Monday, September 14, 2009

In Praise of Crossword Puzzles

I like them. They're several things to me -- gym work for the brain, a vocabulary enhancer (always useful for a writer) and calming. On the rare occasions that I have insomnia (perhaps once every 18 months or so) I get out of bed quietly, slip into the dining room and pull out my trust NY Times Sunday crossword book. Half an hour later, back to bed.

Often the puzzle writer's ingenuity baffles me until (somehow) I get a clue and can proceed to a triumphant finish. The LA Times Sunday puzzle is more into "humor" (their brand) but the NY Times can be a real stinker to its readers. Mainly because the writer is not above slipping into symbols, not words. "*" for "star" -- *s Fell On Alabama. Most recently the writer inserted the months abbreciations into the answers. Roman goddess _ _ = jun o.

Wonderfully under-used words pop up -- berserk, disproportianate, agog. Some appear with numbing regularity - Rubik cube inventor's first name (you'd think I could remember it; can't.) French battle site - StLo.

Another reason I like them is that I'm not much of a team player. I like going up against things solo. I like trying to outwit another (always!) Possibly goes far to explain my father's not-so-flattering comment that "You'd make a good Philadelphia lawyer!" (For reasons of his own, Daddy believed Philadelphia attorneys were, uh, perhaps less honest than elsewhere.)

Crossword puzzle books are damned portable. I keep a thin one tucked in the lid of my suitcase. I can then be amused at an airport gate, in the hotel room at night, but rarely on a plane. Too much motion, too many interruptions. Reading is better there.

NY Times crossword books are not expensive and, in my case, they last a long time. It took me three (3) years to go through the last fat one.

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