What Now? In Honor of the Crossword’s Centennial

| December 31, 2013 | 0 Comments

If everyone did crosswords, the world would be a better place.

We who experience undue stress in our lives (most of us) might want to share this inside secret.

I am a recognized serene person. In fact, I’ve actually been cited and commended for my easy-going nature.

This is entirely due to crosswords.

It’s nearly impossible to think of the real stress and complications in your life while struggling with a crossword puzzle. If you are not deeply searching for a four-letter word for infinite (vast), you are in deep contemplation about the French word for vineyard (cru), or experiencing a triumphant high for remembering that Tokyo Rose’ real name was Iva Toguri.

It simply offsets worrying about your job or where your children are. Believe me, this is very relaxing.

There’s satisfaction to be had, too, when you’re just guessing and you’ve actually guessed right. See? You’ve intuitively resolved an important issue of the moment – giving you exquisite confidence for real-life conundrums.

You may be thinking hard about a word, and suddenly realize that it’s the definition that’s throwing you off. Take “refuse.” It could be a noun or a verb or refer entirely to something in Shakespeare. Or Beowulf.

I worried when I began writing this – how am I going to gather all the examples I need? Easy: any daily paper can deliver – to say nothing of the Sunday puzzle – more demanding and always themed. Once you “get” the theme for the Sunday puzzle, you might have it made, and by then it’s the end of a very calm day. (Or it might already be Monday.)

I once knew a guy who regularly finished the Sunday New York Times puzzle by l0 a.m. – on Sunday. I never talked to him again.

It’s popularly thought that crosswords help maintain an educated and agile mind – an as-yet undecided issue.

Certain categories continually defy me, so maybe the educational angle is iffy. For instance, I’m not good on biological suffixes, nor Greek legends, though I have learned that “ase” is an enzyme suffix and Leto is the Mother of Artemis. I may, however, be the only one is my circle who knows the rivers Oise and Aare. I worry; too, that contemporary “culture” will creep into crosswords – like who survived “Survivor,” or the winner of “American Idol,” or oddly-named rock groups or star-for-a-day performers. Scary.

Besides being unable to solve a puzzle altogether, which while frustrating, doesn’t really matter (in the scheme of things, the only downside of crossword puzzles is when the solution turns out to be – a stretch. For instance, why is “eat” the solution to the definition, “tuck in?”

People who put together crosswords are very under-appreciated. Except, of course, for Will Shortz. If you have to ask, “who’s Will Shortz?” you probably shouldn’t read this piece altogether.

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