Category Archives: Humor

Eat My Shortz, Will! (How to Dominate the Sunday Crossword)

My ideal Sunday morning. Coffee, museli, and the Sunday puzzle.

I’ve been a crossword junkie since I was a kid. I come by it honestly, though. My mom has always been into puzzles. Most girls get into their mother’s make-up; I got into her monthly World of Puzzles magazine.

I started my crossword journey with the weekday puzzles and those $3 booklets from the supermarket magazine aisle. It did not take long to dominate those puzzles, and now those Easy & Fun crosswords are an insult to my mad word skills.

With more puzzles under their belt, crossword aficionados quickly learn that clues follow strict rules and often reappear in puzzles (a.k.a crosswordese).  Frequent puzzle solvers are well aware that “eft” is a 3-letter term for salamander, a “nene” is a Hawaiian goose (and state bird), and an “amah” is an Asian nanny.

We expect the answer to mirror the clue. For example, if the clue is is plural, then the answer is plural. If the clue is abbreviated, some or all of the answer is abbreviated. If it’s an adverb or superlative, then so is the answer, and so on…

When I attempted the New York Times Sunday Puzzle in my younger years, I would get owned. I’d be lucky to fill in a corner. The answers I thought were correct were not. People I know who do crosswords regularly get stumped at the Sunday Puzzle. It is a truly humbling experience to come before editor Will Shortz’s epic word grids, even as a veteran solver.

Some puzzle enthusiasts hit a wall and content themselves with easier puzzles. They wonder how they deftly complete the “hard” crossword in the airline magazine, but cannot fill in more than a few squares of the Sunday Puzzle. Why? Because the Sunday Puzzle takes all the rules you know about solving crosswords and says F*** YOU!

Tried and true crossword tips, along with a full head of trivia and decent vocabulary, only get you so far. Below I unpack 3 riddles to help you on your way. The Sphinx himself offers similar insight into tackling these puzzles.

To fill in the box, think outside of the box.

I have seen puzzles where letters are replaced with symbols (e.g. the symbol for pi, the letter X for “cross”), and others where the answer is not simply across or down. Often, the puzzle theme provides some clue of what to expect, and you may have to fill in a clue somewhere in the puzzle to get a better sense (e.g. the clue states something like “Like the answers in this puzzle” and the answer is “climbing” means that you may need to look in a different direction for the answer).

If you find part of your answers seems right, but not quite fitting the boxes, you could be dealing with a puzzle of this type. In my opinion, these are the most difficult puzzles.

Be hesitant with your pen, but daring with your thoughts.

The clue was “Crabby.” I put down irritated. The answer was irritable. How irritating! 😉

Attempting this puzzle in straight pen is like having unprotected sex on a one-night stand. You might get lucky and the answer is correct, but you’ll likely end up with a hot mess. A scratchy, scribbled mess…

You can get the app,  but I am old school and prefer solving in print so don’t fry my eyes with screen-glare when cross-referencing.

As someone who believes pencils are for drawing, I get you, fellow pen-lover. I actually use a ballpoint pen and write very lightly what I think the answer is. I also check it with the perpendicular clue to make sure the answers line up.

However, to solve this puzzle, you have to put down a clue and see what happens, even when unsure of the answer. Write something and see what happens. For short answers, visually imagine the letters on the grid before writing it down to see if it lines up with the respective across or down answers. If you are shut down, you have not put down any wrong letters.

A clue has many meanings, but only one answer.

A crossword clue ending in a question implies the answer is a play on words. The harder the puzzle, the more these clues appear. But for the Sunday Puzzle, don’t assume a non-question clue is straightforward. Any clue can have an indirect answer. Exceptions are Proper Names / Fill-in-the-Blanks (i.e. straight facts you either know or don’t).. For any level of crossword, I recommend beginning the puzzles with these.

For the Sunday Puzzle, you can’t get too cocky. You could get a clue “Capital of Massachusetts.”  Obviously, the answer is Boston, but it could be an alternate name for the city, like “Beantown.” So when the answer is 8 letters rather than 6, get over that WTF moment and think of what else that answer is called. The clue will not always indicate whether the answer is straightforward, a slang term, etc.

Sometimes the “know-it-or-you-don’t” clues are outside your knowledge base. Even seasoned cruciverbalists encounter this. A 4-letter word for excrement happens…

I suppose one positive side of aging is knowing more. As a younger solver, I felt many clues were before my time. However, I have seen crosswords with very current references and “text-speak” clues younger generations would know. I envision “bae” or “boo” joining the crosswordese ranks for clues such as “dear one” or “main squeeze”.

Also, since 8+ letter answers appear more frequently in this puzzle, don’t assume the solution is only one word. Particularly for plural clues.The probability a plural clue will end in an “S” is still more than 50%, but less of a guarantee.

Enter if you dare…

Solving the Sunday Puzzle is a rewarding experience. It is a great way to pass the time while stretching your mind. Especially over a cup of coffee.

A word of caution: once you start solving these regularly, you will find the easier puzzles offer the mental stimulation of watching paint peel. I recommend crossword booklets that contain many Sunday Puzzles. For the cost of a movie ticket, I get 50+ hours of mind-bliss.

Happy solving!

I owned it Will Shortz! #sundaycrossword #nohelp #crosswordpuzzle

A photo posted by Laura (@lchoyce2010) on

A Brief History of the Perception of Time

Lately there seems to be a lot of buzz about librarians getting into data science-type roles, and mastery of creating infographics is becoming a hot skill. While standard office programs like Excel and PowerPoint have basic chart tools, they are very institutional in presentation. With so much data out there, being able to capture it in an engaging visual is important. Infographics are taking over statistical reporting everywhere from cost of living around the world to how to keep food fresh in your fridge.

Last year at a Research Staff meeting, a coworker brought up the use of a free* infographics tool called Canva, which she heard about at a law library conference. As a bit of a graphic design nerd, I hopped on to create an account and play around. They have a lot of free layouts and sizes for various print and social media posting, and a decent sized art library. I personally did not find it difficult to navigate, but I have experience using programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. However, I would say anyone with any basic image editing experience will not experience a steep learning curve. But for those of us who are used to all the bells and whistles of Photoshop and Illustrator…don’t get excited. You will find what you can do with this application more limited.

I thought Canva would be perfect to illustrate a comic idea that I’ve had in my head for a while. You know how some things just seem to drag while other things seem to go by in a blink of an eye, irrespective of the actual amount of time? Waiting at the bus stop for five minutes feels like torture, while you wonder where two days of weekend went (all you have to do is turn around on Friday and then you see Monday again). So…I plotted it all out on this graph.

Click to read
Click for full size image

Maybe you can relate to some of these, maybe you can’t. Like it says…time is relative.

Granted, it still took me a while to do, but having the pre-set library of graphics made it a lot easier than trying to create this thing in Illustrator from scratch. I am sure serious designers would think I am cheating, but…who has time for that ;-)?


*Layouts or graphics that do not state they are Free on them have an extra charge.

Introducing…the Mass Effect Myers-Briggs Chart!

So, you might have seen these things floating around Facebook. A little chart where you can pick which Harry Potter or Star Wars character you are most like, based on your Myers-Briggs type. Well, I kind of got sick of seeing INTJ’s represented as villains, so I decided to make my own.

I finally got around to playing Mass Effect, and it has such a rich vastness of characters of differing personalities that I thought it would be cool to make my own chart. Please open the full image to read the descriptions.

Now, I am sure that some people may not agree on the classifications. No one fits a partiuclar type perfectly well, though some of the characters show some classic strong preferences towards a certain type.

I also had some debate about including Commander Shepard, considering there are so many different scenarios and customizations…but I think that in most of them, the character represents several variants of ENTJ. Plus, it was either that, or make the ENTJ a villian…which I just could not do…since my extroverted halves often get stuck in the villain class right behind us evil mastermind INTJ’s.

How to Train a Cat To Use the Toilet

For my Java class, our first assignment is to write out a list of instructions for simple everyday tasks, keeping in mind all of the contingency planning in case things go wrong. The idea is that a computer takes things very literally and will often not successfully complete a task since it cannot make an assumption.

Being my snarky self, I decided to write fictitious program instructions on how to train a cat to use the toilet. One day, I would like to make this into a flowchart so it can join the ranks of all of the other everyday tasks, such as The Grad Student’s Flowchart for Doing Laundry.

Warning: it is very complex. And I have never tested whether this works. But it is totally for humor.  Enjoy!

BEGIN:

1) Do you have a toilet? (Y/N). If Yes, Proceed to Step 2.

If no:

  • 1a: Go to Sears and talk to sales-person about purchasing a new toilet.
  • 1b: Proceed to Step 2a: Call a plumber.
  • 1c: Consult with plumber about what kind of toilet works with your plumbing
  • 1d: Go back to Sears and buy toilet.
  • 1e: Spend hundreds of dollars and proceed to Step 2.
2) Does toilet work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to step 3.

If no:

  • 2a: Call a Plumber
  • 2b: Have plumber look at toilet and fix it. If fixed, proceed to Step 3.
  • 2c: If plumber is unable to fix toilet, replace it. Repeat Steps 1a-e and 2.
3) Do you have a cat? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 4.

If no:

  • 3a) go to shelter and adopt a cat. If you are unable to adopt a cat, steal one from the crazy cat lady next door. Trust me, she won’t miss it.
  • 3b) Put cat in the bathroom
  • 3c) Put food dish near toilet so cat makes positive associations with it.
4) Is cat able to jump a vertical distance of at least 20″? (Y/N). If Yes, proceed to Step 5.

If no:

  • 4a: Is cat too old? (Y/N). If Yes, purchaes pet ramp.
  • 4b: is cat too fat? (Y/N). If Yes, put cat on diet.
5) Is cat currently using the litterbox? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 6.

If no:

  • 5a: Did the cat go potty inside the house? (Y/N). If yes, give cat a stern “NO!” and proceed to Step 8.
  • 5b: Did the cat go potty outside the house?(Y/N). If yes, you probably have an outdoor cat, and really do not need to train a cat to use the toilet since you rarely have to clean the litter box. Proceed to END TASK.
6) Open first toilet lid
7) Place litter box on top of toilet.
8 ) Place cat on toilet
9) Wait for cat to go potty.
10) Keep waiting…

11) Decide that the cat’s evil glare as you wait for him to do his business is not effective, as he has made it clear through his death stare that he will not, under any circumstances, bow to your wishes.

12) Go to Sears and buy camera for bathroom (referred to from now on as CatCam.

13) Install CatCam per product instructions (refer to separate program entitled “Vague Instructions in 145 Different Languages”) and connect it to your wireless device. If you do not own a wireless device, END TASK, as you are therefore not a functioning member of society and thus unable to perform a complex task such as training an unyielding animal to effectively utilize a toilet.

14) Does camera set-up work? (Y/N). If yes, proceed to Step 15.
If no:
  • 14a) Find receipt (you never throw those away, right….right??!!). Since you totally threw it away…
  •     14a-1) Call geek friend and pray he can fix it. If so, proceed to Step 15.
  •     14a-2) If no, go to paint store and find colors that match your shower curtain. Skip Steps 15-17. Repeat Steps 9-10 and pray.
  • 14b) You have the receipt, which means that the planets have aligned, Jesus has returned, and you are existing in a transcendent universe where cats do, in fact, use the toilet. Therefore, proceed to END TASK.

15) Go to Starbucks.

16) Order an over-priced sugarbomb latte and turn on your CatCam. Repeat Steps 9 and 10 as your glucose levels spike to Pluto.

17) Rush home when cat finally does do his business.

18) Place a cat treat on flusher

19) Does cat operate the flushing mechanism by reaching for the treat? (Y/N). If yes, give cat another treat. If no, manually place cat’s hand on flusher and provide treat.

20) Hide litterbox and place catnip near toilet. If cat decides to go potty inside the house (which he will just to spite you) repeat Steps 5a, 6, and 8.

21) Continue repeating Steps 8-19 until cat finally gets it.

22) If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and the cat is in there reading the Wall Street Journal, congrats! You have successfully trained the cat to use the toilet!

23) Smile in satisfaction as you hear the flush.

END TASK