Professor’s blog helps crossword fans fill in the blanks
Michael Sharp, a Binghamton University scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature, may now be better known by his online moniker, Rex Parker. Some 20,000 readers a day flock to his blog, Rex Parker Does The New York Times Crossword, in search of answers about the puzzle, his idiosyncratic take on its clues, quality and level of difficulty and, perhaps most important, an opportunity to interact with other crossword fanatics.
“I feel like I’m maintaining a community, a place where people can come and talk about the puzzle,” Sharp said.
Sharp works on the blog, which he began five years ago, for an hour or two each day. It might take some people that long just to complete the puzzle, but he can do even the toughest ones in 10 or 15 minutes. (A typical Monday puzzle, the easiest of the week, might be a three-minute challenge for him.)
When Sharp joined Binghamton’s faculty in 1999, a more conventional academic career seemed to lie ahead. Life as Rex Parker has taken him off that course.
But Sharp still teaches Medieval, Renaissance and Arthurian literature, and he does see ways in which blogging informs that work. “I hope in some way that my approach to teaching is what I do in my own writing,” he says. “You need to be serious about your writing and dot your I’s and cross your T’s. On the other hand, you need to not be bound by conventions and what’s safe, what’s established. There are a lot of reasons, not least of which is that you will be bored. And if you are bored, your readers are going to be bored. You need to take some risks. I try to encourage people to be both serious about their work and daring in terms of how they express it.”
Watch Rex Parker solve a puzzle in the video below: