Letters to the Editor

Week of Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Let Me Tell You (from editor John Mecklin)

Because I'm a recovered crossword puzzle fan -- I used to see pink elephants dancing the tango if I missed a day of the New York Times' version -- I was secretly hoping we'd receive an avalanche of cheeky literary complaints when I canceled the supposedly hip Jonesin' puzzle we'd been publishing. After all, one of my reasons for discontinuing the crossword was irritation at not having had a single reader -- nay, a single living being -- say anything about it, good, bad, or indifferent. Now, you must understand. I can't go to a party (or even to the corner store, it sometimes seems) without some San Franciscan giving me, in great detail, his or her opinion about the insufficient quality of this or that aspect of SF Weekly. I have become accustomed to the widespread belief that even our best articles could be improved, if only I'd listen to and act upon the ideas of someone I don't know who is blocking the door of my local bodega. I have, in fact, come to be charmed by this generalized investment in the Weekly oeuvre. It warms my soul, this knowledge that people care enough about the paper I edit to drown me in unsolicited advice.

Over the months, then, the apparent indifference to Jonesin' became worrisome, then bothersome, and, finally, infuriating. So I spiked it. Weeks later, when we finally got a letter or two about Jonesin's disappearance, I ran an editor's note saying the puzzle was gone because no one cared about it -- and the sum total of response to the cancellation, which added up to one "very ... tiny ... peep," proved that no one cared. I figured this deliberate provocation would draw reams of witty vituperation from the huge crossword puzzle community I was sure existed in San Francisco.

Nah. We just got this kind of stuff:

No:OK, was that a loud enough peep? I've been going through withdrawal and meaning to write. The fact that nobody had written about it previously doesn't mean people didn't like it. A crossword just isn't controversial like an article is.

You do it, you enjoy it, you look forward to the next one. It never occurred to me to write and say, "I like this, keep it up." But anyway, I miss it, bring it back!

Carol David
Berkeley
Bring back the dumb puzzle that nauseates:Hey, what happened to Jonesin'? After the first couple of days in the week, the NY Times crossword in the daily paper gets too difficult. That made Jonesin'especially sweet when your paper came out on Wednesday. I haven't seen the crossword in any of the other weeklies in the Bay Area, so I always found it a nice highlight of SF Weekly. Would it be too much trouble to ask for it back? I never felt like it took up too much room, and it always cheered me up on Wednesday afternoons during my long bus commute home. I eventually get carsick, but hey, it's worth it to me.

Nancy Chan
San Leandro

Since I arrived in town some seven years ago, one person has come -- in a very strange way -- to personify the intense, possessive connection to SF Weeklythat I mentioned above. Oddly enough, this person heads up our nominal competition, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. You probably know of Bruce Brugmann; he's the large, white-bearded guy who plasters pictures of his head all over town whenever ego overwhelms sense. Mr. Brugmann never seems to tire of sending e-mail messages, notes, packages, and all sorts of other detritus to me; to many of my colleagues at the Weekly; to a wide assortment of bemused folks employed across our parent company, New Times; and, I'm sure, to many, many other people in San Francisco, throughout California, and across America. Along with a vast catalog of complaints about the satanic nature of the Weeklyand New Times, these messages evince a passionate focus on the Weekly's content, and a very San Franciscan certitude that the Weeklywould be a much, much better paper if only I ran it according to the dictates of Mr. Brugmann.

For the last 10 months or so, Mr. Brugmann's missives have focused (to the extent they can be said to focus) on what he views as the Weekly's insufficiently anti-Iraq War stance. Here's a semicoherent part of the latest installment in this odd campaign:

Journalistic greatness, defined: Everyone runs the same story, simultaneously:Did any New Times paper run the specially commissioned [Association of Alternative Newsweeklies] story on Iraq? Our check this morning of 11 New Times papers, including SF Weekly and East Bay Express, showed that none of them ran the story or any story on Iraq in their papers or on their Web sites. Did any paper run anything? If not, why not? ... Did corporate headquarters in Phoenix make the decision that none of its papers could run the AAN story? What is the New Times policy on Iraq? I would appreciate answers to these questions ....

B3 in S.F.
Potrero Hill

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