I have been enjoyably doing Crossword Puzzles for about thirty years. I started with the ones in the newspaper, and later I graduated to buying books. Crosswords are a wonderful pastime that challenge my wits, dig into my brain-files for general information data and give me a smug sense of achievement by solving them. They provide me with the feeling that I am in control of this little black and white grid. There are no nuances within that space: no gray, dark gray, light gray, off white, ivory, ecru or, ebony, inky, or whatever other shades of these two basic colors that exist. Simply black and white! In a world that I am not at all in control of, except within the confines of my own living space, and barely that to be honest, the feeling that I can solve one little problem in a world that has so many of them offers me a small consolation that, perhaps, some of our myriad dilemmas, could also be solved one day. Once I look up, though, from my controllable grid to the television screen news, I realize that I am, quite possibly, delusional. Damn!
They say that Arthur Wynne, who hailed from Liverpool, England and later on moved to the US, was the inventor of Crossword Puzzles. He did that in 1913. Later on, and in 1924, Simon, of Simon & Schuster fame, published the first Crossword Puzzle book. I owe these two gentlemen a debt of gratitude for the immense amount of pleasurable hours I have spent enjoying the fruits of their labor!
The pastime suffered its few tragedies, though, as many inventions often do. In 1924, a woman in Chicago sued for divorce, because, she said, her husband was spending too much time solving Crosswords and hardly any working! The judge instructed the man in question not to attempt solving more than three grids a day . . . or, else! And, in 1925, a New York Telephone Company employee shot his wife because she wouldn’t help him solve his Crossword! Go figure! And, in 1926, a man from Budapest apparently committed suicide and left a suicide note in the form of a Crossword Puzzle that nobody succeeded in solving! Why am I not surprised at how inane and insane humanity can be? Maybe because I am an avid “Judge Judy” viewer? Other than the fact that Judy is fantastic, her program is hilarious in a way, sad in another. The litigants are a cross-section of society providing me with a bird’s eye view of how trivial, petty, vindictive, lying, thieving, nonsensical, and plain idiotic humanity can often be. This is not a problem of poor, or ignorant people, for, rich people, too, suffer from these same afflictions, if not worse, as one can witness reading some of Vanity Fair’s articles on such subjects and watching Dateline. It is simply our greedy, wicked and evil human nature.
I solve my Crosswords with a ballpoint pen. Most of them are perfect, some I get stumped on and find out that I had inserted the wrong word and then I have to smudge over that in order to correct my mistake, which irritates me like hell! Bill Clinton solved his grids with pen also. I remember reading this when he first became President. Of course, the writer of that piece (I forgot who that was) meant to portray how smart Bill is. Actually, he is a smart fellow if only he had kept his flyer zipped and spared himself and the nation all that salacious embarrassment! And, not that we haven’t seen much, much worse since then! Goodness Gracious!
Apparently, too, Queen Elizabeth at 92 still solves her Crossword Puzzles, as does Betty White at 96! I am in good company, it seems!
It is said that doing a daily Crossword Puzzle, or two, or three, keeps our minds agile and in good shape. Some have even gone so far as to state that this pastime will delay, or deter, dementia. Frankly, no one really knows the secrets of the brain and how it works. At least, not yet. Crosswords are one of the tools that might help in that regard, however, there is so much more to our brain-puzzle, isn’t there? Primarily, it must be our genes that dictate the machinations of our brains; then there is what we ingest into our bodies; the way we live our life; our experiences and what we make of them; our environment and so much more! The important thing to remember is not what pastime we choose to occupy ourselves with in order to remain alert, for there are so many to select from, but our attitude and our outlook. These are always the bottom line in any endeavor, aren’t they?
Crossword Puzzles present us with a set of Clues: Across and Down, and a grid with black squares and white squares situated randomly where we are concerned, but make sense to the designer of that grid. Our mission is to decode the Clues in order to arrive to words that will fit into the white squares, thus Solving the Puzzle. Our World, too, has always given us Clues on how to Solve our Problems. These Clues have come to us from Nature itself, from Seers and Wise Sages, Poets, Historians and Philosophers throughout time, and from our own Trials, Errors and Experiences. However, we are so Corrupt, so Vain and Arrogant that we are always arriving to a Word and moving the black squares in order to make our Word fit, rather than finding another Word that would do so without disrupting the grid. Ergo, we end up with a chaotic grid that renders a Solution Impossible. How Wicked is that? We do that in solving our personal, as well as our world problems in this flawed method, and, possibly, that’s why we have never arrived to any sensible solutions for our intractable difficulties. I am as flawed as the next person, and just because I have the gift of expressing matters in words doesn’t make me less flawed than the next person. Nevertheless, the sense of satisfaction I get when I arrive to that Ta Da! Moment after solving a Crossword makes me wonder if our corrupt politicians, greedy corporate heads and wicked media personalities ever think of life this way, or any other way that compels them to doing what’s right and not what is politically, or financially expedient. Frankly, and judging from the state of our Planet, and, especially, in these United States, I don’t think that they have, nor is there a shred of hope, at this point, that seems to hold promise! Ach!