The NYT crossword puzzle and me

I like crossword puzzles. Usually.

I have 1000 puzzles from the New York Times on my Nintendo DS Lite. Portable puzzle fun, easy to erase and correct my answers, and it’ll even give me hints. Yay!

I like the way they get me thinking about things I haven’t thought about in years. It’s like putting some Shake & Bake on my brain and mixing things up. In the last week I’ve thought about Leave it to Beaver, angel investors, tic-tac-toe, and Frank Sinatra (who, I’m sad to report, does not have a song called “Meet Me at the Colo”).

For those unfamiliar with the puzzles, Monday has the easiest ones and they get harder over the week, culminating in the dreaded Sunday puzzle.

My skill level is moderate. I can whip out a Monday or Tuesday puzzle pretty quickly, but the Sunday one usually leaves me bashing my head on the wall. I’m not sure “fun” describes how I feel about the Sunday puzzles. More like “this thing will NOT defeat me.” Or maybe “I cannot stab you hard enough, Sunday puzzle.”

You can see why I keep doing them.

Anyway! While I admire the contestants in Wordplay, particularly the guy who can do a Monday puzzle in 5 minutes(!), I will never be one of these people. I’m far too right-brained to think like this. I keep getting distracted by how nice the letter G would look between a bunch of non-curvy letters, or coming up with surreal answers that I wish were true, or wondering how certain words feel about being overused (and presumably underpaid). If I were an actress, I’d change my name to Ada or Elle or Ama just so I could get free publicity in the NYT crosswords.

I also regret the lack of twistedness in the puzzle clues. Many of my answers are kind of pervy, and half the time I think they’re more interesting than the real answer anyway. Sometimes the clues have a certain smarminess to them, like “Ooh, we are SO witty.” That drives me nuts.

My super-secret crossword power is long single-word answers. Like if the clue is “Voiced” and the word is 9 letters, I can glance at it and say, “Oh, that’s ‘announced’.” I don’t mind clues like “City in Siberia” that I’ll probably never get unless I look at the internet. I consider those fair. The ones I really hate are the deliberately ambiguous ones where they are trying to hide the answer from you. Where they want to show off how cleverly they can hide the fact that the answer is “cat”.

I also hate the ones where they do something unfair. Like the one where every time the letters IN occurred in a word, you wrote them in a shared box, like I/N. Or the ones with numbers, like “4thelove”. These puzzles make me extra-wrathful. I suppose if I were better at them I would enjoy the challenge.

But I do like all the interesting things they make me think about (and what they teach me). Plus I enjoy doodling letters into their boxes, like putting office workers in their cubes. Crosswords are fun, but I like Scrabble more (and I’m better at it). I think the right-brain bendy thinking helps more when I’m trying to unscramble words.

3 thoughts on “The NYT crossword puzzle and me

  1. no, ~alex, read cloooserrrr.

    actually, I was thinking of this the other day. my grrrl thmarn is dissertating, which may or may not be a verb. she’s to the point where she can’t really read anymore unless it’s skimming. she bought a humidifier and was reading the directions, getting frustrated, when I came up behind her and pointed out that she was missing the word “not.” made all the difference.

    I remembered that way back in the day you said that you’d gone through a similar process, of reading too fast and having to learn again.

    then I did it on your blog.


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