Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Last week, I was browsing through my sitemeter stats and happened to notice that a lot of people were finding my blog through a keyword search of "Sartre's huh." How bizarre. If it had only come up once, I might not have been so surprised that someone had actually clicked on the URL that led them to this post of mine. Not that that wouldn't be puzzling. I'm always puzzled by people who seem to be seeking some sort of specific definition or answer to a question and decide they could possibly find it through a blog called "Telecommuter Talk." More puzzling, however, was why so many people were searching for "Sartre's huh."

At first, I thought maybe some professor had taken some obscure line from Sartre and asked students to expound on it. "Huh" would be kind of an odd line, but, you know, well, this is Sartre. Maybe there is some sort of existential angst hidden behind the way one of his characters utters "huh?" when he ought to say "what?" or even a more polite "pardon me?" But no, I quickly discovered that the queries weren't all coming from yale or berkeley.edu. As a matter of fact, they weren't even all coming from the same geographical location.

Curiosity, which is almost guaranteed to do so, finally got the better of me, and I decided to do my own keyword search for "Sartre's huh" (and you wonder how those of us who are unemployed manage to fill our days). Guess what I discovered. "Sartre's huh" was a Los Angeles Time's crossword puzzle clue on Sunday May 10th. I also discovered that there are people out there who have created entire blogs devoted to going through every clue of the day's crossword puzzle and providing the answers as well as commentary.

Well, I don't know about you, but if I ever worry that I'm boring people to tears with all the navel gazing I do on my blog, all I need do is remind myself that these other blogs exist. I can also now feel good about wasting my time taking stupid Facebook quizzes. At least I'm not "double-doing" crossword puzzles, which must be awfully time-consuming.

But let's leave that poor blogger to the invigorating task of crossword clue commentary and consider, for a moment, all those who were looking for the answer to "Sartre's huh." I'm someone who has been known to dabble in crossword-puzzle-solving from time-to-time. This means I can usually complete the Monday and Tuesday NYT puzzles. Forget Saturday. And if I don't happen to figure out at first glance what the theme for the Sunday puzzle is, I'll be lucky to get ten clues correct.

Someone once gave me a crossword puzzle dictionary, which I found kind of fun to read, but which turned out to be pretty useless when it came to solving actual puzzles. You see, as any puzzle aficionado will tell you, crosswords are much more about thinking a certain way, figuring out the way the creator's mind works, and not so much about knowing a five-letter word for "finger." I kept the dictionary, but I haven't looked at it in ages.

I think, more than usefulness, my problem with the dictionary is that I've always seen it as cheating somehow, only one step down from looking at an answer grid. I suppose it's the Puritan element that lingers in me, handed down from that branch of the family that came from New England, but I'm a purist when it comes to puzzle-solving. I'd rather leave half (or 3/4) of the grid blank than "cheat" by looking up the answers.

So, now I discover that all these crossword puzzle solvers are turning to the Internet for their answers. As Sartre would say, "Quoi?" How can that be any fun? I can't imagine getting any satisfaction from solving a puzzle that way, knowing that all you did was look up all the answers. I also can't imagine that those who write the puzzles aren't becoming more and more creative in coming up with clues that can't easily be searched online, which means pretty soon, I probably won't even be able to do the Monday puzzle. Oh well, I guess that will leave me more time for taking stupid Facebook quizzes.


ZoesMom said...

Too funny. I once wrote a post about Dakota Fanning being over-exposed. My blog gets the most hits in searches for Dakota Fanning. It is silly when you realize stuff like that.

I feel the same way about crossword puzzle cheating.

Courtney said...

How funny - I never look up answers to crosswords either for the very same reason. I have left so many NYTimes Sunday crosword puzzles 1/2 done because of this but I simply could never bring myself to do a google search!

Rebecca H. said...

I've only ever looked up the answer to a crossword puzzle when Hobgoblin and I came close to finishing a Saturday NYT puzzle, and since it was Saturday, cheating seemed okay. But that was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, and usually I get stuck around Wednesday or Thursday. Hmmm ... maybe I should take up crossword puzzles again this summer ...

Watson Woodworth said...

I have a sitemeter but am often loath to use it.
Something about being afraid to peek behind the curtain.
Also I stay well clear of local bloggers I am not personally friends with.
The digital community in collegeland can be a mean & nasty place.

litlove said...

Funny! I don't do crosswords, so that's that. Don't talk to me about facebook, though. I got hacked and spammed yesterday and talk about hassle! I nearly closed my account down completely with the trauma of it all.

Emily Barton said...

ZM, it seems people use my blog most to look up answers to the two math questions about which I've written posts (more cheating).

Court, of course, I HAVE been known to turn to Bob and ask, "Who played for [team of choice] in 1986 whose first name was "Rich?" But then, that's "doing the crossword together," not cheating.

Nigel, oh no, I wouldn't want to hang out in digital collegeland (and am very glad none of those sorts seems to have found my little blog).

Litlove, you're not the only one. Another friend of mine was hit this past week, too, and his response was the same: he nearly closed his account. I hope the problem is all resolved for you now.

Stefanie said...

I'm not a crossword puzzle person but your post made me laugh. Aren't the search terms people find your blog with funny sometimes? I like to imagine how disappointed the person is when they click through and find out things were not what they expected.