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Crossword CapersSeptember 16, 2008

Man, yesterday's 3-mile run SUCKED. I ran after work, so I wasn't on the Bay -- I was inland in the heat. I HATE the heat. I felt like a gazelle for approximately three steps, then I turned into a lumbering elephant and remained that way. A clodding overweight elephant, seventeen months pregnant.

But that was yesterday. Tomorrow will be better. I hope.

On a completely unrelated topic: You know a weird thing? I think my little mama left something behind when she died. And it's a goofy thing.

Crossword puzzles. The ability to do them. And the desire.

I have NEVER been into crosswords. I admire them. They're gorgeous, smart things. I loved the documentary Wordplay. Seeing Jon Stewart do the Sunday New York Times puzzle in pen was a heart-be-still moment. But I've never done them. Never wanted to.

Mom always had a puzzle at hand. And she could DO them.

Shortly after she died, I did a People magazine puzzle. Man, that thing was easy, except for the cultural references to rap stars and country songs that I just plain didn't know and had to work around. But the fact that I'd wanted to do it surprised me.

Then I started doing a co-worker's puzzle from her local paper. I could do most of it by myself and only looked up a couple of things online at the end.

Then I noticed her paper also carried the NYT puzzle, so I tried one of those. I tried a Sunday puzzle.

Um. No. I am smart, yes. But I am not that smart.

Or maybe it's a combination of things: I am not that smart AND the smarts I do have don't correspond to puzzle-smart. Even in these last couple of months of doing crosswords, I've noticed that some words pop up, over and over again. Ria. Who knew it was even a word, let alone a good puzzle word?

So I turned sadly to the Monday NYT puzzle, not expecting much. Suddenly I WAS A GENIUS. I find I really start to flag on Wednesday and I haven't tried a Thursday or Friday, since I don't see my co-worker that day.

But it's just weird. This sudden compulsion to do crosswords. It wasn't even an action of grief: I didn't consciously remember Mom and her puzzles until I was wondering what the hell was up with me. Why was I suddenly into this?   

"Is it crazy to think I got that from her? Sudden-like?" I asked Lala. She said no, that after her first wife Aura died, Lala had inherited her ability to cook without a recipe. And I can vouch for how good Lala is at whipping something up from ingredients like mustard and kale and pimento-stuffed olives.

A strange little unexpected gift.

Also strange and unexpected, but not so little, Digit, drooling on me for your pleasure:



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What a great post. i love the idea that your little mama left that with you. I also love crosswords! here's another word that pops up a lot: oleo. it's a butter substitute. I swear I've never heard that anywhere except crosswords.

the next run will be better, for sure. you can do it, girlie! we believe in you!

Is it wrong that I'm trying to work out which part of your anatomy it is that Digit is drooling on?

Hi Rachel. I've been following your blog for awhile now, wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it, and how much I look forward to your posts.

I hate the heat too and can tell you that your next attempt will go lots better. Go girl...I'm pulling for you.

I heard somewhere that the NYT puzzle starts easy on Monday and gets progressively harder through the week... Not sure if it's true or not.

I think that the Tuesday NYT puzzle is actually easier than Monday sometimes. 2 days where you can feel like a genius! ;)

Aw, little drop of kitty drool. Over your cleavage, is it? I swear I can hear kitty purrs over the dog's snoring just now, but damned if I can see which one it is.

The NYT does indeed get progressively harder as the week goes on, and that Will Shortz is no slouch. Since I don't get the paper, I don't do them often, but I will every chance I get. Always in pen.

One of the few times I managed to complete the Sunday puzzle, I was en route home from a day at the beach with a coworker. "I hate you," she said.

cue the eerie music... I didn't start getting all cross wordy until after my folks passed. A little dabbling after Mom passed, and a lot of filling in the squares after Dad! Funny gifts they leave, eh?

I love crossword puzzles! Trust me - the more you do the NYT puzzles the better you will be. You'll get used to the style and you'll start to see hints in the clues. And yes - they do start easier on Monday and are killer by the end of the week.

If you want something a little easier but not stupid-simple, try the LA Times on line - their weekly ones are decent.

I'm pretty good at them. My late brother - a freakin' genius. He'd not only do them in pen but would time himself. Insane.

I do the NYT puzzle every weekday (or try it, at least) online, and I do the Sunday ones in the paper itself. They do get harder Monday-Saturday, but the Sunday ones are supposed to be about the level of a Thursday puzzle, I think - just bigger. Crosswords are supposed to be good for your brain, keeping the synapses active as you age.

jai alai is used a lot too.

When my mom died she left me knitting. She had taught me to knit way back when, and all I did was garter stitch. Never touched the needles for 15-20 years. When she died in 2004, I got this sudden desire to knit. I've gone on since then to do some pretty complex stuff reasonably well. I like to think she's somewhere smiling proudly at my pile of MN State Fair knitting ribbons.

Let us know when you do the Sunday NYT puzzle in pen!

If I ever get to visit your side of the country, can I come meet Digit? I love him!!!

Dell Crosswords. Those are the only ones I do, and I've been doing them since I was a kid. I do them in ink, too (mainly because I hate pencils). They're terrific to keep in the bathroom because... well, you never really know how long you'll be in there. They really help, too, when you're playing Scrabble because you know all these obscure words that your partner probably doesn't. You can preen a little when they say that a word isn't real, you have them look it up, and BANG! there it is. Heh.

I want to thank you for telling us how much you love your Kindle. Because of that, you tipped the scales and I bought myself one (I had been wanting one, but I just wasn't sure). I adore it. Now I've purchased one for Hubster so he doesn't hog mine. They're wonderful little things.

Now if they could put crosswords on them...

My mom does crosswords, too. She and my brother do the Sunday one every week, and most of the other days, too. Mom has a couple special dictionaries they can refer to, but she does NOT allow use of the internet to look up answers! ;-)

And thanks for the picture of Digit... awww, Digit....

Awwww, the Digit photos always make me happy.

The Sunday puzzles (OK, at least the magazine ones) aren't so hard, per se--they're just gimmicky. I work on them for 20 minutes at a time, and by the end of the week I can usually get it--next time you try, your brain might approach it a little differently. (The Saturday ones are the hardest!)

i love kitty drool. my buttcat does that..all the time..until i get grossed out. i agree that you probly got something offbeat left to you. i think my mom did me too. i 'sniff/smell' things. i didn't even know she did it until a great aunt told me years later that it had been one of her habits. odd. but wonderful just the same. thinkin' of you. and your blisters. and yeah, the next run or..at the veryvery least the next, will be better. i promise.

not crazy at all. I inherited my mother's aversion to camping!

I love crosswords. Can't do Sudoku to save my life, but my six year old is a whiz (I am torn between pride and humiliation).

Here's a word that pops up a lot, and stumps me time and time again: "adit". It's a mine opening.

My dad left me his ability to find four-leaf clovers.


My grandpa was a big crossword guy--he did diagramless ones--don't know how he pulled that off. I never inherited that ability.

My favorite crossword word is "etui", a small decorative case usually for needles. I can hardly put one down after I start it; it's like "one more row." And I love the Digit pictures.

I love that idea of a posthumous gift. Now that you mention it, I swear I got really good at navigating (in a car, that is) after my dad died. He was like a human gps, that man. He defied all those jokes about stopping to ask for directions because he never got lost. From my grandmother, perhaps knitting. She taught me to knit, but I didn't knit in earnest (and you know there is such a thing) until after her death. Love your blog!

It's cool that you have that little extra remembrance of your mom that you can carry with you. An added benefit is that crosswords have been shown to stave off senility. So maybe your mom is trying to protect you brain and your memories :-).

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