What Broadway has in common with crossword puzzles.

I did something crazy the other day.

I read a newspaper.

Not a kindle version.  Not the .com version.  No.  I picked up and read an actual, ink comes off on your fingers, NY Times.  (I didn’t pay for it, however – it came to my hotel room door, so there’s that.)

As I turned and folded the big gray pages, I couldn’t help but notice the large section devoted to The Crossword Puzzle.  That sucker takes up a lot of space!  And it’s space that could be sold as advertising.  Certainly they could shrink the puzzle a bit, and squeeze in another 1 x 2.

But nope.  The Puzzle, as well as a couple of other word games, just sits there like a big, old, stubborn bull, basking in the sunlight on a warm summer day.

Obviously that Puzzle is popular.  Seriously popular.  (And if you don’t believe me, watch this doc.)

And, here’s the kicker . . . obviously that puzzle is even more popular in print than online.

Let me ask you . . . if you had a choice of doing the puzzle on your computer . . . or by grabbing a pencil (or a pen, if you think you’re a real smarty), and digging in, which would you choose?

You’d go with the paper version, wouldn’t you?  You’d choose the live, tactile, problem solving, paper version, over the impersonal, tech version, even if it included clues and easy deletes, and so on, right?

Same goes for chess.  Any chess players out there?  Which would you rather play with, a friend . . . a 2-D flat screen computer version?  Or would you rather feel those pieces in your hand, and watch your opponent furrow his or her brow over those 64 squares right in front of you?

How about board games?  Or cards?

See where I’m going with this?

Despite the supreme technological advances over the past 10 years . . . there are certain things that people would still rather do live . . . no matter how much easier they are made for us online.  And that ain’t gonna change.

And the theater is the same.

Sure, pretty soon we’ll be able to get entertainment beamed to just about any device we want, anywhere in the world, at any time (Google Glass, anyone?).

But in my mind, that will only make what we do more rare, and therefore more valuable.

We’re just as stubborn as the big, old, crossword puzzle, and I don’t think we’ll ever get out of the paper.

Unless the paper disappears out from under us entirely.


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  • Kevin Lambert says:

    Do not even JOKE about taking away my New York Times Crossword puzzle. I do it on my iPad ONLY if I am somewhere I can’t get a hard copy.

  • Rich says:

    My wife and I shared the Sunday ritual of collaborating on the NYT Crossword, that is, until we gave up on the Times entirely. Relating all of this to Broadway, one day real, in-the-flesh actors will be vying for audience mindshare with 3-dimensional holograms – cavorting on the same stages! Will be a true test of high tech vs. high touch!

  • Jadamdstamm says:

    I live in the mountains of Oregon and don’t want to spend the bucks for home delivery so I spend the bucks getting the puzzles on line – downloading the week on Sat. and doing them thru the week- does this count.

  • Your copy of the Times was comped, as you said. The physical paper IS going away, even if the crossword puzzles survive. The public’s love of tactile puzzles is not a lot to hang Broadway’s hats on.

  • Excellent analogy.

    But no, you can’t shrink the crossword puzzle. If you do, the clues become too small to read and when you write in the squares, you cover up the numbers.

  • Ron Katz says:

    I’ve been doing the NYT puzzle in ink for about 40 years. I was told doing it in pencil is a sign of weakness. By a girl I was dating in college so you understand.

    The theatre and the crossword puzzle both require a person to focus, concentrate, and be involved until the answers become clear and the puzzle, or the play, is complete. These are traits that are in short supply in the next generation of theatre-goers. I doubt that live theatre will become extinct. I’m not so sure about newsprint newspapers. But I do believe that we need to integrate new technology into the theatre so Broadway doesn’t become a museum for old musicals.

    That being said, I hope we don’t have holograms onstage.

  • Must EVERYTHING be sacrificed in the name of the Almighty Profit Dollar???? Cut the size of the puzzle page so MORE advertisements can be sold??
    Isn’t there a satisfying value in physically holding a pencil and actually writing something down without some machine between you and your thoughts? Same thing as seeing real people actually speak real words from a theater stage. I don’t want to see just an image of a character, but the actual physical character.

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