“My wife and I enjoy your sense of humor,” the note began. “You write the funniest things!!” Double exclamation point? I like that!! “We read your column in the Memphis paper!! The voice mail one was a scream. The Mrs. has a question. Since you are a judge, professor and wordsmith with your columns, where do you get all this time?”
A fair question. To which I replied, “Same place I got time when I was half the age I am now. You know, back when we all really were as tough as we thought we were.” And then I added, “I’ll say this, though. I feel a whole lot more like I do now than I did then.”
In case I have not said this before, I truly appreciate input from the readership – all 12 of you, in both states. It should go without saying that the volume thereof is such that I don’t have much trouble responding personally to all emails. I fondly call such feedback “viewer mail,” and it need not be positive.
On a related, slightly different, yet analogous note, crossword solvers are notorious for not commenting to crossword authors – unless they have a nit to pick. I’d been writing the monthly crossword in the Rotarian, magazine of the international service club of similar name, for over five years before I received my first item of viewer mail.
This fellow, Max Burry, went to some trouble to notify me he was sure I had messed up the clue for an answer in a crossword. He knew from the information in the magazine that I was a member of the Rotary Club of Little Rock. Max went online and found the mailing address for the club. I received a call from the executive director of RCLR telling me she had mail for me. Since the club office is not far from my home, I swung by and picked it up that afternoon.
The issue is not whether or not Max was correct in his comment about the crossword clue. The important thing is that he got his point across. My reply was to call him on the phone, strike up a discussion, and offer to visit his hometown later in the year and make a presentation on crosswords to his club.
Thus, in late July 2010, I found myself in front of a Rotary Club in Williamsburg, Va. In addition to my puzzling presentation, I had a great story to tell about how I got there.
Speaking of crosswords, even as I write, I’m preparing for my annual pilgrimage to New York City to serve as an official at the 36th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Directed by New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, this is the largest regular gathering of crossword aficionados known to humankind, as well as the oldest. Dan Feyer of Manhattan will endeavor to win his fourth consecutive crown. I should have a report on that in a week or two.
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.