I have recently started doing a lot of crossword puzzles on my iPhone. I have always loved them and there has even been three or four phases of me “deciding I want to do more crosswords”(which in my language means going to a bookstore and spending too much money on books I will then complete two puzzles in and then either lose or permanently shelf.) For some reason when I rediscover that love of crosswords, the books I already have aren’t shiny enough or the pages have yellowed or I started 10 of the puzzles and never finished so I want a fresh start, or I completed all the easy level puzzles and I don’t want to try a medium level. You may ask “so why not just buy a book with all easy puzzles Samantha?”… don’t get logical with me, logic is just silly.
My grandparents on both sides always did crossword puzzles and my mother is the grand master of them, so I have always watched and admired how much they knew. I thought once or twice it would be fun to complete one with my mom and learn from her, but it turns out she knows all the answers and she reads faster than me, so she would be giving me the answers to write in and then moving on to the next clue while I basically just became her crossword secretary. I could throw in the occasional, “Oh, I knew that one!” to make myself sound smart, but the real lesson here was that we should just find a different activity to enjoy together. Regardless, I have always loved the crossword legacy I thought my family to have and I wanted in.
Now that I do the puzzles on my phone I think every day how super awesome and smart I am. I can choose hard level puzzles and near complete them. At the end I seek help from those with knowledge based in other areas and I feel good that I can do more and more all the time. I recently tried a medium puzzle in a book again the other day and got stuck pretty early on and realized that my super awesome skills were stemming from the “hint” feature on the app. You can put in the answers that you think are correct and then hit this magical button and the app won’t give you the answer (which means I’m NOT CHEATING), but it will show you what letters are wrong. Anyone who knows crosswords knows that more than half the battle is getting a few right answers to work off of, and if something you write in is wrong it can be a real head scratcher when 27 down is “Board game with Colonel Mustard and others” and you know the answer is “clue” but the letters you have are Z_ _ F. I am sure that the frustration that comes with figuring out what is wrong is all part of the learning process, but I’m not overly interested in personal growth so I think it’s stupid. So now I feel like I had it all wrong, I’m not necessarily getting better at this, I just have fancier, easier ways of approaching the activity.
I have also noticed some things in puzzles that kind of irk me. For one, I hate when an answer is multiple words… you can’t show me there is a space so don’t act like it exists. I will look at the clue, “But of course!” and the letters I have are “A H Y _ _”. This triggers me saying over and over and over in my mind “ahee… ahee… ahee… what is ahee…?” and when the letters get filled in from other clues and I see the answer is “AH YES” my reaction is always anger towards the writer of the puzzle. I frequently find myself saying, “oh, well that is a stupid answer” rather than just admitting that I was duped.
The thing is though, I do crosswords as a leisure activity, no one writing these things should be trying to trick me, it’s just mean. This brings me to my next irritation in crosswords, the worst of them all, the question mark clues. You know them, “spare room?”… and I want to say, “Wait… so you don’t know the answer either, but I’m supposed to figure it out?” Or worse are the long answers that create the theme of the puzzle, “Directors’s edit of a war film with a more adorable treaty-signing scene?”. No no no. There is no way that this answer is even going to be reasonable (by the way, it was CUTER TRUCE RECUT… seriously). I can just envision the creator of said clue, sitting at home making his words and patting himself on the back for that gem. I think the question mark is just letting these guys off the hook though. You mean to tell me you can make a clue that makes no sense but if you add a “?” to the end of it, I have to just accept that I won’t be able to get it without having MOST of the needed letters? I wonder if I can use this in my day to day life. In emails I can just say, “I haven’t gotten to that assignment yet?” or “I would love to have dinner?” and then when people need something from me I can just claim that I added the question mark so I was allowed to be elusive.
I also enjoy crosswords because they make me feel smart and they keep me feeling like I’m learning and engaging, but once in a while I get a clue that nobody should know the solution to. I’m sure I run the risk of looking dumb here by giving an example because inevitably someone out there will know the answer, but for that one person I say this: You are better than me. You are better than most of us. Don’t rub it in. In this instance the example is
40 Across: Indian Honorific
My mother will read this and later admit that she knew the answer, but she does a lot of these puzzles, so she is ahead of us all.
Although I have listed here my frustrations with crosswords, I leave you with my favorite ever clue and answer; it even has a question mark:
24 Across: Drips from the 16th letter?
Answer: Pee Leak.