In an effort to keep my aging brain in decent shape, I began doing daily crossword puzzles this year. I subscribed to the puzzles in the New York Times through their app. Instead of doom-scrolling first thing in the morning, I do the Daily Mini puzzle. Lately, I’ve been completing that one in under 2 minutes, and so far, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t solved the puzzle.
The regular crossword is another story. I try to complete it every day. Since I started this effort, I’ve managed to complete 7 puzzles, all of them on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. I haven’t yet managed to complete the harder Thursday-thru-Sunday puzzles.
I enjoy these puzzles because they are about more than just trivia. They require me to think at odd angles to get some of the clues. When I get a particularly hard clue right, I’m satisfied, even if I don’t end up completing the puzzle. And in the end, my brain gets an early-morning workout.
I am slowly picking up the conventions of these puzzles. Clues that refer to plurals usual result in answers that are plurals. Clues in past tense usually result in answers that are past tense. Certain clues seem to be used more frequently than others. I haven’t quite figured out what it means when the clue is in quotation marks. I keep telling myself that I have to remember to look back at the clue after I get one of these correct to see if I can figure out the relationship between the quotes and the answer, but I always forget to do that.
At first, if I was almost done solving a puzzle and got stuck, I’d do a Google search for the answer. I stopped doing that however. It isn’t so much about finishing as it is about improving over time. I have a rule that I have to finish a puzzle in the same day. If I don’t, I leave it unfinished and move onto the next one.
My average time for Monday puzzles is 39:32, for Tuesay, 50:37, and for Wednesday, 1:01:34. Clearly, the harder the pizzle the longer it takes me.
I don’t know how other people attack crossword puzzles, but my method is to go through all the clues in order once. After that, I look for ones that are partially completed and return to those clues to see if I can complete them. Then I iterate through all of the clues again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. There may be a more efficient way, but so far I haven’t figure out what it might be.
On days when I do complete a puzzle I feel like I walk around with a bit more of a spring in my step. I don’t tell anyone that I managed to solve that day’s puzzle, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of having risen to the challenge. One day, when I complete a Sunday puzzle for the first time, I’ll find a way to celebrate. Maybe I’ll even mention it here.
Written on February 15, 2022.
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