Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Not a Cross Word in the House

I've always enjoyed doing the occasional crossword. Once a week, tackling the Sunday New York Times puzzle, which I rarely completed, was typically all I would do--except when traveling and completing the puzzles in the in-flight magazines the airlines publish.

For months now, though, I've been beginning my day with the daily NY Times puzzle, and picking up three puzzles on Sunday from the LA Times website to supplement the NY Times magazine puzzle.

As any junkie knows, the more you do, the more you need to do, and I've now supplemented my puzzle completion with daily LA Times and daily Washington Post.

I can't start my day reading the paper until I've finished the NY Times puzzle, which I usually am able to do except on Friday and Saturday, when even consulting's marginally helpful crossword solver application won't make the critical difference. Mostly, though, I do complete the Sunday NY Times puzzle these days--a rarity in my earlier years.

(By the way, there's a puzzle fanatic and creator who posts daily to his blog the answers & thoughts behind the NY Times puzzles--sometimes praising them, sometimes critiquing them.)

But there is a knack to crossword puzzles, and no matter who writes them (and there are many different creators), they seem to rely on the same playbook at times. For example, can someone tell them to stop using Stephen Rea's last name? How about Mel Ott?

Then there's the trick of clues that state "Log beginning"--it's usually "ana" or "dia", but you spend precious minutes thinking about where does a log begin? Is this about a tree?

It's emblematic of how crossword puzzles rarely are that difficult in the words within them, but their real difficulty is figuring out the clues, which are written in the most obtuse fashion to throw you off the scent.

Of course, many puzzles these days follow "themes", usually stated in the title of the puzzle. This is where they are typically more fun and clever. I did one today from the Washington Post in which the stated theme was "The Naked Truth" and you had to solve an "observation" (as it was characterized) which wound up being "Men and women in nudist camps can air their differences" over three long lines in the puzzle. Not bad.

I'm determined to take some time to compose a few puzzles of my own--and you can be sure I'll make every effort to avoid the "stock-in-trade" words that other puzzle writers seem to rely on. We'll see if I can be successful.

Until next time...


No comments: