I cannot recall how I happened across this academic past time of solving puzzles. Maybe it was in between readings of “All The President’s Men” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and bites of cold pizza. Or maybe one night I set homework aside and decided to Google ‘free crosswords’ instead of ‘free South Park episodes’. Regardless of the discovery, my only reservation about this instance is the regret at not discovering crossword puzzles earlier.
There is something about entering a letter into a blank box and having it appear black instead of red, affirming my guesses and awarding me the validation of having a broad vocabulary. My father calls it cheating, saying that growing up, he solved crosswords without indicators of right or wrong as he filled in the boxes.
Whenever he mentions his childhood crosswords, I always dare him to solve my current puzzle. Within four minutes, all references to cars and 80s pop culture are completed, propelling my progress to a somewhat acceptable level. The rest easily follow.
I have even discarded my worries about timing, focusing more on the words rather than the speed I solve them with. I am glad to say that I have not submitted to the urge of Googling the hints, rather depending on hours of contemplation in order to reach the reward.
When completing a crossword, the only competition is yourself. Even then, it is not a race to the end. It is more of a challenge to see whether or not you can complete a puzzle by your own merits.
I would not call this endeavour valiant, but it is indeed life-altering. While one crossword may not launch you into the membership of MENSA, the continuous practice of sharpening one’s wit and one’s mind is a reward that crosswords offer.