When I am not staring at a blank computer screen, waiting for literary inspiration to mysteriously flow into my fingertips; I like to keep myself busy completing crossword puzzles. I realize that there are countless online game web sites that I could be visiting, I acknowledge all of the other newfangled puzzle games in print; but for my money, give me a pen and a crossword puzzle anytime. Yes, I said “pen” and not pencil. The added dimension of not having erasure as an option just serves to heighten the crossword puzzle solving thrill.
As an adolescent, I looked forward to solving the crosswords in all of the children’s magazines my parents subscribed me to. When the latest TV Guide appeared in the mailbox, it was a frantic footrace between my mother and me to see who would start working the puzzle first!
For those of you under the age of twenty; a magazine was information that was printed on glossy paper and sold in stores or via postal subscription. This was before you could obtain everything you need to know via web sites, social networks, and RSS feeds. By the way, the Postal Service was the only alternative we had before email and text messaging! You can learn more by visiting your local library. Um, scratch that last thought. Just Google it!
So what is the mysterious allure of this historical relic called a crossword puzzle? The greatest appeal has to be that it presents a formidable test of one’s general knowledge. You are forced to interpret obscure clues, limit yourself to the number of squares available for the answer, and make it fit with any other letters already entered from previous answers. You find yourself constantly battling to make sense of the contradictory or obscure, only to find out that the ultimate answer was ridiculously obvious!
Life is a crossword puzzle as well. We are presented with a blank grid where all of our answers will lie. We have a series of clues that hint at the answers we seek. As we determine what fits to satisfy a clue, many of the words intersect with one another. If we make a mistake on an “across” clue, it can have devastating effects on a number of the “down” answers. In short, every time we find an answer in our lives, it has consequences with respect to many of the other answers we seek. An incorrect entry or a wild guess can have rippling effects across the entire puzzle called life.
There is no greater satisfaction than entering that final word that completes a crossword puzzle. You carefully print the letters one at a time, double-check yourself to assure that all of the across and down hints are correctly answered, and draw a deep sigh of satisfaction. Then comes the momentary let down that is inevitable when a project has been successfully completed. You came up with all of the answers, you rose to the challenge, and then it was simply over! A flip of the page cures this melancholy as you charge off to the next crossword puzzle in the book.
There is a curious fact about crossword puzzles. In the event that you simply cannot come up with the correct answer, there is always an answer key at the back of the book. You can turn a few pages and readily identify your mistakes or view that answer that has completely eluded you. What if your life came with an answer key? Would you be tempted to sneak a peek before completing the puzzle? Would you look for shortcuts simply to assure that everything was correct and fit neatly? Or would you persist in your efforts, counting on experience to see you through?
There is a certain pride that comes from meeting a challenge without the benefit of outside help. The struggle becomes worthwhile in light of the satisfaction of piecing together the unknown. When you complete one of your life’s crossword puzzles, you have grown as a person; you have learned about yourself. For that, you are the better!
Say, can you help me out for a moment? I need a eleven-letter word for “inner drive to help others” starting with the letter “i” and ending in “tion.” We had better get it right too; I am using my pen instead of a pencil!