Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Find newer posts soon at my forthcoming blog, Revolutionary Time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crossword Newbie

I started working crossword puzzles about two months ago.  Since my siblings and two of my kids love them, I thought crosswords would give me some backup material when the conversational well ran dry. I hate games, but puzzles aren't so bad, and this kind involves only me, in private, against the New York Times, or Will Shortz, I guess. No dining room table face-offs. Crosswords are also supposed to be good for aging brains.

Now I'm addicted.

Here are some things I've noticed.

Crossword puzzle creators believe that all puzzlers are either Mensa members or wannabes. How do I know this? From the variety of clues that mean dumb, as in the following interchangeable synonyms, one appearing as a clue for the other: clod, nincompoop, bozo, dummkopf, lamebrain, oaf, simp. The word Mensa is a favorite answer to clues along the lines of organization of smart  people.

Puzzlers also do not like to think of themselves as geeks, clues for which are dweeb, twerp, and nerd. They are civilized--that is, they are not thugs, an oft-repeated answer to the clue riffraff. And they are certainly not mentally ill since they know the vernacular for insane: bonkers.

You'd have to be a little insane, however, to want to keep straight words as similar as
  • Agra--home of the Taj Mahal
  • atar or attar--perfume
  • Atra--razor made by Gillette
  • antrum--a hollow in a bone
  • Aktay--a tributary to the Volga 
Puzzlers, and this is probably no surprise, are either already old or getting old fast. For every clue like Rapper ___ Jon (answer: Lil), there are five along the lines of 
  • Star of Gunsmoke: James Arness (this series ran from 1955 to 1975).
  • Friend of Lucy: Ethel Mertz (I Love Lucy ended in 1960).
  • Univac's predecessor: Eniac (the first general-purpose computer, last used in 1955).
Clues are often purposely misleading. In a puzzle I worked yesterday, the answer to the clue Explorer and Navigator was SUVs. I got it. Ha!

There are a lot of sports clues. I recommend Google.

QED (big favorite in crosswords): People who work crossword puzzles consider themselves to be aging, sophisticated (as opposed to geeky), very smart, and of sound mind--even though they watch (or once watched) an awful lot of TV. Crossword puzzle creators accommodate.