Tom Richards

This Sunday’s Puzzler Was Deadly—What Happened to Will Shortz?

Will Shortz played a prank on NPR that Tom Richards wished had been true; this caused him to think of similar people (and things) who can also kiss off into the air.


“Will Shortz, self-proclaimed puzzle master, died last night in a paragraph-long palindrome accident. He is survived by his Freddie Mercury mustache.”

Okay, I made some of that up, but what is true is that Will Shortz is dead … to me!

On the first day of April of this year, Mr. Shortz and NPR Weekend Edition Sunday host Lourdes Garcia-Navarro pulled a practical joke claiming that the popular segment “Sunday Puzzle” would be ending right away due to declining ratings. I was standing in my kitchen in my underwear barely listening to the radio while ironing shirts and my ears immediately perked up when I heard those words and I almost spilled my whiskey sour. I am susceptible to tricks such as this because I am secretly a hopeful person and I hoped against hope that this dreadful segment would be ending once and for all.

I was wrong. It was April Fool’s Day and I was their April fool.

I can barely tolerate Will Shortz’s voice and drab delivery. Listening to him reminds me of my dreadful days in community theater. I know that many of you out there, without much of a life and most likely residing in the “middle of the country,” or in Portland, Boise, or Brooklyn, like Will Shortz. Research has shown that this is because you have some type of college education but no social skills or friends to speak of. I could continue my hateful rant against the prolifically boring Mr. Shortz (yes, I understand that “hate” is a strong word, but it is accurate here and that is what I am going for right now), but it doesn’t matter because most of us have those persons and “personalities” who, to us, are as excruciatingly irritating as fingernails down a chalkboard (or Trump in the White House) and although our reasoning seems reasonable to us, others can see the spittle at the corners of our mouth.


I can barely tolerate Will Shortz’s voice and drab delivery. Listening to him reminds me of my dreadful days in community theater.


Let me take this opportunity to start a “discussion” (you’re wrong, by the way) concerning those that we hate beyond our own convoluted reasoning which is often aided by an inebriated or altered state, or misguided looks inward at the general state of our own lives:

Kai Ryssdal – Host and senior editor of NPR’s Marketplace. All I can say is that his unctuous voice sounds about as sincere as a televangelist asking for our forgiveness (and money) for his latest transgression (e.g., Jim Bakker).

Tom Hanks – I will never forget nor forgive his performance as the slow-thinking, developmentally-challenged Forrest Gump. I am foaming at the mouth right now just thinking about it. I have spent my entire life around this community and I can’t imagine any advocates of the developmentally delayed not hyperventilating at the sight of T.H. or the hint of his chortling laugh.

Scott Simon – I obviously listen to way too much public radio. I am convinced that this smarmy, insincere, rabid patriot, stevia-sweet radio host is a secret fan of Ayn Rand and Joseph McCarthy.

So, that’s my short list. Sorry it is all white dudes, but if we had more diversity in the world my list would reflect this.

By the way, I also can’t stand:

  • novelist David James Duncan
  • essayist Anne Lamott (beyond her first paragraph in Bird by Bird)
  • Oprah
  • Martha Stewart
  • Lars Larson
  • the Pulitzer Prize for Literature
  • Tom Brady and the entire New England Patriots football team
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Barry Bonds
  • Mark McGwire
  • Pete Rose
  • Richard Nixon
  • Paris Hilton
  • any Jenner or Kardashian
  • talk show hosts named Jim or Jimmy
  • reality television (with the exception of Storage Wars)
  • Ann Coulter (sometimes goes by the name of Laura Ingraham)
  • Juan Williams
  • Kanye West
  • Wyoming
  • stock brokers
  • real estate agents
  • new potato chip flavors
  • the bumper sticker “Reading is Sexy”
  • Arby’s
  • hipsters
  • yuppies
  • gentrification
  • chain stores other than the Dollar Store
  • and the internet (with the exception of

Thank you, I’m glad you agree.


Tom Richards

Tom Richards published poetry in the Writers’ Collective Anthology and has twice been Writer in Residence at Mother Foucault’s Books in Portland, Oregon. He was a contributing writer in the Word & Hand 2 book and published and edited The Portland Permanent Press, a monthly comedy and humor magazine with Joe Sacco. He was also the curator and head writer for The Faux Museum in Portland. Richards has written for the Willamette Week and The Oregonian in Portland and had a monthly column in the Paperback Jukebox called Last First Thursday. His first book Thirst for Beginners; Poetry, Prose, and Quizzes will be published by University of Hell Press in 2019. He is the writer and vocalist for Philip K. Moby Dick Clark Five.

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