guy for journalists looking to write about crosswording; it has gotten local and UP member Michael Sharp national coverage, includloves to be stumped, tripped up and ing stories in New York otherwise befuddled by crossword Sun and Vancouver Sun. clues — especially when the Not bad for a longtime answer is an obscure word or referSHARP’S FIVE TIPS FOR NOVICE PUZZLERS: crossword aficionado who ence or, better yet, includes his hid behind a nom de plume favorite letter, the letter k. 1. Start by doing the Monday and Tuesday puzzles in — a “beach name” he Unlike most people, that’s a the New York Times, which are much easier than puzzles made up on vacation with problem for Sharp. It just doesn’t on Friday and Saturday. “Working easy puzzles is the his wife and friends in happen to him that often. best way to start.” Hawaii — on the blog to That’s because Sharp, an assistant 2. Practice. For a fee, the New York Times Web site avoid any potential embarprofessor of English at the ( offers puzzles that date back for rassment. He’s no longer worUniversity of Binghamton, is a more than a decade. A free classic crossword is availried about exposure; his true crossword-solving superstar, particable every week on the site. USA Today, the Los Angeles identity became known several ularly when he sets his sights on Times and other newspapers have free daily online months ago. the New York Times crossword — crosswords for puzzlers to work. “Originally, I started doing the which he does daily. 3. Work the down clues. If you get an across clue, blog to see what one would look Not only does he solve the immediately work the cross down. “Use the information like to use in class,” said Sharp, puzzle, Sharp shares his success you have to build on what you have.” a UUPer since 1999. each day with thousands of puzzled 4. Don’t give up. “A reasonably educated person “Crosswords were something puzzlers who log on to his popular knows 95 percent of the words used in any puzzle. Stick that I was authoritative about. I crossword blog, “Rex Parker Does with it, that’s how you get better.” felt I could write short bits and the New York Times Crossword 5. Going to Sharp’s blog for answers isn’t cheating. be funny, but I never thought I’d Puzzle” for answers. “My attitude is it’s never cheating unless you’re pretendhave an audience. And has he got answers. ing that you didn’t cheat. I don’t Google for answers “But I didn’t count on two After he solves the puzzles — unless I’m absolutely stumped.” things: people using Google to which can take him anywhere from find answers and using it again about three to 20 minutes dependHis readers appreciate his humor and, six weeks later when puzzles hit syndicaing on a crossword’s difficulty level — he more importantly, his answers. Since starting tion,” he continued. “Gradually, word of posts his completed grid on his blog the the blog ( mouth about the blog and the Google effect same morning it appears in the Times. two years ago, Sharp said he averages 9,000 made it grow, and users keep going up. It Along with his answers, Sharp rates the unique users a day; that number spiked to continues to shock me.” puzzle based on difficulty (easy, medium, 13,000 users on a weekend in late March. challenging). He critiques the clues and QUICK SOLVER Will Shortz, the Times’ crossword page edisometimes uses a photo, movie clip or A crossword fan since college, Sharp — tor, and television star Anne Meara are fans. sound clip to illustrate obscure words or who calls himself the “King of Cross The blog has also made him the go-to pop culture references that delight him.


‘King of Cross World’

UUPer Michael Sharp’s crossword puzzle blog has all the answers

UUPer Michael Sharp of Binghamton shows off the crossword blog he created under the nom de plume Rex Parker, the “beach name” he coined on vacation. World” — has sharpened his skills to where he routinely blazes through Monday and Tuesday Times puzzles in five minutes or less; the puzzles are easiest on Monday and get progressively harder. He broke his own personal record March 31, solving a Monday puzzle in two minutes, 48 seconds. According to Shortz, two minutes, six seconds is the fastest anyone has completed a Monday Times puzzle. “Before the Internet, crosswords were meant as solitary endeavors,” he said. “The idea that you could talk to thousands about things in a puzzle, that’s something only the Internet can do.” Sharp said he’s received gifts (continued from page 13) powerful, positive role Fair Trade plays in their lives. “They told us how Fair Trade has improved their lives, how it has allowed them to send some of their children to university,” he said. Sure, it costs a little more to buy Fair Trade coffee, tea or candy. But from appreciative readers for his help. Still, he’s not perfect, even though he placed 55th out of 700 contestants in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March 2008 in New York City. “Once a month, I can’t finish a puzzle or I have a mistake,” he said. “It’s a great thing because my readers educate me. They’ll send me to different Web sites for answers.” And if he’s lucky, the answers will include the letter k. “I’d write a book about the letter k if I could,” he said, laughing. “That’s the beauty, that k can get lost in a word like ‘know’ but in a crossword can come out in a word, like ‘ewok.’ K words are wacky.”

(continued from page 11) much for her constituents without the armor of tenure,” Oswego Chapter President Charles Spector praised her persistence in securing salary increases for summer school and part-time instructors. “Lori never allowed us to take this issue off the table” at labor/management meetings, Spector said. “She is relentless and
14 I THE VOICE September 2008

Part-timers ...

extremely effective.” Nash has been the chapter part-time concerns representative since 2005, and is on the union’s statewide Part-time Concerns Committee. She also organized the chapter’s first Campus Equity Week event last fall, and is a regular contributor to the chapter newsletter. Nash and Berger are UUP academic

delegates from their respective chapters. “Both of this year’s recipients have worked tirelessly on behalf of their sisters and brothers at the state university, with great dedication but little fanfare,” said UUP President Phillip Smith. “This award is our way of saying ‘thanks’ for all you do.”

Fair Trade ...

— Michael Lisi

— Karen L. Mattison

the ripple effect of that purchase is remarkable, said Quinn. “I really think (Fair Trade) extends the union’s social justice philosophy,” he said. “You’re investing your money. It helps raise the standard of living and it supports the rights of workers in countries around the world.”

— Michael Lisi

very year, the state university and numerous academic and professional organizations honor hundreds of UUP members for their excellence. The Voice is pleased to recognize some of these members here. • Sharon Danoff-Burg, a psychology professor at SUNY Albany, received both the 2008 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Danoff-Burg has been teaching at UAlbany since 1999. She is currently the psychology’s department’s director of graduate studies, and she has served on 20 doctoral dissertation committees and 23 master’s thesis committees. In addition, Danoff-Burg has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and eight book chapters. She is also co-author of an instructor’s manual DANOFF-BURG for a commonly used textbook in abnormal psychology. • Hassaram Bakhru, director of UAlbany’s Ion Beam Laboratories and chair of the Faculty Council in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, recently received the Collins Fellow Award. The award recognizes outstanding service to the institution. Bakhru has taught more than 160 courses since coming to Albany in 1970. He also has an BAKHRU extensive record of publications and awards. • Ho Hun Leung, an associate professor of sociology at SUNY Oneonta and chair of the Steering Committee of the Center for Social Science Research, received the college’s 2008 Susan Sutton Smith Award. The award was established in 1998 by the parents of the late Susan Sutton Smith, an Oneonta English professor. It honors LEUNG exceptional faculty achievement in research, scholarship or art. • UUP delegate Roger Drumm, an associate professor in the building trades department at SUNY Alfred, earned the Alfred Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Award. Drumm was nominated by students from Alfred for his major influence on them, and helping them achieve their educational goals. Drumm has been a SUNY Alfred faculty member since 1984, and DRUMM he has an associate degree in occupational studies from Alfred.
— Julia Patane
September 2008 THE VOICE I 15





Spotlight on UUPers