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Listening to Yesterday: Muted Victory

The smile-inducing ditty at the end of a New York Times' online crossword puzzle

  1. a sound cue in an online game
  2. a phone call interruption

xword

The payoff is a split-second filigree from a what appears to be a jazz piano trio. It sounds like the modest backing band to a quiz show or late-night talk show. The celebratory equivalent of a rim-shot, the sound in question is the little ditty that plays at the end of “The Mini” crossword, a daily feature on the website of the New York Times. I recently started doing the Mini in the morning, usually getting it done in under a minute (:54 today), sometimes a little over two minutes. Yesterday it took over 9 minutes, closer to 10. I might have just stopped trying, but I persevered, winding my way through various unfamiliar words — most sports-derived, if memory serves. If anything is going to flummox me, it’s sports-related information. I did take a short call in the middle of the puzzle, and neglected to hit pause on the Times site, so I can let that interruption account for perhaps two minutes of my extended linguistic struggle, brain slowly coming out of its slumber-fog. In the end the disappointment wasn’t that it had taken so long, but that I’d had the computer on mute, which meant that the jazz trio’s flourish never was heard from my laptop’s speakers. Games are games, so this user-experience ditty isn’t a matter of gamification, per se — of the application of game play to other types of activity. But it is a bit like “video-gamification”: the application of video-game elements to non-video games. Not getting to hear the riff after exerting so much effort provided a classic example of adding insult to injury.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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