Most Popular Posts: 1

This week, Orts revisits five of the most popular posts from the past year.

The Cover That Wasn't

Years ago, cartoonists used to make a weekly pilgrimage to midtown Manhattan, visiting The Saturday Evening PostLook, and other magazines in hopes of selling some of their drawings. Today, the only stop left on the circuit is The New Yorker.

For three consecutive weeks about 15 years ago, I made the Tuesday trek to the office of Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor there. The process is informal. You find out who among the gaggle of hallway loiterers is last in line and wait until you see them exit Bob's office.

On each visit, I left the building with the same number of unsold cartoons I'd come with. About the best I did was to get a reaction along the lines of "there might be something there." But it wasn't there yet. On the last visit, I mentioned to Bob that it was my goal to have a cartoon in The New Yorker sometime before I die. He jokingly replied, "Call me if you're feeling ill." So there is hope. We all get old and decrepit at some point, right? 

A little while later, I decided to swing for the fences — drawing up the cover you see below. It's an actual working crossword, themed to The New Yorker. All of the clues can be found lurking in the surrounding city scene. 

To make a short story even shorter, here's the response I got back after submitting the drawing to the magazine: "Not quite right for us."
Click to enlarge


Happy Birthday to Orts

Today marks the first day of Orts's second year.

During that first year, 261 posts have appeared. On average, each took a full day to dream up, draw, write, or photograph. Tweaking often ensued.

Some of the work was created in years past, while other material is new. But here's the thing: I never received a penny for 90 percent of the material posted here. When you add in the time for putting together the posts themselves, that's more than a year's worth of work created just for the sake of creating it ... and then presenting it here for free.

I mention this because I'd like you to consider making a contribution of support. It's strictly voluntary; the material will continue to be posted for free five days a week regardless. But your contribution will support the time and effort that's put into this blog. Think of it as a nod of thanks for any enjoyment you've gotten during the past year. No amount is too small.

Use Paypal or a credit card
(when you get there, click to the right
of $0.00, then type in your amount):

Or if you prefer by mail:
Patrick Merrell
PO Box 650762
Vero Beach, Florida 32965



75 Years (plus a day) of Puzzles

Back in 2010 when I was writing the New York Times crossword blog, Wordplay, I wrote a post about the first-ever New York Times crossword, which appeared on February 15, 1942. That was 75 years ago ... uh, yesterday.

The post included an image of the actual puzzle (shown above). Luckily, such a thing could be found online by rummaging through a digital trove of old newspapers and magazines through my local library.

As for the puzzle itself, you can read a little more about it in that Wordplay post: CLICK. You can also download an Across Lite file of it, as well as a "Puns & Anagrams" crossword that also ran that day. Wait, did you catch that? Yesterday wasn't just the anniversary of the first New York Times crossword puzzle, it was the anniversary of the first two New York Times crossword puzzles.


Shoe Tree

Along a secret seaside BMX/mountain bike
course in Vero Beach, Florida (click to enlarge)


It's Easy ... Unless It's Not

Add two letters to this word to create an unrelated word:


1. Do not change the order of any of the existing letters.
2. Insert the two new letters anywhere, separately or
together, in the front, between letters, or at the end.

Answer: CLICK


Sharecropper and Dog

This is an image from the "photos, prints and drawings" section of the Library of Congress website. Since it was taken by the Farm Security Administration, it's copyright free. And I'm making it today's post because ... well, I like it.
photo: John Vachon; April 1938; North Carolina


The Fool and the Swami

A fool was aimlessly wandering one day when he stumbled across the cave of a swami.

“Oh, great swami,” the fool said, approaching the man. “I wish to be a fool no longer. Can you show me how?”

The swami reached into a cloth bag slung over his shoulder and pulled out a small piece of paper. “What you seek is written on this card,” the swami said, handing it to the fool.
“But this is nonsense,” the fool said, looking at the card.

“You must learn to look at things from all angles,” the swami said. “Only then will you gain what you seek.” With that, the swami retreated into his cave.

The fool was baffled by the card. But then he considered what the swami had said about looking at things from all angles. “Huzzah!” he said. “That's it!” 

The fool ran pell-mell down the hill to a small pond at its base. His hands shook as he held the paper over the surface, the water's reflection revealing the swami’s secret:
“MISDOW!” the fool exclaimed, ignoring that the S was backward. “Already I feel wiser for knowing this secret word!" 

And so the fool went through the rest of his days, repeating the word, smug in the thought that he knew of MISDOW.

Should he have been? I think you already know, but: CLICK


Rap States

Tramar Lacel Dillard came up with his rap name, FLO RIDA, by splitting his home state in two.

Other states present similar possibilities. The most obvious are KEN TUCKY, MARY LAND, and the ALs — ABAMA and ASKA.

But there are more: ARI ZONA, CAL IFORNIA, LOU ISIANA, MA INE, and either MISS ISSIPPI or OURI.

Splitting off a name at the end works, too: NEV ADA, WYO MING, INDI ANA, and the NIA trio of CALIFOR, PENNSYLVA, and VIRGI.

Finally, there's CAROL INA and LOUIS I. ANA, which can work both ways, and the unfortunate IDA HO.


Tom Swiftiests™

As promised in Monday's post, Orts is proud to introduce another literary creation, the Tom Swiftiest.

How it works: Take a noun ending with "iest" (one syllable) and reimagine it as a superlative adjective ending with "i-est" (two syllables).

Here's the complete list:

"That obsessive crowbar user is the priest."

"That super-nosy person is the priest."

"That super-nosy thug is the priest hood."

Tom Swiftiest is a trademark of Patrick Merrell (as if anyone else would want it)


Photo Math

What's the equation? 

Photos: Gage Skidmore; Josh Haner/The New York Times; "Greatest Hits: Vol. 3" album cover, Universal Special Products