(Justin ⇒ Jasdev, 10/5/2020)
> If you were to give a mini talk — in Letters to J form — on something you know way too much about (or a lesser-known arcanum), what would it be about? > — Jasdev, in letter #19
For a split second, I was tempted to answer with a topic that we’ve given more than its fair shake recently: JRPGs (short for “Japanese RPGs,” a genre of video game with a particular set of motifs and common gameplay elements)
On second thought, though, I remembered a prerequisite of a good presentation is that it should have a compelling thesis or argument: the goal of oratory is to persuade, and while I love JRPGs I don’t think I would ever try and convince someone to play more of them or to treat them with more, uh, gravitas than they currently do. They are silly games that I like because they laminate my brain and remind me of being seven years old: that is useful, but not exactly Carthago delenda est.
I then turned to my second nerdiest obsession of choice (which, helpfully, I was engaged in just before writing this!), and the thesis I would want to make with such a talk became exceedingly clear.
Everyone should do the New York Times Crossword.
To bolster my argument, I offer three reasons:
Native speakers of Chiwere(
TRES), some of the knowledge starts to sink in. And, as you’re aware, crosswording is such a useful way to expand one’s vocabulary that I’ve even set up a feed of new words I’ve learned.
The crossword curves gracefully in difficulty in accordance with the weekdays: Monday is a very easy crossword, Tuesday is a little harder, Wednesday harder than that, and so on until Saturday, which is traditionally the hardest day of the week. (Sunday is usually a jumbo crossword, with themes — themed puzzles tend to be easier than non-themed ones, since you can use clues within the construction of the board itself to solve it.)
If you’re new: start with the Monday and the Tuesday. It’ll take some time, but you start to recognize certain author’s favorite words (
IRE) and the certain tells for clues (does the clue end in a question mark? Then it’s a groan worthy pun!). It is satisfying and addicting to watch your mastery climb — if you’re anything like me, you’ll start out needing to cheat or peek for the Thursday and Fridays but quickly get to the point where you can solve all but the trickiest puzzles unassisted, and then it’s a race to improve your personal bests for each day.
At risk of a very lazy prompt, I’m genuinely curious: how about you? What would you do with your five minutes of soapbox?