Ever since I can remember I’ve liked to work crossword puzzles. In the past they’ve always been the ones you get in the newspaper. I steer clear of the Sunday New York Times editions as I find them nearly impossible. One time in a movie the male lead was an extremely smart businessman looking for the right woman. He was shown working the Sunday NY Times mind boggling puzzle in ink! He did manage to meet the girl of his dreams but even she commented, “Well now, that’s just wrong.” (But it was, of course, merely a movie. Surely real people don’t do that.)
If you give me the dailies I do alright. Well I might fudge a little with a dictionary or ask my husband for help but what’s wrong with that? He knows far more than I about WWII planes, roman numerals squared, long gone car makes and models, and anything referencing a computer. But I’m learning, although I don’t necessarily retain those sorts of answers. They take up too much room in my brain. Besides, I can always go back to Ken.
Neither of us is very well versed in rivers and seaports in Asia, rulers of former African tribes, the nieces and nephews of mythological gods, world renowned Chinese archeologists, German physicists who won the Nobel Peace Prize in years past, and the list goes on. With any luck the other words that get filled in are somewhat helpful in their solution. (I never remember the answers to these, either.)
I do remember when I was in my early twenties and waiting for my date to pick me up. To pass the time I started working a puzzle which had some really difficult answers. So I filled in all the easy ones leaving my unfinished work on the coffee table. Arriving home later I found it fully completed. There was a note from my brother saying he’d helped me out by filling in all the answers I didn’t know. Since he wasn’t fond of crosswords and I was convinced he wasn’t THAT smart I puzzled, if ya get my drift, over his uncanny ability. “How’d he do that? The answers won’t come out until tomorrow.” So after further examination at what he’d done it became clear that although he wasn’t that smart he was that funny. He’d added vowels and consonants where I had left blanks. Of course, none of them were right but some of his answers could have been for all I knew!
Crosswords can be very silly or rewarding or frustrating, depending on their level of difficulty. The silly ones are found in paperback form in almost any store and should say, “Crosswords for Dummies” on the cover. Instead they say, “Easy and Fun” which is highly misleading. They’re so inane there’s no challenge at all which takes all the fun out of it. The rewarding ones (at least to me) can be found in some daily newspapers and offer challenges as well as easy clues to keep you from feeling totally stupid. (It doesn’t hurt at all that the answers will be in tomorrow’s paper.)
Now for the frustrating puzzles…they’re in any bookstore and also say “Easy and Fun” which is a total lie. Easy for whom, may I ask? To give you just a few examples of their idea of easy: 1984 Leon Uris novel set in Palestine, Indian seaport renamed Chennai, 10-time Golden Glove winner Alomar, Unit equal to 10,000 gauss, Tolkien tree creature, Jewish village of Eastern Europe, formerly, Ten-millionth of a newton-meter, It lost out to “Spirited Away” for best animated feature in 2007, He danced with his wife in Broadway’s “Watch Your Step.”
I have a neighbor who would probably know at least some of the answers to the above. I don’t know if I envy him or feel sorry for him. I mean how much fun would it be to be that smart? His wife gave me a book of puzzles he found too tame. Although I love it, it’s still a blessing that the answers can be found in the back.
I want you to know that I never say a cross word while working my puzzles unless cursing counts.
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.