Sunday, August 4, 2013

Puzzle Protest (or maybe "Distraction Dissatisfaction?")

I really look forward to the Sunday morning puzzle on NPR's Weekend Edition, or at least, I used to. The puzzles are all created by the puzzle editor of the New York Times, Will Shortz, and they're usually pretty creative and always interesting. But one thing has been getting worse and worse and worse lately, and that is a seeming horror of any empty or "dead" air whatsoever. I promise you, NPR (and Will) it's absolutely OK with us listeners if you give the winner (and us!) JUST A MOMENT TO THINK ABOUT THE BLOODY ANSWER BEFORE WILL SHORTZ  FEEDS IT TO THEM!!!

Almost nobody can process the puzzle question so quickly that they are able to immediately spit out the answer, and THAT'S OK! Today's name-anagram puzzle was a perfect example, and it was a fairly complicated concept to bend one's mind around: Will would give two names, a first name and a last name. The last name associated with the first was also an anagram of the first name associated with the last. Got it?  For example, if Will said, "Yogi (a fictional character)" and "McIntyre", the answer would be "Yogi BEAR and REBA McIntyre." Another example: "Bob and Carter, both performers," the answer would be "Bob DYLAN and LYNDA Carter." Not easy, right? But then the Sunday puzzle shouldn't be; lord knows the crossword in the Sunday paper isn't!

Well, today, before the player had quite processed the rules, Will was feeding him the answer on the proverbial silver platter, and it happened all through the game. At the end when the host complimented the player on his puzzle skills, he was, well, puzzled by her enthusiasm, because apart from two instances when he genuinely solved the puzzle on his own, he was handed the answer. ("He's a very famous folksinger, and the other, Carter, she played Wonder Woman, yes, Lynda with a 'Y'." For crying out loud! Give me just a second, can't ya!?!)

And this wasn't just an issue for today's edition. It has been getting worse over the past weeks and months, to the point where now there is scarcely any pause at all between the asking of the question and the force-feeding of the answer. It sucks all the fun right out of the whole concept of a Sunday puzzle.

So, to you, NPR: If the puzzle needs to be shorter in order to give a moment or two for the player to actually solve it, so be it. But as it stands now, more and more the puzzle segment is a showcase for Will Shortz to be the smartest guy in the room, and NOT the equivalent of the Sunday crossword it was originally intended to be. For today's entry, Will might just as well have come on the air and said, "Did you know that the letters of Jay LENO's last name are the same as NOEL Coward's first name?"

It was about that interesting, and about as much fun to play.

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