Nothing. That’s what I’ve got today. It happens.
For a couple of years now, there’s been some connection between the I Swear Crossword and this column in any given week. So, having nothing today is actually appropriate, as I am running a puzzle without a theme. There’s a cutting-edge, in-the-news 15-letter phrase across the center of the puzzle. And a half-dozen or so other lively phrases. But no theme.
From time to time I have written a column – usually a week or two before deadline – and then mined it for a crossword puzzle theme. For instance, not long ago I ran a column in which I quoted, from a reader’s email, a comment about a popular comic strip that was discontinued years ago. As I wrote the column, the idea came to me to feature that comic strip in a puzzle theme.
From time to time I’ve gone in the other direction with this process – that is, I’ve written a themed crossword puzzle and then used the theme, or some portion thereof, as the basis for the column. I think, in the writing biz, this is called writing the column to the puzzle. I heard David Rosenfelt say, in his speech at the Clinton School back in April, that he will often write a novel to its book cover. That is, he claims to sometimes having nothing until his publisher sends him a prototype of a cover, subtly suggesting a theme, perhaps.
I am actually writing this column in the living room of my son and daughter-in-law’s home in Atlanta, Ga. I didn’t use an Atlanta dateline since I’m not writing about anything in Atlanta. Indeed, I’m not writing about anything. Because I don’t have anything. Well, I ate a couple of good meals in Atlanta earlier today – lunch at the Piedmont Driving Club and dinner at the Blue Ridge Grill. But you don’t want to read about that any more than I care to write about it.
I’m writing on Sunday night, about 77 hours past deadline. The first paper that prints this column goes online at 12:01 a.m. every Friday. My publisher likes to have the column for layout on Monday before that Friday.
Toward achieving that goal, I was asked at one time to please have my work in by 5 p.m. Friday. I asked who would be working at that time. My suspicion was confirmed: no one who would read my copy.
I suggested a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline – 24 hours earlier – which they were thrilled with. And then I asked when they would tell me I was late – if ever I was late. And they said that I’d probably hear from them if I didn’t have my column in by noon Monday. (They’re so nice!)
I’m going to be on the road all day tomorrow – driving home. I was in another city until this morning. A city that I am using as a dateline for a column I wrote a couple of days ago. But that column’s not ready to see the light of day yet.
Then again, neither is this one.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.