another place to get it published? Surely there's a viable way out of this pit of rejection.

Then the waves of futility hit... Little cherubic voices, long dormant, start to sing the angelic chorus: "Your not smart enough to do this. Don't embarrass yourself further." The voices pull you down until your head slumps, your heart rate slows, your reddened eye lands upon a bottle of whisky across the room. The mental image of setting fire to a large office building suddenly seems like the only thing that might make you laugh... ever again.

And then finally, you take a deep breath. You remember that making crosswords isn't exactly your day job. You remember that rejection is part of growing and learning. You remember that famous Samuel Beckett quote: "Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

And that, my friends, is the cycle of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Or DABDA for those who remember this from their junior high health class curriculum. Oddly I didn't really recognize it until I was sitting down to write this blog post.



At 11/06/2007 05:52:00 PM, Blogger Scotty Tuxedo said...

Awesome write up John. Without the rejection this beautiful post never would have been brought into existence. I was with you every word (the second paragraph sounded like some Colin Meloy lyrics, in fact) and then blown away by the wrap up.

I have my book at an agent in New York right now and it's been two weeks now they've had it, so I'm basically waiting for the same letter to arrive.

But I'm mainly with you on the second paragraph still. Stupid bastards.

At 11/07/2007 03:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the refusal of those denizens of the dark to accept your puzzle, but I would love to see it. Any way you can get it online to us? ~Pam

At 11/07/2007 05:28:00 PM, Blogger John said...

I could email it to you in Excel spreadsheet form, if you are really interested.

At 11/07/2007 06:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what comes after DABDA? How about Try Again! How about Revise the Puzzle and Make it Better! How about Learn From the Rejected One and Make a Better Puzzle! How about send one in to make Will Shortz drool!


P.S. I liked your puzzle and Will Shortz sucked on his appraisal of this one.

At 11/07/2007 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Re: paragraph two: Talk about your cross words!

I've always imagined my critics sitting in a volcanic pool, in a speedo, sipping hot lava through a stainless steel straw.

But that's just me.

At 11/08/2007 10:33:00 PM, Blogger soapysteve said...

Yojimbo: My therapist asked what my ideal living situation would be, and I told her a volcano, specifically in a raft-house floating on the lava.

Oh, and John: this is the greatest thing you have ever written.

At 11/09/2007 12:37:00 AM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

SS: "...but it saves on heat," he explained!

And, let's face it, Blofeld's volcano "pad" from "You Only Live Twice" was the (ironically) coolest Villain HQ ever!

At 11/10/2007 08:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So WHEN the heck are you going to make a pumpkin pie from all this? You just show that Will Shortz...he thinks he knows so much...just pick up the pieces, put them in boiling water...you know the rest.
Molly's Mom

At 11/11/2007 11:18:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Well, it's not quite pumpkin pie, but I am working on a second puzzle... one that seems a bit better to me than the last one. I'll submit it to Will when I'm done. No matter how he's hurt me, the NYT Puzzle is the gold standard. There'll be no "published puzzler" feather in my cap short of the Times.


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