Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Slow and steady

"So I'm on a mission: to occupy the syndicated space of RPDTNYTCP by appearing daily to comment on the puzzle and to offer a peek into the early days of the blog. My hope is that just as the "prime-time" blog has grown and evolved the syndicated segment can, too. "We're more than one-half, we're more than one-half!" Well, maybe I need to come up with a better chant but you get the idea. If you do the NYT crossword puzzle, even if you only TRY to do it, get over to RPDTNYTCP and leave a comment, dammit!"

That's the concluding paragraph of a piece I posted here over two years ago (My "Occupy" Movement, 10/20/2011  and it seemed like this would be a good time to revisit the topic for an update on the status of events and happenings  surrounding the syndicated segment of Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle. And I'm happy to report there have been some very positive changes over the last couple of years.

I've maintained my pledge to show up every day (with very few exceptions) and add my comments to the blog, if only to be a constant (and sometimes lonely) presence just to establish that the comment line is still open five weeks later, and maybe encourage other potential contributors to join in. Whether this has been helpful to the cause or detrimental is hard to say, but over time some commenters who had contributed occasionally began to show up with more frequency, and some new names emerged as "regulars" who came to join the party frequently, if not daily. And so a small but burgeoning, active community has arisen where once there was only a ghost town.

A community, even a virtual one, needs a name and we have tried out several over time. My own favorite was "Syn-City" and I still use it on occasion, but the most regularly used moniker for our little chunk of cyber-space is "Syndi-Land" and its denizens are "Syndi-Landers" or just "Syndies".  Recently I've noticed both terms being used with a certain amount of pride attached as the community has developed a character which is quite different from that of the main body of Rexites ("kinder, gentler" is a phrase that comes up quite often) and I think most regard the difference as a good thing.

If Rexville is a hustling, bustling metropolis populated by a cosmopolitan assemblage of erudite contributors all rushing to be to be among first to the finish the puzzle and the earliest to comment, then Syndi-Land is the laid-back exurb where those of us who wish to avoid the stress of the "rat race" can join together and share our more relaxed approach to life in general and puzzle solving in particular. In many respects our little group resembles a retirement community where folks can discuss, critique (but seldom "criticize"), share and compare experiences, views and ideas on any number of topics sometimes even including the puzzle. The one thing we all have in common is that we solve (or try to - a "Did Not Finish" is not considered a failure among our group) the puzzle and come together to discuss it in our own time and at our own pace.  The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that reading Rex's write-up and the comments, and participating in the blog community improves our puzzle-solving skills and makes the experience more fun.

The defining characteristic of a Syndie is that each of us solves the puzzle in our local newspaper, using a pen or pencil (or crayon or whatever) to fill in the actual grid published in the paper - we do NOT solve on-line as do most of the other Rexites. Any one of us could subscribe to the NY Times crossword puzzle on line and solve the puzzle on the day it comes out instead of five weeks later; I think that we choose not to do that is the defining characteristic of a Syndi-Lander. Our reasons may vary but the bottom line is the same: we are content where we are. 

I'm hopeful that other syndi-lurkers will see the commentary going on among the Syndies and feel compelled to join us.  There may even be a "prime-timer" or two who are ready to quit the hectic competition among the early contributors, and they would most certainly be welcomed into our little enclave. "Slow and steady" seems to be a good motto for Syndi-Land - it's how we solve our puzzles and it's how we grow our community.

As I said at the outset, I take no credit for what's happening in Syndi-Land, but I am very proud and glad to be a part of it.

If I can wait five weeks for a puzzle, certainly "MaƱana is good enough for me". Here's what you get when you type it as it might appear in a crossword grid:

With the tilde (a word I learned from doing crosswords) in place, you might get this:

P.S. - A former syndi-lander turned prime-timer commented a while back that she sometimes yearned to rejoin the "bird-watching, star-gazing, cold-enduring" folks in syndi-land. I can't think of a better way to describe our little community!

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Peacock Family Tragedy

I live in a small town and because I work in the local hardware store, where almost everyone winds up at one time or another in search of some needed item, I know most of the citizens by face if not by name. So when I see a news account of a local family who has suffered a loss I take interest and wonder how I can help them out.

And so it was when I read of a fire that had destroyed the home of Richard and Diane Peacock - Diane is a regular customer whom I know by both face and name and I knew at once that I wanted to help. Freeport is a caring community that looks out for its own and by the time I learned of the need someone had already established a fund at the local credit union to receive contributions on behalf of the victims, so providing some financial aid was easy. Still, I hoped to do more. And of course Providence intervened to make that possible.

Rick and Diane came into the store while I happened to be working - they had been in previously to purchase a very small item for the home that a neighbor vacationing in Florida had offered for their use until their home could be replaced. As it turns out, they got the wrong part and needed to exchange it and I happily offered to help them.

We found the part they needed without difficulty and they were glad to have it, but as they looked around the store they found several other items that they needed in their new, temporary home (they lost everything in the fire) and by the time we arrived back at the register they had quite an armload of goodies and I allowed as how some special pricing was in order. OK, here comes Providence.

My boss, the new owner of the store, was near the register so I introduced him to the Peacocks and briefly told them their story. By sheer coincidence (for lack of a better term) he had JUST received an email from his wife who had just read a news account of the fire and wanted to do something to help the victims. Call it Karma, kismet, fate or whatever, but Woody (he's the owner) had just learned of the loss from his wife, who was spending the holidays in a far-away state, and now he was standing face-to-face with the victims - needless to say, he was in a very generous mood!

When Rick and Diane left the store they had the right part to replace the one they had purchased earlier, plus the items they added on the way back to the register, plus a few things that Woody felt would be helpful - all free, because the forces of the universe all combined to make such a thing happen. You may call it luck, and maybe that's all it is - I don't have any better explanation for why things worked out that way, but I do have my suspicions. Whatever you call it, I'm glad for the minor role I was able to play in helping, in a small way, some good folks get back on their feet after a tragic loss.