Just as I was tossing out Saturday’s paper – oops, make that consigning to the appropriate recycling bin – I realized I had been doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle for over a decade. Since the Vancouver Sun publishes the weekend edition on Saturdays, the puzzle is a week behind although that appears to be the norm in publication. In fact, it is the sole reason I even buy a newspaper once a week; news has become much easier to access online with the added opportunity to compare multiple points of view from varying countries.
When I began attempting to solve the puzzles, I was lucky to complete half of each without resorting to the dictionary, thesaurus and online assistance over a period of days. Now, I can usually polish them off in a couple of hours except for the odd time when pesky three letter clues or abbreviations escape me. There are moments I definitely come close to fire off questioning e-mails, but attribute the difference of opinion to regional preferences – everybody knows the West Coast is the true center of the universe – and variances in cultural usage. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t consider deciphering the puzzles contributes to preventing deterioration of my cranial cavity and its contents or increasing its elasticity. After a while, you simply develop crossword solvers brain and begin to think like a crossword designer, although there are nuances between different series and editors. On the occasions I try my hand at the Saturday Times puzzle, I find it helps to use an differing mind set to gain the solution and understand the way the constructor provides the clues.
Normally, the main hint for the puzzle becomes an important aid as you begin to comprehend the deviousness for many of the longer or highlighted clues. Once you grasp the trick, it gives a head start on the others. Alas, this Saturday ‘mixed feelings’ was completely lost on me and even with a couple of solutions, I remained without a clue. In the end, it did not prevent me from polishing off the puzzle and putting it aside. Only later as I glanced at one of the shorter sets of circled letters did it finely dawn on me that they were anagrams; hence, gear rearranged is rage, epho is hope etc. Obviously, solving crosswords has done nothing to improve my vision.