September 05, 2004

Puzzling Friendship

Puzzle-master, Will Shortz, was on NPR Sunday morning quizzing this inept New Jersey woman about Beatles’ song titles. The Jersey broad was stumped, she didn’t know “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, from “Eleanor Rigby”. Mr. Shortz passively mocked her ignorance and shoved his didactic dagger deeper, letting her final on-air puzzle cover a harder more eclectic subject: zoo animals. His Machiavellian scheme had an unplanned effect however, as it didn’t humble the poor lady, only proved how very, very stupid she was.

You don’t deserve refined society if you can’t guess a zoo animal
that starts with “o”.

Call me elitist; do I care? It’s one thing to puzzle, it’s an absolute abomination to puzzle poorly. As a child I was an ardent reader of Games Magazine. My well-read readers - not you poseurs who browse my column for celebrity gossip - know that Games Magazine is the place for puzzles and queries of all sorts: Picture Puzzles, Word Games, Fill In The ____’s and more!

I once so loved puzzles. That was before Mrs. Ramona Kringlsy.

Every month Games Magazine would arrive at my childhood home. I’d sort through piles of brown wrapped journals to find it hidden at the bottom of our post box. I’d dash to my room and spend hours completing the entire magazine. I’d start from the front puzzle and work to the rear, answering everyone along the way. I entered dozens of national puzzles with the childhood dream of winning a Games Magazine limited edition logo tote bag. Sadly, the tote bag never arrived. No brainteaser status symbol to carry my G.I. Joe Trapper Keeper.

Happily my spirits were raised in sixth grade when Games Magazine hosted Find a Pen- Puzzle-Pal. You would send a letter about yourself and a sample puzzle, and the puzzle experts at Games Magazine, maybe Will Shortz, would match you to a Pen-Puzzle-Pal of similar interests and puzzle proficiency.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Nowadays if I wanted to trade letters and play mind games, I’d date online, but at the time, I desperately needed validation of my acumen:

Dear Games Magazine,

Greetings Games Magazine! I’m Gay Neil. I’m twelve years old and I LOVE Puzzle. Please review my puzzle and pair me with a perfect pal! Thank you Games Magazine!

My puzzle: Billy and Eric both live in Chelsea, New York. Billy notices Eric at the club and thinks Eric is a hottie. Sizzling hot! But Eric doesn’t own his own condo. He rents his. Tres gauche! Billy’s boyfriend (some say sugar-daddy), Guy, wanting to appease Billy’s ravenous sexual appetite, invites Eric over for a hot three-way. They fuck in the rooftop jacuzzi. It was Eric’s first time as bottom and he absolutely loved it! Unbeknownst to Guy, his fag-hag Margarite, works at the same Banana Republic with Eric. She also buys cocaine from him! Will sugar-daddy Guy end up buying home wrecker Eric his condo?

You can see I was a very metropolitan sixth grader. Well in two weeks I got my first Pen-Puzzle-Pal envelope from a Mrs. Ramona Kringsly in Pattuski, Wisconsin. She addressed me as Mr. Gay Neil, and used Renaissance artist stamps. Inside was a meticulously scripted letter:

Dear Mr. Gay Neil,

I’m so alone. My husband of sixty-two years, my cherished Ernie died 23 years ago, this week. An utter stranger shot him in the face. They never found who did it. It was such a traumatic injury we had to hold a closed casket funeral. But, I had to see my cherished Ernie one last time. I asked the coroner to see him. His face looked like ground beef. I can’t remember what my cherished Ernie really looked like. I see him dead in my dreams every night.

My two children, Rebecca and Jules, refuse to speak to me. I haven’t heard from my darling Jules in sixteen years. Rebecca hasn’t called for nineteen. I don’t go outside. A lady comes in and cleans on Thursdays. I think she’s a black lady. I have crippling arthritis and at times life seems too hard to bear.

Yours respectably, Mrs. Ramona Kringsly

Mrs. Kringsly and I shared a Pen-Puzzle-Pal friendship for close to 7 months. I continued to write puzzles and she continued to rehash her drama. I simply couldn’t bear witness to her misery any further:

Dearest Ramona,

I simply can’t bear witness to your misery any further. I am here to play puzzler not psychiatrist!

A puzzle: An old lady has one friend who writes her wonderful puzzles, but she refuses to answer them. When her only friend ceases to acknowledge her, how many days will it take for her to kill herself?

Love and kisses, Gay Neil

Well, the final letter I received from Ramona featured the flags of Africa as the stamp. It was a short letter:

Dear Mr. Gay Neil.

By the time you read this letter, I am already dead.

Kindest Regards, Mrs. Ramona Kringsly.

Indeed, Ramona was dead. Her horrible children tried to sue me for causing her suicide with my macabre letter. I was found innocent as the letter in question referred to an unnamed lady, not Ramona directly.

Fuck you Will Shortz! I should be the puzzle-master!

Today, I rarely do puzzles. The whole incident soured the taste the sweet anagrams once left in my mouth. Nonetheless, I still expect quality ability from those who call themselves puzzlers. It’s why I’ve emailed NPR for the ignorant zoo lady’s address in New Jersey. I have a new Pen-Puzzle-Pal in mind.

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