Now that people have calmed down…

About the election, I mean. For the last couple of weeks I have thought of setting up as an election grief counselor, as I have been assailed on all sides by people wanted me to assure them that Obama was still on course to be elected. I stayed calm, wasn’t distracted by the noise, and remained firm in my conviction that we will be inaugurating Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. I don’t think I was just offering easy nostrums — my analysis of the likely result is increasingly being justified by the post-bounce polls.

But now, in addition to my addiction to election news, I am being consumed by torrents of information about the financial crisis. I was a business magazine editor during 1987’s Black Monday, and then again during the East Asian financial crisis of 1997, and then again when Long-Term Capital Management went belly up. None of these events, to my mind, compared in severity to what we’re experiencing now, and — more troubling — none of them were so difficult to figure out.

As Obama said in Elko, Nevada yesterday, there isn’t great difficulty in figuring out how we got here. No need for a commission, which is a proposal I’m sure even John McCain now regrets. What’s difficult is figuring out what happens next. It’s one of the cliches of blogging to quote William Goldman on Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” In this case it’s true. Should I believe doomster Noriel Roubini that it’s the worst crisis since the Great Depression? Or the more cautious pessimism of Martin Wolf? It’s too soon to tell.

What I have decided, however, is to offer a regular distraction for Davos Newbies readers. We all need a break from politics and market ructions. I’ve long been an addict of cryptic crossword puzzles, particularly those published in The Guardian and The Observer. I’ve been disappointed that even word maven friends in the US don’t see the clear superiority of these puzzles over feeble efforts like The New York Times crosswords (not helped, to my mind, by the bumptious Will Shortz). So, starting tomorrow, I’m going to write a series on cryptic crosswords for Americans. Stay tuned.

5 thoughts on “Now that people have calmed down…

  1. Doug

    Tempting. Never had the cultural references to even attempt the British things.

    I wonder if there’s a brief article somewhere on how the cryptic puzzles evolved. It would be interesting to see when the US/UK divergence happened. The German equivalent is even weaker brew than US puzzles, which I generally like. Can’t tell you if there are corresponding puzzles in other languages, but that would be interesting, too.

  2. Nick de Souza

    Hi Lance

    I’m glad you stayed calm. I too think that Obama will not only win the election, but will win in a landslide. How can Pennsylvania be a swing state, as all the pundits are suggesting? It will clearly stay blue.

    Obama has become an excellent candidate – far better than he was 10 months ago. His own calm exterior plays brilliantly to voters who are craving a self-assured president who knows a little bit more than the other guy. He hasn’t done a Kerry and gone hunting.

  3. Peter Biddlecombe

    Really short version of the course: search the internet for ‘cryptic crosswords advice’ or similar, read about the types of clue; and then dive into puzzles. Read about how the answers work on one of the two blogs (“Times for the Times”, “fifteensuqared”) which between them cover the Times, Guardian and Independent plus various other puzzles. Guardian and Independent puzzles are free on their websites in at least some form. Times still requires a sub, or is syndicated in the New York Post. I organise the Times for the Times one and we get comments from some American solvers. There is Brit culture in ’em of course, but not enough to spoil the fun.

  4. Lance Knobel

    Thanks for those pointers, Peter. I agree that people should plunge in. But I’m finding that I meet a lot of people who just can’t get over the initial hurdles. All those years of dumbing down thanks to the NYT and similar has done something to their mental processes.

    In any case, it’s something I want to write for myself as much as for others. Can’t a blogger have some fun?


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