I have a great show this week, featuring two of the great minds who create, edit, and write about the puzzles in the New York Times! Wordplay Columnist Deb Amlen will be here, along with her colleague, Associate Puzzles Editor Sam Ezersky.
Over the weekend we got to attend the 35th anniversary of one of my favorite comedies – “This is Spinal Tap.” The Tribeca Film Festival brought Director Rob Reiner to the stage for introductions, and then the movie, which I’ve seen oodles of times on tv, unspooled. It was the first time I saw “Spinal Tap” on a big screen since it first came out. Thirty-five years ago seems like such a long time ago. It was 1984. I was barely an adult.
Ronald Reagan was president, Margaret Thatcher became the British prime minister, and “Cheers” was a popular tv show. Sally Ride was heralded as the first woman astronaut in space, and Ron Howard entered the big leagues as a director with “Splash.”
Those seem like ancient, innocent times. With this I talk about the five great things that made my life better this week.
1) Besides seeing a favorite and still funny movie, the men of Spinal Tap (Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer) performed their heavy metal music acoustically, as 70 year old men in sportscoats. There was a real charm to it. Especially fun was when they brought Elvis Costello to join them for “Give Me Some Money,” which he sang with punk brio. The whole evening was wonderful.
2) Long walks over the weekend. One had no goal whatsoever, another was a strategic walk with errands to run along the way. Doesn’t a walk clear your head and help you think? It does for me.
3) My first baby shower. I hosted it for my daughter-in-law, a term I’m still getting used to. I decided on tea sandwiches (and cakes, cookies, cheeses, and fruit salad). I had forgotten how much I love Arnold’s thin sandwich bread. With this bread, anyone can make epic sandwiches. Egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, tomato and cucumber sandwiches were all yummy. I had some of my best friends there, as did my daughter in law. I continue to find wonder in feeling close to this young woman who has entered our family.
4) Amarcord vintage clothing store in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). ExhibitB ™ saw the store windows while she was here and wanted us to look inside. We found a riot of prints and a lot of cool pieces from the 60’s and 70’s and enjoyed the encyclopedic knowledge of the owner, Marco.
5) Robert Mueller. He’s back! We need him again. I’m going to assume that Mr. Mueller will testify in front of Congress in the very near future.
Deb’s 5 Things:
1) My family. I know it's corny, but it's true. My kids are my greatest teachers. They've taught me about everything, from how to love unconditionally to how to be spontaneously creative. Also, why the DVR doesn't record my programs if I don't hit "Save." I'm also engaged to a wonderful man who makes me smile and laugh every day.
2) Food. Doesn't food just taste great? I will happily eat anything, except for cottage cheese, liver, insects and anything that still has the head on. I don't like my food looking at me. Also, since you asked, I am of the theory that French fries are made specifically to be ketchup delivery systems. Unless they are sweet potato fries, in which case they are mayo delivery systems. And even then, it has to be Kewpie mayo, a Japanese brand which puts other brands that shall go nameless to shame. O.K., maybe I'm a little picky.
3) Other people's life stories. People are endlessly fascinating. I tell stories all the time on Wordplay -- my most recent one was about how I was once asked to train a pot-bellied pig to be a service animal -- and it's lovely when readers reciprocate. I think that when people tell you their stories, it's a real sign of trust, and I'm honored that they extend that trust to me.
4) My job. I have the best job in the world. I have the privilege of trying to make people laugh and think. I get to help them learn a skill that they really want to have, and I also get to work with some of the smartest, funnest people in journalism.
5) Those endorphins that smack you in the back of the head right after an intense work out. Better than any drugs you could get your hands on, Officer.
Sam’s Five Things:
1) My support system. This just goes without saying; I wouldn't be where I am today without the love of those around me. I'm fortunate to have been raised by a family that has nourished me, encouraged me and challenged me to be my very best. I have a healthy network of friends of ranging backgrounds, several of whom I could trust with my life. And then there's anyone who has offered me voluntary praise or guidance over the years, regardless of context, which has given me the passion to keep listening and learning as I follow my heart. I really am grateful for it all.
2) My puzzles. Duh. They're my world. I half-seriously joke that I have quite the unhealthy work-life balance, but puzzles really are on my mind 24/7. I check tomorrow's Spelling Bee puzzle every night on my iPhone while lying in bed. When I lack signal on those long-ish subway rides, I'm mocking up crossword grids around words and phrases that are fresh in my head (some of which, let's just say, you couldn't publish in the New York Times Crossword). Even when I don't want to think about puzzles, my brain is still instantly counting the number of letters in things I see and say. Oh, look, NUMBER OF LETTERS is a "15"!
3) My headphones. Whereas many can't leave the house without their wallets or car keys, I refuse to set foot outside my apartment without my headphones. I need my music everywhere, whether it's Pink Floyd, They Might Be Giants, Nas or Kendrick Lamar. I've had these red Klipsch earbuds for several years now. Despite misplacing them numerous times -- once leaving them behind in L.A.! -- I've always managed to get them back.
4) My 'ball. I'm a shameless sports junkie; my Twitter is primarily used for puzzle purposes, but I'm never afraid to go crazy after a UVA Basketball national championship victory or mash a retweet to show love to the Baltimore Ravens' latest draft picks. Here's hoping my New York Knicks and Baltimore Orioles can be at least somewhat fun to root for next year! These past seasons have been painful.
5) My GPS. This wouldn't be up here even two years ago, but I've developed a newfound love of exploration by way of aimless walks around town. When I first moved to Manhattan, I'd set out -- with my headphones, of course -- on a lazy Saturday afternoon toward Central Park without a real destination in mind. Sometimes I could end up all the way downtown. Or cross into Brooklyn. Who knows. But my subway map could always get me back, and I've since opened up my GPS from time to time just to re-examine the layout of Manhattan, or even pore over another city I've yet to visit. I'm not sure why this fascinates me so much; I must clearly have an interest in interlocking grids.
Stay cool and act natural!