Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cruciverbalisms

It baffles me how truly hopeless I am at crosswords. When I initially became interested in crosswords, impressed by the intellectuality they endow the cruciverbalist (impressive word to toss into conversations meaning one who does crosswords), I ran out and bought a copy of the New York Times Crosswords standard puzzles. Following the result of my disappointing average of one successful word per page, I decided that I would have to humble myself and set my sights a little lower. So I bought Will Short’s 75 Very Easy Puzzles from the New York Times.

Aha! I thought. Very Easy. I will do this in a jiffy. I will speed through these Acrosses and Downs and in no time at all I will have built up my brain power and I can go back to the standard book and soon, very soon, while I am still young, I will become one of those tweed-wearing-people that do the New York Times crossword every morning. And then - ? I could do anything, anything. Take over the world, join MENSA, etc. Apparently, doing a crossword regularly is one of those things that ward off dementia in old age. So at the very least, I will be less senile for longer.

This, my excellent plan, is foiled by the fact that these Very Easy puzzles are not Very Easy at all. In fact, they are Moderately Challenging for my brain. My friends and roommate are equally as nonplussed. I don’t understand it. I’m not illiterate: I read, I collect facts. But none of these habits have been helpful. I think crosswords require a certain amount of patience and lateral thinking, both of which I am in short supply. I am reduced to cheating every morning, which is a demoralizing habit.

Let’s see 1 Across: “---- upon a time.” That’s quite easy: ONCE. “Star Wars” Princess: That’s once of my favorites. LEIA. “Country north of Namibia”…Hmmm, that’s tricky. With the help of my parents we come up with ANGOLA. “Clinton cabinet member Hazel”? How the hell should I know? And what is this three letter “F.D.R. initiative”? “Suffix with sock”? “Grp. Funding”? “Circular Gasket”? It is quite hopeless. I look around to make sure nobody sees and peak at the answer key at the back. I am hoping that crossword practitioners often hit a plateau, a long bleak stretch of unimaginative striving which suddenly, inexplicably, is changed by a sudden revelation of brain nirvana.

Until then, I will keep shuffling through these Very Easy puzzles, with much dislike for Mr. Will “Bighead” Short.