Monday, March 16, 2015

Crossword Junkie

Jon Stewart proposed to his wife via a crossword puzzle.  Merv Griffin made millions off his TV shows based on crosswords (Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune). Those employed by the NSA are tested for their ability to decipher a word puzzle.  Even the Queen of England cannot go a day without her daily crosswords.
I have been addicted since elementary school when the nuns handed out our Weekly Reader on late Friday afternoons and I would zoom to the last page to tackle the puzzle on the “Fun Page.”
My career as an educator for 37 years limited my free time.  I was too busy making lessons and multiple-choice tests, assigning projects and grading essays, and writing tomes and tomes of curriculum guides.  My free time was filled with family and conferences or workshops that taught me how to perfect my classroom teaching.  Walls of to-be-read books piled around me, and crossword puzzles were limited to an occasional foray.  I was lucky to get around to it once a month.
I renewed that love affair once I retired, especially the two separate years I babysat two different infant grandsons.  Both boys were little angels so as they napped, learned to crawl and walk, Grandma filled in one crossword puzzle after another.  After years of keeping abreast of bright and demanding secondary students and years of constant study, I needed the stimulation.  My brain was hungry for more than the vocabulary of a one-year-old child.
I keep several crossword puzzle books by my bedside.  They vary in difficulty.  I am also addicted to the two puzzles that come in the daily newspaper.  (I have noticed that the puzzles in my paper increase in difficulty as the week progresses.  Monday’s is the easiest; Sunday is the most difficult. )
According to studies on the aging brain, besides diet and physical exercise, doing mental exercise is also encouraged, and that includes reading, learning a new language, and enjoying mathematical or word puzzles.
Good to know. 

It gives me an excuse to feed my obsession. I have gotten better and better at them, especially the more difficult ones.  I hate those that are so snooty and use only the most elite of clues, like a word in Urdu or an obscure cabinet member under Reagan or an abbreviation that is not a true abbreviation (they shorten the word wherever they want to fit the grid). I either throw the puzzle away or “cheat” and use the Internet.  I figure that is what the NSA does anyway.  

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