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Author Topic: I'd like to represent opposing counsel...  (Read 5571 times)

Todd G

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I'd like to represent opposing counsel...
« on: January 08, 2009, 10:02:04 PM »
Yeah, me again.

Andy Harrison's message gave me a chance to make a point.  While I agree at some point all this needs to be addressed, we are still in the starting stages and not even sure how well this will work as a book.

My suggestion: let people work on puzzles as offered.  When someone is ready, they come back to the group and ask for test solvers.  At that point, the rest of you can see if the basic idea will work, and make adjustments.

I don't think you/we have to be setting up a formal business model just yet.  Three or four puzzles in hand should give you/us all a better sense of how well this will work.

I'm looking forward to seeing the first puzzle myself.

---Todd

Roy Leban

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Re: I'd like to represent opposing counsel...
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2009, 10:08:00 PM »
I'm just going to say two things:

1) I think somebody needs to step up to be the (0) and/or (1) coordinator in my list.

2) I will not be checking this forum. I have enough to do. If there's anything of interest going on, please email me. Or if someone wants to set up a mailing list ....

-Roy.

Ennie

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Solver's viewpoint
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2009, 11:04:47 PM »
As a solver, I would not pay money for a random collection of puzzles about the states. It's all very nice to have first-timers offer puzzles, but you'll need a professional editor (or an organized system of peer review) to accept/reject and then edit the submissions. Then someone needs to copy edit and proofread to assure consistency of style (you don't want one puzzle italicizing titles and another using quotes, blank spaces of varying lengths, bestseller and best-seller, etc.)

I'm not offering to do any of this.  Just saying...


kasemenova

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Why I Volunteered to Get Involved in This Project
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2009, 11:34:22 PM »
I am going to very honest here, and I realize that I am probably going to get myself in trouble with some of you folks, but the reason I started making puzzles was because I got fed up with the ones being published. I can tell you the precise moment: I was doing a Sunday, and I filled in "oleo" for about the millionth time in my life, and I thought, this is stupid. I can do better.

And since I've started making puzzles, I've found more to gripe about. I know y'all are very attached to your breakfast test, but I don't quite get why the proclivities of one Victorian lady at the beginning of this century has to determine what the rest of us do for all time. I would like something a little more lively, a little more relevant to my life than, I don't know, "ecru."

So, I volunteered because I thought this was an opportunity for some great established puzzlemakers and some not-so-great newer puzzle makers to escape for a moment some of those restrictions and offer up what we'd really like to see. I thought the target audience was serious solvers, people who might also be a little tired of "oleo."

Y'all can get mad at me and tell me I don't want to fill in "urine" while I'm eating breakfast, and maybe you're right. Maybe I don't want to do it with my newspaper. But maybe I wouldn't mind a puzzle book that was a little looser, a little more fun. Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting that we allow bodily fluids. But it bothers me that the first instinct seem to be to set a bunch of rules about what the puzzles can contain before we've even gotten anywhere. What would be so awful about variety--about one puzzle that uses the name of the state in one way, and another in a different way? (Of course, there has to be standardization as to titles and caps and itals, and all that.)

And I don't think I'm alone in this either. I ride the public transportation systems in this city all the time, and younger people are not the ones doing puzzles. (Even in the free versions of the newspaper.) I've gotten into the habit of asking younger people about them when I have the opportunity, and they look at me like I have two heads. They shrug and say "I do Sudoku." Of course: If I'm bored with the puzzles in the paper, how can they not be?

I mean, I used to love doing puzzles, and I've drifted away from them, even as I've begun making them. So, if this puzzle book is going to be just more of the same, I don't quite see the value in doing it. Yeah, sure, we'll "own" our work. But the chances of this making any money are almost zero, at least at first. 

Mike Peluso

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Whew!
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2009, 01:59:41 AM »
Well, a full day of pros and cons, inputs, suggestions, caveats, nay-saying and enthusiastic approval has come to an end. I usually don't get involved in the spirited discussions on the Cru, but this one really struck my fancy. I was the one to offer to make the first state puzzle (WA) and issue the challenge to others to do the same, and ....well, you all saw the response. I'll be glad to make a database of who has offered to do what. I'll get it out in a day or two.

As to the various postings, there were several that cannot be ignored: Making this work without a leader to organize and delegate would be impossible. However, identifying and selecting a leader by e-mail interaction among all of us would be, as was aptly stated, "like herding cats". So, the first task at hand is not "who" shall be the leader and spearhead of this project, but rather, "how" is this leader to be selected. I wish I had an easy answer. Any workable suggestions?

The other unavoidable issue that must be addressed is the financial considerations. I saw this as a two-pronged discussion: 1) Where do we get the money to have the project printed and distributed and, 2) how are the various contributors going to the equitably paid. Here is a far-flung suggestion: What if AAA were to be approached and asked to fund the project, get the copyright, and give the book away at all the AAA offices around the country? Have you seen the books and materials they give away now??? You can walk into an AAA office and walk out of there with an armful of books that cost them upwards of $100 to print. Anyway, I'm digressing, but AAA might be a starting point. Included in their funding and rights to the copyright could be money paid to the contributors...........

...........which brings me to a more personal take on this issue. I'm not sure how well I read into the Cru's collective opinion about the money-making aspect of this project. I think I heard some say that there's no way in hell they'd do it without being paid, and I got the impression that others would be happy to just do it as a project born out of the love of making puzzles. I have to say, I'm in that second group. I have a feeling I speak for a lot of constructors in saying that payment vs. non-payment for contributing to this project really wouldn't make a terribly big difference in their standard of living. Personally, constructing for me is a great hobby, a great way to exercise my brain (which at my age needs all it can get!!), and lends itself to deep sense of personal satisfaction. I can honestly say that the check I get at the end of the month after a puzzle is published is nothing compared to the satisfaction I get seeing my work in print and having been validated by an experienced and scrutinizing editor. (Thanks, Rich!!!) And there's nothing quite like sitting in Starbucks watching the person next to you working on YOUR puzzle, not having a clue that the constructor is sitting right next to him or her.....which, of course, I'd never let on to.

OK, so much for philosophizing. Let the input continue. I've got a gut feeling we can make this thing work.

Sincerely,

Mike Peluso


madscrawler

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Re: Whew!
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2009, 07:57:57 AM »

I'm not sure how well I read into the Cru's collective opinion about the money-making aspect of this project. I think I heard some say that there's no way in hell they'd do it without being paid, and I got the impression that others would be happy to just do it as a project born out of the love of making puzzles. I have to say, I'm in that second group. I have a feeling I speak for a lot of constructors in saying that payment vs. non-payment for contributing to this project really wouldn't make a terribly big difference in their standard of living.

I don't want to get into a discussion about why crossword constructors should demand fair payment just like everyone else. I'll just stick to the subject. Put me on the list of constructors who absolutely will not do this for free. I won't do it for $50 either (as someone suggested). I want a percentage of the profits. If that turns out to be 50 cents, fine. I can live with making peanuts because the venture wasn't profitable. But I can't live with making peanuts because I settled for peanuts.

Nelson

kasemenova

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AAA project
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2009, 09:41:35 AM »
Hey Cru--

I think an AAA puzzle book is probably do-able; and if it becomes that kind of project, then of course there will have to be more editorial rule-setting (and there are some good suggestions in another email--particularly the ENE, NNE suggestion, though, thinking in terms of layout, it sort of gave me the heebie jeebies. The whole book would have to be laid out, then those references made. Yikes!)

But I'm not sure that such a book accomplishes what I thought the intention was: owning our own work. Clearly, AAA would own the thing, and AAA would set editorial guidelines, and I can't see how there would be any revenue to share, really. AAA would come up with a price and offer it to the group, and that would be it, wouldn't it? There wouldn't be any sales as such--it would be a give-away from them to their customers.

That might work out to more than a constructor is likely to see from selling to a newspaper. Or, it might be a method of getting some kind of organization set up, and getting some funds into that organization to get things moving on the next book. But that would require everyone to leave their profits in the group.

And, frankly, in this scenario, I don't see my motivation for volunteering untold hours at keyboard to lay out the book.

As to the org questions: I have no idea how to establish a quorum over the Net.

Karen

kblakley

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% of profits
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2009, 12:33:57 PM »

I don't want to get into a discussion about why crossword constructors should demand fair payment just like everyone else. I'll just stick to the subject. Put me on the list of constructors who absolutely will not do this for free. I won't do it for $50 either (as someone suggested). I want a percentage of the profits. If that turns out to be 50 cents, fine. I can live with making peanuts because the venture wasn't profitable. But I can't live with making peanuts because I settled for peanuts.

Nelson


I agree with madscrawler - I thought the original impetus for this project was to value ourselves enough to demand royalties rather than give away all rights for a pittance.

Bonnie - you can have AZ - although I love Arizona, I still call Oklahoma home.

Kelsey
« Last Edit: January 09, 2009, 12:44:43 PM by kblakley »

Nancy Salomon

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Some thoughts
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2009, 03:01:17 PM »
First, I doubt you'll find a qualified editor to take on this project when all one needs to do to be assigned a slot is to be the first to volunteer for a state.  Some of those volunteering do quality work.  Some are untested.  Under these circumstances, it's likely that an editor would have to redo about half the puzzles in order to wind up with something he or she wouldn't be embarrassed to put his or her name to.

I think you need to decide whether your major goal is profitability or if you're in this strictly for the fun and the learning experience.  If the latter, you're off to a good start.  If the former, things that have been suggested that I believe would be a major turn-off to solvers are:

OREO in every puzzle - borrrring

A direction in every puzzle - borrrring

The same grid for every puzzle - boring and worse--it locks constructors into the same theme entry lengths

Ban on punny wordplay - major bummer

Also, if you want a marketable book, you're going to need some clearing house for themes.  Otherwise, you're likely to end up with at least 6 rebus puzzles using state abbreviations.

But, most of all, you need to give your editor the right to reject puzzles.  Otherwise, you'll wind up with puzzles from the "Who makes these dumb rules anyway?" crowd.  The "dumb" rules that students of mine have complained about over the years include:

1) Maximum word count of 78
2) Restrictions against words less than 3 letters
3) Editors' desire for tight, consistent, cohesive themes
4) The breakfast test.  Do you think AAA would be interested in a puzzle loaded with words that fail this test?
5) Play-fair cluing and other cluing restrictions.  Many newbies think solvers should be mind readers.

If you want a collection in which every constructor can do his or her thing, free of all constraints, you won't have a marketable product, but you will be pleasing a lot of constructors.  If you want a marketable book, then many of the same restrictions that apply to crosswords in quality publications will wind up applying to your puzzles as well.  You can probably ignore the restriction about theme entries being the longest entries in each puzzle and you may be able to ignore symmetry requirements if your theme entries are obvious as such, but that's about all the leeway I see you having.

Imo, you need to come to some consensus as to whether you want a moneymaker or an experimental, do-you-own-thing project.  I'm highly skeptical that you can have it both ways.

Nancy Salomon

admin

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Create a small editing group
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2009, 03:28:10 PM »

Nancy made a lot of good points. I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to appoint a small group of editors who can share the task of making sure all puzzles pass the test. Choose 3-5 among the group. Just an idea.

- Kevin

BH

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Re: I'd like to represent opposing counsel...
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2009, 04:00:13 PM »
Hi, I wish I had the time to devote to helping the group shape this project. I echo the cautionary statements that have been raised. I like the suggestion of creating a small leadership group (3 to 8 people who know what they're getting into) to better define the effort first. THEN recruit constructors with a well-thought out plan. Not just puzzle structure and constraints, but compensation, marketing, etc. At that point also, you know what type of constructor you're recruiting. The plan doesn't have to be a big, formal document. 

From a marketing perspective - beware of 'build it and they will come.' Take your ideas to the market and see what kind of reaction you get. The AAA angle is great but you'd want to know early if that is a possibility ... or not.
 
I'm a native of NC, if that helps. Like Roy Leban, I'm not going to be able to read the forum every day, but if I can help, I will respond to email.
Beth H.

Mike Peluso

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Nancy's Thoughts
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2009, 03:58:21 AM »
We've heard so much on this subject over the past few days, with ideas as varied as the constructors themselves who have offered them. And, in the true spirit of brainstorming, IMO there have been no stupid suggestions or ideas.

It should come as no surprise to most of us that the wisest counsel has come from Nancy Salomon. And a word to the newbies: Take heed of her advice! Thanks for you input, Nancy.

Mike Peluso

PS: Marjorie: I see you have been keeping a log of those who have volunteered to do state puzzles. I also have made an Excel database of those volunteers. I'll send it out tomorrow via regular e-mail for those who would like to be able to download it on a regular program.

kasemenova

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"Dumb Rules" and organizational matters
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2009, 11:27:48 AM »
Hi Cru--

These really are two different topics, but....

As to the first, my argument is simply: there may be generational (cultural, regional?) differences in what is appropriate in a breakfast test. There is a reason a puzzlebook shaped like a toilet sold a bazillion copies, a reason why titles like "Captain Underpants" and "Everybody Poops" sold a bazillion copies. Think: The Onion. John Stewart. Howie Mandel. Supply your own producer of irreverent, hilarious takes on modern culture.
I was trying to point out that the newspapers and Penny Press and Simon and Schuster, et al.  have pretty firmly sewed up a certain market, and there may be room for a different kind of publication--a little edgier, a little more irreverent. We don't necessarily need to adopt all the existing rules, most of which cover huge markets and syndications, etc. There's some room to create particular rules for particular publications (if we're going to have them.) I never suggested we allow 2-letter words.

As to the second point, I spent some time this morning reading through the  Editorial Freelancers Association (www.efa.org.) web site. It's a 506(c) (? maybe; close enough) not-for-profit assoc. They have a board structure, officers, dues, membership--the whole shebang. It seems to me this might be a model for what we're trying to accomplish. The Crossword Constructor's Association? The catch is that we would probably need charter members--individuals to pony up funds to get it going--but that would give us an economic base from which to launch a publication. I am a little bit of an organizational freak, and I worked for an association, so I have some relevant knowledge and skills. I wouldn't mind doing some work in this respect, but I am not a lawyer or an accountant, so those types of people would have to volunteer services as well.

Karen

Nancy Salomon

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Re: I'd like to represent opposing counsel...
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2009, 01:32:55 PM »
Karen, my post wasn't a reply to you or anyone else in particular.  There may well be some wiggle room to make puzzles edgier.  The point is you won't know unless you find a buyer up front.  There's been a lot of talk about AAA.  I'm guessing they'd be all in favor of the breakfast test.  A different buyer might feel otherwise.

As for the other demands of the top-tier editors out there, I listed some of them so that everyone would be aware of current standards.  You have to know what those are before you decide which you want to deviate from.

Nancy Salomon

kasemenova

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Re: "Dumb Rules" and organization matters, cont..
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2009, 02:24:02 PM »
Hey Nancy--

I wasn't taking it personally, just trying to make clear that I wasn't trying to burn the house down.

And, I completely agree: an AAA book would have to be traditional. In fact, I would wager that some editor out there, who has been watching this discussion, is considering mentioning this idea to his marketing or sales department once it's clear that it's not going anywhere here. (I'm not slamming anybody's ethics!) It's a good idea, and there are plenty of folks who are very well set-up all ready to execute it. That's why I've turned my attention to organizational matters, because unless we try to put something together in that sense, the details of the puzzles don't much matter.

Karen

 

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