“It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend”
Okay… as a lyricist she’ll never give John Lennon or Bob Dylan a run for his money, but Ms. Black managed to capture a universal truth for her millions of fans and haters: we all sure do look forward to our days off each week!
Today is, indeed, Friday and without a doubt I am looking forward to the weekend. Like virtually every human being with a 9 to 5 job, I anxiously await Fri/Sat/Sun, but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s fun to down Bud Light long necks and nosh on jalapeno poppers at T.G.I.Friday’s with the work gang to celebrate the end of a gruelling week. And it’s great to check out the new movie releases at the local cineplex (will it be The Expendables 2, ParaNorman or Sparkle tomorrow night?) And it’s real, real nice to simply have two consecutive days away from the old grind. But the geek in me mostly loves the weekend for two simple reasons: the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle (the toughest one of the week) and the Sunday New York Times Magazine crossword (the biggest.)
Yeah, I’m a word freak. I love the challenge of the daily Times crossword puzzle, the triumph of completing it, the satisfaction that comes from figuring out a particularly clever pun. I wake up early each Saturday and Sunday and scurry to the newsstand with the impatience and excitement of a child on Christmas morning, plop down my $2.50 ($5.00 on Sunday), bypass all the news headlines and head straight for the puzzle.
I love it, it’s my thing, let it go.
In fact, I love the crossword so much that I get a vicarious thrill when I see the puzzle featured or mentioned in a TV show or movie. For example…
Sex and the City Season 1, Episode 4 “Valley of the Twenty-Something Guys”
A mere four episodes into the first season of one of my favorite series of all time, Carrie provides this voice-over to describe her attempts to figure out Mr. Big:
“Men in their 40s are like the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle: tricky, complicated, and you’re never really sure you got the right answer.”
Imagine my delight when at the end of that same episode, Carrie bumps into Big doing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle while having brunch at the Stanhope hotel with his friend Jack and Jack’s new girlfriend.
Carrie: Your crossword puzzle. Five letter word. “To bring together.” HINGE. Well, nice seeing you. Bye.
Big: Hey, just so you know, I would have gotten HINGE on my own. Maybe.
Carrie: I have no doubt.
Big: Now that I’ve got Jack hooked up I’m single again. Maybe we can have dinner some time?
Carrie: I don’t know. I’m good at crossword puzzles I’m just not so good at people puzzles.
The flirtation, the clever dialogue, the inclusion of the crossword puzzle… that scene had it all! (Although Carrie did break a cardinal rule: NEVER voluntarily give someone the answer to a crossword clue unless they’ve asked for your help. It’s just not done.)
Ah, Sideways… that much lauded movie in which Thomas Haden Church, Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh give the performances of their careers, all the while shaming moviegoers to stop drinking Merlot. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ordered Merlot in 8 years. Anyway, I could describe my favorite scene, but The New Yorker‘s David Denby did such great job that I’d rather quote him:
“Early on in the wonderful new movie “Sideways,” the hero, Miles (Paul Giamatti), does the Times crossword puzzle while driving his Saab on the San Diego Freeway. Sharp details are not enough in themselves to make a movie great; still, when Miles props his paper up on the steering wheel, it’s clear that the filmmakers — Alexander Payne, the director and screenwriter and Jim Taylor, his cowriter — know what they are up to. Miles, a wine-loving failed novelist in his early forties, is, we quickly discover, the kind of guy who seizes every opportunity for trivial bravura (he does the crossword in ink)…”
Well said, David Denby. You go, Glen Coco. I must admit that I’ve actually worked on a crossword while driving before. It wasn’t on the San Diego Freeway (it was Route 9G in New York), but it was, curiously, in a Saab. Fortunately I realized how stupid it was to think & drive, so now I do all my crossword puzzle solving while not navigating a moving vehicle.
The same year Sandra Bullock won our hearts all over again with the one-two punch of The Proposal and The Blind Side and won every major industry award for her efforts (The People’s Choice Award, The Golden Globe, The Oscar), she appeared in this clunker. Let the record show that when I saw the trailer I thought it was totally charming. The film co-starred Bradley Cooper and Thomas Haden Church (what are the odds that he’d come up twice in this blog?), was from the producer of Miss Congeniality and Two Weeks Notice, and included a shot of Sandy – sporting red vinyl boots and toting an umbrella — falling into a mine shaft. Over and over again. Via instant replay. Hilarious!
Okay, I never saw the movie. Nobody did. It tanked at the box office and Sandy even earned the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for the film. But I’m told that her character — Mary Horowitz — creates crossword puzzles for a living. That fact alone guarantees that the movie will one day make it to my Netflix queue.
I got to see this documentary at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Filmmaker Patrick Creadon’s love letter to The New York Times crossword puzzle features Will Shortz (the editor of the puzzle and my personal hero), several well-known crossword constructors and solvers, and a handful of famous names who are crossword fans: Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, the Indigo Girls. The movie also takes the viewer inside the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It’s not just for crossword fanatics, but it is sure is special for those of us who are.
I actually got to meet Will Shortz at a party that year at Sundance. I’ve met a lot of celebrities through my job; I can honestly say that I have never been so awe struck or tongue-tied as when I got to chat with the editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle.
Let’s wrap this up by going back to that gifted wordsmith, Rebecca Black:
“Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards
I don’t want this weekend to end.”
Well said, Rebecca. You go, Glen Coco.
I don’t expect you to share my crossword obsession, so let’s get back to new movies for today’s featured poll…
The Expendables 2