* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your number one source for finding a great apartment in the big city! Eric Feurer has your back.

Big City Apartment Hunting

By: Eric Feurer


Hi! Looking for a 7th roommate in our 2 bedroom, half bath war-torn industrial goblin workshop. Exposed brick!

ME — A 19-year-old who knits beer koozies part-time and suffers from “night wailing.”

YOU — a dumb bag of cash with a nine-to-nine job and a dust buster for a mouth.

Room comes fully furnished with three quarters of a bed and the hand monster from Pan’s Labyrinth.

Looking for first month, last month, security, and all between months up front. Plenty of light though a window that shows you what your life would have looked like if you hadn’t moved to New York.

Pets okay! We have a 30 ft. ball python named “Chub” and he mostly sleeps with his eyes open.

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Looking for someone to take over the last 33 months of my lease, as I met a girl last night and we are getting married.

Location, location, location! This apartment is in a location. It’s just off the M80 exploding bus line, and a quick ten-minute walk to anything that’s about ten minutes away. There’s a laundromat on the corner, if the sinkhole hasn’t taken it yet.

Your room is the crevice under the refrigerator. It’s cozy, but trust me it fits a full-sized bed if you first burn it to ash.

My current roommates are two young professional Australian Goliath Bird-eating Tarantulas disguised as people. They love a quiet night in just as much as heading to the club and snatching up a pigeon on the way home.

Serious inquiries only! Looking for someone who’s clean, respectful, and preferably not a spider-eating snake or a New Zealander.

Credit check and fight to the death required, guarantors and vassal champions accepted.

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Prorating the southwest corner of my living room for the remainder of the month. Comes furnished with a tapestry that smells like a dead tapestry and two walls that meet at a 90-degree angle — perfect for escaping the city and resting your forehead!

Again, this is just for the corner of my living room. Be respectful! You MUST face the wall no matter what noises you hear behind you.

Landlord lives on the second floor. She is a cocktail of unstable chemicals poured into a shook-up bottle of cooking sherry, so don’t bring the party home.

You’ll be sharing your bathroom with me and an unexploded WW2 naval mine. The bathtub is big! A horse gave birth in it last week no problem.

$500 security deposit, as the last renter left a stain on the wall from his skin oil.

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Hello! Looking for a 3rd roommate in our three-room, three-bath presidential penthouse suite!

We are both hardworking but fun-loving 20-somethings made of David Bowie’s laughter and miscellaneous starstuff! We’re gone most of the day, as my current roommate is a keg of delicious beer that never runs dry and I work full-time absorbing the sun’s light and turning it into chill vibes.

The room is spacious, bright, and gives you huge orgasms whenever you clap your hands. The windows face all of the cute parts of Paddington Bear 2.

Comes with:

*Central air

*Marble countertops

*A washing machine

*A wishing machine

*A doorman

*All-you-can-eat pancakes

*The COOL members of The Black Eyed Peas

*A successful kickstarter campaign

*A magic closet that’s bigger on the inside than the outside

*Back yard access

*Too many bitcoins

*Reclaimed wood floors

Sound good? If you’re 420-friendly, can provide proof of income, and are a fellow hardcore Nazi sympathizer, msg me for details!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is a little like Lake Wobegon in the sense that all of our children are above average. Or so we'd like to believe. Just ask Sally Miller.

What To Do When You Learn That Your Gifted Child Did Not Test As Gifted: FAQs

By: Sally Miller

First let us offer you our sincerest sympathies in these difficult times. We here at the Testing Center of Gifted and Talented Children are well aware of the emotional distress caused upon discovering that your child, while of course very special (to you — and that’s why you told everyone about it at birthday parties), is not in fact gifted, highly gifted, talented, highly talented, highly proficient, visionary, extraordinary, quite clever, exceptional, 6 going on 30, or your “little philosopher.”

Below we answer some commonly asked questions parents have upon receiving their child’s test results.

How did we get here? How is this possible?

Often well-meaning parents will misidentify their child as gifted by misreading common signs. When your child seemed bored in class it was actually because (s)he was daydreaming about his/her lunchables and not because (s)he was mulling over how to restore damage caused by the current Trump administration, composing a sequel to Hamilton, or wondering when the producers of This American Life will greenlight his/her new podcast.

But his grandparents said it, too!

Yes, of course they did.

What will I talk about at the PTA bake sales, book club, birthday parties, or in the Whole Foods checkout line?

While it will be tricky to find other topics of conversation, we offer some talking points to deflect from questions about your child’s average intelligence and test result scores. For instance, “Does this have gluten?” is always a good conversation starter. It can be used in all aforementioned scenarios. Once you have mentioned your gluten allergies, you will be able to discuss a myriad of gluten-related subjects. If there are no snacks at the book club, ponder over a character’s food allergies.

Perhaps it’s Einstein Syndrome?

Clutch onto this idea like your child did to your breast at age four.

But what about those monogrammed preschool alphabet block letters from DwellStudio that (s)he put in order?

A parent should ask her/himself just how much they “adjusted” a “couple” of blocks for an Instagram and/or facebook #momslittlegenius post.

What does this mean for my marriage?

Sometimes this new information can lead to more questions, blame, and eventually divorce. Who is responsible for the child’s average intelligence? Maybe you should have married someone with a PhD? Why did you let her have wine at the baby shower? Was his recreational marijuana use really recreational? To understand what it means for YOUR marriage, we recommend that you take the couples’ test “I just learned that my child is not gifted, what does this mean for my marriage?”

Will my child now be in classes with the same children I pointed out as average?

It is not uncommon for your child to remain in classes with other ordinary, mundane, unexceptional children. The curriculum will be the same for your child as all the others. However, take solace in the fact that your first-grader may still remain in extracurricular activities such as SAT, GRE and STaR test preps, weekend trips to tour Ivy League colleges, auditing classes at your nearest private university, and working with a tutor on perfecting his/her college personal statement essay.

Does this mean that I am not gifted?

You are also probably of average intelligence. However, we recommend that you take the parent test offered by our Testing Center of Gifted and Talented Children’s Parents to confirm.

Were all those Facebook Quiz results not accurate?

No. They were not.

Who do I contact to sue the testing center for giving us the wrong test results?

We suggest consulting LegalZoom.

While we cannot guarantee lifelong success for your child, you may be comforted with the idea that your child could overcome intellectual adversities. It is possible that (s)he may go on to write a memoir (turned film) about a young child who was deemed average, but then with lots of hard work, determination, and the removal of sugar, screen time and childhood joy, became a genius MIT math professor with crippling mental illness brought on by overbearing parents. Sundance will call it a “tour de force.”

For more questions, please call our 24-hour emergency crisis hotline.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where even such an innocent pastime as the New York Times Crossword Puzzle can be fraught with otherworldly paranoia. Enjoy the stressed-out psyche of Dan Caprera!

Unfortunately, We Will Be Unable To Publish Your Crossword Puzzle: “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of”

By: Dan Caprera

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your submission to the New York Times daily crossword. Every week we receive hundreds of outstanding puzzle submissions and we wish that we could publish them all. Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that, at this time, we will be unable to publish your most recent submission, a crossword puzzle that you’ve titled “The One Thing I’m Afraid Of.”

This decision was based on several key factors:

First off, although the NYT crossword is known for the exacting difficulty of its clues, we here at the Times were worried that some of your answers were both inordinately difficult and extraordinarily subjective. Usually, the solution to a crossword clue should be something in the public vernacular, something like “TACO” or “BOOMERANG.”

Meanwhile, in your puzzle you had clues such as:

  • 2 down — An emotion I’m currently experiencing.
  • 30 across — My greatest fear.
  • 74 across — The place I dare not go.

According to your submission, the answers to these clues should be, respectively, “FEAR,” “THE SHADOW MAN” and “MY DREAMS.” However, at the risk of being overly blunt, I believe that these answers would be exceedingly difficult for any one person to solve on their own.

Another quibble I had with your submission is that, preferably, you should not repeat any of your answers. For example, if a crossword used the word “OREO” as a solution, it would (hopefully) only use that answer once.

Sadly, you have used the same exact answer an unprecedented four different times. Consider for a moment your puzzle’s following clues:

  • 3 down — His name.
  • 15 across — The name of my fear.
  • 50 down — The shadow-man who found me in my dreams and compelled me to make this crossword puzzle so that the world would, at long last, know his name and fear it.
  • 57 across — His NAME!

Sir, in an ideal world, these clues would each have four different, discrete answers. However, in your puzzle, the solution to all four of these clues is, confoundingly, the same exact phrase — more specifically, the name “Harrison Chafitz.”

Now, I personally have never heard of a man called “Harrison Chafitz” before. And neither have any of my extraordinarily qualified colleagues here at the Times, but either way it would still undoubtedly benefit you not to repeat this solution (i.e. “Harrison Chafitz”) with such regularity.

Indeed, dear sir, who is Harrison Chafitz? Why is he so important? And why (why?) have you dedicated an entire crossword puzzle to a quote-unquote “Shadow Man” — a fictitious dream-walker who does not (and, it should be noted, cannot) exist?

As a reader, these were just a few of the many questions your puzzle caused me to ask.

Finally (and this is a very small complaint), while looking over your submission, one of your clues struck me as particularly problematic. Obviously, we here at the Times are unopposed to including, how shall we say, non-traditional answers within our puzzles. For example, the clue “ABC, easy as ___” would have the non-alphabetic answer “123.”

But with that in mind, I would now like you to consider one of the clues you wrote in your puzzle. You wrote:

  • 62 down — Draw his face. Draw his face. Draw the face of Harrison Chafitz. Draw it. Draw it now.

This clue is clearly problematic for several key reasons. Not only does it explicitly reveal the answer to your puzzle’s four longest clues (as mentioned above, the name “Harrison Chafitz” appears four times). But, more importantly, this specific clue relies on your audience’s ability to, ostensibly, draw a scale model of a man’s face within a single crossword square — a feat that most would consider to be difficult, nigh impossible.

In addition (and again, this is very small complaint), but this particular clue does not seem to be related in the slightest to the rest of your puzzle. Especially given that it is enclosed within its own, individual border (see below):

For reference, here is the clue in question:

Making a crossword puzzle is no small feat. And we here at the Times commend your ingenuity and unconventional élan. But regrettably, for all these reasons (and many, many more), we will be unable to run your puzzle within the pages of our lauded publication.

All the best,

Will Shortz, Puzzle Editor of the New York Times 

P.S. If you’re still looking for a publisher, please do try sending your puzzle off to the good folks at the L.A. Times. Those guys’ll publish anything.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which would be sort of like a second home to Michael Fowler, if he had a first home. Anyway, we are always glad to hear from Mike, even if that usually happens through the intervention of a hostage negotiator. When you finish his latest bit of whimsy, check out the link below to purchase his new humor collection, "Nathaniel Hawthorne is Dating my Girlfriend."

Bad Head Days

By: Michael Fowler

It’s a heartbreaker for an old codger like me, who for years had looked forward to baldness to bring an end to his bad hair days, only to find that with baldness come bad head days.

The last few bad hair years were bad enough. During that dreary time my head began to resemble a moldy basketball or a rugged moon surrounded by wispy white clouds. I was the man who grew a crop of anthrax atop his scalp. From the front or rear I formed a Clarabelle the Clown silhouette, or that of a volleyball wearing earmuffs, since most of my remaining hair was on the sides. The few hairs that clung to the top of my crinkled pate often stood straight up as if electrified, having lost their natural resilience and flexibility when in my forties and fifties my essential oils dried up. Nature has a good reason for covering body parts such as my head with hair, I decided, and that is because without concealment the part is hideous. And my covering thinned out and then vanished a while ago, like a herd of mastodon.

It probably didn’t help that for years I washed my hair with harsh hand soap and then combed it with a toothbrush handle. The best thing was to shave off those upright stragglers, but that still left a pockmarked, spotty skull that no cream could restore to a youthful bloom, or even the luster of a cheap wallet. That’s what I face today: a chafed, dented-looking protuberance that nudity has not improved one iota. Perhaps only applications of wood-filler from the home remodeling store would improve its appearance, and so far I’ve refused to try those.

Not being able to enhance my head’s looks, and in despair over having to carry the unsightly orb into public on a daily basis, I do what I call “sweetening the head,” and improve its fragrance. Though it does little to fill in the cracks and fissures, I rub in a couple of drops of my wife’s vanilla bean-scented after-shower lotion when I feel particularly stippled and craggy, so that those who came in close proximity to the head at least don’t need to hold their breath.

My family members, but especially my wife, who must repeatedly spend time in close proximity to the head, sometimes remaining stuck in the car or living room with it for hours on end, have never once had cause to complain about its odor. Others who must approach the head and share a confined space with the nude, flaky entity, such as my dentist, my oral hygienist, my audiologist, my primary care physician, my optometrist, my podiatrist and my sleep apnea specialist, have none of them recoiled from the head, as they might well do if it was odorless or gave off a rank smell in addition to being unsightly. I like to think, though none has commented on the fact, that some of them even enjoy my fragrant knob, and of course I mean the fragrance alone, not the knob itself, which will always be hideous.

Perhaps some of my medical care providers in their closet-size workspaces wonder where the nice aroma is coming from. They may decide it’s me, because no one else happens to be around, but I’m not saying, and certainly I’m not pointing to my head. I’m not much given to such dandified behavior. I haven’t even told my wife that I sweeten myself with her vanilla concoction, fearing she might take it as a sign that next I’ll start wearing her dresses before changing my name to Vanessa.

Since I’m the only one in the know, my health providers would have to guess that it’s my head that smells so good. My dental hygienist, for instance, who practically rubs foreheads with me as she closes in during her probing and scraping chores, perhaps has figured out that it’s my head she has to thank for the whiff of freshness in her workspace. But she hasn’t said anything, and none of my medical attendants, all of them women, has said anything. Perhaps none wants to say, “Egad, your head smells good,” because it would sound odd, or forward.

Or perhaps they are distracted by my strange behavior: being older and subject to confusion, I tend to open wide for the optometrist and look straight ahead for the hygienist. I sometimes announce that my goal in life is to keep food over my head and a roof on my table. But how refreshing it would be if one of my caretakers were to blurt out, “Damn but your noggin smells nice. The last chrome dome we had in here stank so bad we had to throw open a window.”

Whether anyone sniffing around the head ever comments on it doesn’t really matter, though. By sweetening the head, I’ve done what I can to improve the environment, and anyone is free to enjoy or suffer my knob in silence. If there are people who want to disdain a man who goes about with the top of his head smelling like an elderly woman who has just stepped out of the shower, they are free to do so.

I only hope that no one is so disgusted as to lash out at the head, physically or verbally, perhaps in alarm that a mass grave for desiccated hair follicles as unsightly as mine is symptomatic for some awful disease. If anyone calls the first responders or curses me over the head, I’ll pull on a knit cap, tugging it down tight over my ears, and leave it on. I won’t even take it off for my medical appointments.

I end with a heads-up to those young men who can’t wait to experience this disaster, and bald themselves with a razor to be fashionable: for the sake of sufferers like me, don’t.




* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the home of fake news about fake news about fake news. Not to get too meta on you, but check out this example from first-time contributor R. D. Ronstad. On another note, please check out our blog roll on the right-hand side of this page for some new material from Big Jewel copy editor David Jaggard, recorded especially for YouTube. For a preview, you can also check out the link below to his newest comic song, "The Pragmatist's Lament."

I Am Interviewed By The New York Times Book Review For Their By The Book Page

By: R. D. Ronstad

What books are on your night stand now?

I don’t have any books on my night stand. There’s no room, because that’s where I keep my 8×10 framed glossy of Adlai Stevenson. I’m not a big fan or anything. It just helps me nod off. There is an entire Great Books collection in a bookcase behind him in the picture, I think, if that counts. You may be interested to know that I’m contemplating writing a book about my night stand, which I’m quite proud of — the night stand, that is. It would be in the vein of Henry Petroski’s books about such things as pencils and toothpicks, or that book I once saw about the making of a Steinway concert grand. I already have the perfect title: One Night Stand. Actually, I have a lot of good titles in mind, but no books yet.


You’re having a literary dinner party. What three writers are invited?

Amanda McKittrick Ros, William Topaz McGonagall, and Roger Bloomfield, who won first prize in our school’s sixth grade fire safety essay contest even though he didn’t deserve it. I’d invite them because that would make me the smart one in the room. I might have to keep Suzanne Somers warmed up in the bullpen though, just in case — and, yes, I do have a bullpen, out behind the greenhouse. It was there when I bought the place. Weird, huh? Anyway, if this dinner party ever did come to pass, I can guarantee you one thing — Roger Bloomfield is going down!


If you could require the President to read one book, what would it be?

Essential CPR and First Aid. Not only because it’s important for everyone to be informed about CPR and first aid, but also because, if he’s lucky, it could earn him hundreds of thousands of votes somewhere down the line, if you catch my drift.


What books might we be surprised to find in your library?

A book on DIY plumbing in the Malayalam language. I have no idea how it got there, so it still surprises even me.


What kind of reader were you as a child? What were your favorite childhood books?

Oh, I was a voracious reader as a child! I couldn’t ever read without stuffing my face at the same time–licorice, Milk Duds, Jujubes, anything. I was a big Stephen King fan, but my parents wouldn’t let me read The Stand because they were afraid they’d end up having to push me about in a wheelbarrow. My favorite childhood books were a series of baseball books by Duane Decker about a perennial championship baseball team called the Blue Sox. I started reading them hoping there was going to be a lot of dirty talk. But I guess he chose to name them the Blue Sox because Red, White and Black were already taken, and Green Sox sounds like a Rookie League team.


What is the worst book you ever read?

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Anyone who knows anything knows that ducks are more suited to lead a rebellion than pigs, sheep are more pranksters than rebels, and cats, while they may be schemers, are notoriously inept ones. How could an indisputably intelligent man like Orwell have gotten so many things wrong?


What book are you embarrassed not to have read? 

In college, I didn’t read The Education of Henry Adams for my American Literature class because I didn’t think we were going to be tested on it. As you can imagine, I was mightily embarrassed, to say the least, when I found out I was wrong. And still am, sort of.


Last book that made you cry?

War and Peace. About a year ago, I accidentally knocked it off my desk and it landed on my big toe while I was in my stocking feet. I cried like a baby.


Last book that made you laugh?

Also War and Peace, when the same thing happened to my brother. Which just goes to show that Mel Brooks was right about the difference between comedy and tragedy, apparently. My brother thinks I knocked it off my desk on purpose that time, but he’s dead wrong. At any rate, I’m not using War and Peace as a paperweight anymore.