I first met Dean Olsher at the 2004 ACPT, when he interviewed me for his public radio show (which I had heard), "The Next Big Thing." He was back in 2005 to compete, part of his research for a book he was writing on crosswords. We stayed in touch, and he joined my team at the Haystack Hunt and even stayed in our Puzzle Palace at Sundance, as well as attending more ACPTs. He never did make it to an NPL convention (but there's still time - Baltimore July 9-12!).
"The Next Big Thing" is unfortunately no longer around, but the book is now a reality. "From Square One" is about crosswords. And more than crosswords. But also about crosswords. It's thoughtful and it's different.
Browsing the book giveaway shelf at the Times a few months ago, I found two advance reading copies of the book. Ooh! I took both, and gave the extra to jon88. Dean was about to submit his final corrections and wanted our notes. One of Jon's ended up as a book-jacket blurb, while I procrastinated and never got around to finishing my comments.
The book release party was held last week at a Brooklyn apartment (a stop away from the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott) with a huge, wraparound terrace. It was unseasonably cold out there and I kept my raincoat on, looking like a bag lady who had mistakenly wandered in. lunchboy plays a prominent role in the book (I'm in it a teeny bit), and was one of the few people I knew at the event. I once again exhibited my complete lack of social skills, feeling too shy to talk to strangers and probably missing out on meeting some interesting and intelligent people.
Dean gave a short speech and thanked various people, among them novelist Meg Wolitzer who he said was there. Where? Francis and I rushed over and asked Dean to point her out, and we introduced ourselves. She's a puzzle/Scrabble person, I've read some of her books, and I remembered her participating in a blog discussion. In the small world department, I just found out she's a high school friend of Mrs. Tex (Denise). Then some people who'd seen "Wordplay" came over, so I was spared having to use my nonexistent social skills.
Tonight Dean gave a reading at the 82nd/Broadway B&N. Given the location, I had to get an H&H bagel (fresh out of the oven, plain) first. Jon, Dan Feyer, and jeffurrynpl also attended (Quiz was also supposed to be there. Yoo hoo! Quiz? No Quiz. That's our Quiz). A woman sitting nearby said she'd been in the NPL in the '70s, and asked if I was Mangie.
But this entry is not about me, it's about Dean. Go read his book.