The posting sent to the members of the cruciverbal community read, “We’re looking for seasoned ... puzzle creators to help us build puzzles for our game, (which) uses a unique crossword-influenced style of word puzzle where the answers are hidden in ... famous quotations. We’re (a small outfit) and ... can’t create puzzles fast enough for the players.”
Having had more than a little experience with both puzzle-making and noteworthy quotes, I volunteered to help out. Checking out the game, I saw that it’s a fun exercise in finding strings of letters from words inside quotation marks. These strands are pieced together to form words suggested by a list of clues.
As an example, in the quotation “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country,” clues might call for the solver to come up with (NO) (ME), (HE)(IR), M(IS)(COUNT), etc.
I signed onto a gig that called, first, for gathering 30 quotations that might aptly be called “funny stuff.” What followed was eye-opening and humbling, as the editors rejected over half the quotations I proffered. While the experience ultimately wound up a success, it left me with a plethora of quotes and no place to use them. And then I remembered that I write a humor column.
Here are some of the quotes that did not make the cut:
“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.” – Frank Lloyd Wright. (I figured maybe the editors did not want to give the appearance of suggesting a doctor might make a mistake.)
“A sure sign that you have no sense at all is to argue with someone who clearly has less than you do.” I labeled this one anonymous, although it’s my wording of the cross between something my mother often said and one of Laurence J. Peter’s afterthoughts in “Peter’s Quotations – Ideas for Our Time.”
“Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction.” – Adlai Stevenson. The editors deemed this one dated and bordering on sexism. Imagine that, coming from a politician who twice lost in his efforts to become president.
“Alphabetically speaking, it’s the eyes of a woman that disturb the ease of a man.” – Evan Esar. This was the first in a series of rejected items that let me know the editors were not looking for subtle puns.
“An autobiography usually reveals nothing bad about its writer, except his memory.” – Franklin P. Jones.
“Census figures show the average American is getting younger, thus proving the Average American is a myth.” – Evan Esar.
“Committee – a group who, individually, can do nothing but, as a group, decide that nothing can be done.” – Fred Allen.
“Competence, like truth, beauty, and a contact lens, is in the eye of the beholder.” – Laurence J. Peter.
“Conservative – a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” – Ambrose Bierce.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.