By Steve Siciliano
As a result of having to look for ways to occupy my down time during my recent convalescence after hip replacement surgery, I rediscovered a hobby/passion/obsession that I had gotten away from some seven or eight years ago. Back when the store was much less busy, I had ample time to work on the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle that appears daily in the Grand Rapids Press. For those who are unfamiliar with these particular crosswords, they get harder as the week progresses—Mondays and Tuesdays are fairly easy, Wednesdays can be a bit more challenging, Thursdays are hard but with persistence can usually be solved, Fridays are very difficult and Saturdays—well for me anyway—Saturdays are nearly impossible.
As with any activity, whether it is brewing, winemaking, bread-making or crossword-puzzle solving, the more you do it the better you get. Crossword aficionados become familiar with the subtleties—the devious misdirections, the play on words, the abbreviated clues which indicate that the answer is also abbreviated, etc. Then there are the oft repeated clue and answer combos, what the diehards call “crosswordese”, that show up on a fairly regular basis—Some Olympians’ tools (epees), Old Persian poet (Omar), and Yemen’s chief port (Aden) are typical examples. Once you acquire a backlog of crosswordese knowledge the puzzle solving gets easier. And then every so often a puzzle will have a clue that is a gimmee for a beer and wine merchant—Like Cabernets, e.g. (reds), Ale hue (brown).
I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with crosswords. Perhaps it’s because one of my avocations is writing and I love working with words. I also love trivia—what some, including my wife, would call useless knowledge—and it’s nice to be able to retrieve that “useless” information and apply it toward the solving of a puzzle. Kind of gives you a weird sense of satisfaction.
Of course the added benefit of working crosswords is that it keeps the mind sharp, probably helping mitigate the effects of years of exposure to brain cell destroying (though tasty) beverages. Anyway, lets hope that's the case.