Jim Oestreich, a longtime critic and editor at the New York Times, former mainstay of Wisconsin college football, announced yesterday that he would leave the paper at the end of the month. "I am excited about the prospect (finally) of balancing my life with a bit of teaching, other writing and maybe even a book project," he wrote, in an e-mail to colleagues. I'd like to pay personal tribute to a boss-turned-friend who supported and shaped my work when I first stumbled into criticism. Having a slow writerly metabolism, I was generally unhappy with the quick pace of the Times, but Jim gave me time to ponder Nordic symphonies, composer graves, and other odd obsessions. A Sunday piece that I wrote in the summer of 1995 became the germ of my book The Rest Is Noise; his avid interest made me think that I was onto something. More importantly, Jim unleashed on an unsuspecting world the essayistic brilliance of Richard Taruskin, first in Opus magazine and then at the Times. He has cultivated many other writers from the musicological field, showing that scholarship and journalism need not be poles apart. He has intensified the paper's coverage of early music and tirelessly fought the neverending battle for space. Although I'm confident that the Times can find an editor-critic to carry on what Jim has achieved, he will in many ways prove irreplaceable. My gratitude is very deep.