Recently, in an attempt to better myself, stave off Alzheimer's and add to my gray hairs, I decided I would try to get better at doing The New York Times crossword puzzle. I know! I’ve been tackling the Chicago Tribune and USA Today puzzles for years and had become rather good at them. Why not go for mastery of the brass ring of crossword-dom? I remember stupidly and arrogantly think to myself.
After hours and hours of staring blankly at empty little squares and mocking black boxes, while gray matter melted and began oozing from my ears, I started to wonder who exactly is this Will Shortz, the editor of all these puzzles?
I pictured a keen-eyed gentleman in a tweed jacket, the kind with the leather patches on the elbows. Perhaps a pipe. But then I got to know his puzzles…
The puns! The evil, ironic twists and pokes! Entire words filling a single square. Or sometimes a number. What’s next for these squares, Will Shortz? The symbol for the artist formerly known as Prince, but who’s back to now being known as Prince again?
Mr. Shortz’ tweed jacket rapidly morphed into a red suit as horns erupted from his skull and fire breathed from his mouth, causing the tines of his pitchfork to glow orange.
Still, I toil steadfastly on, wailing and crying and shaking my fists at the heavens. A puzzle entitled ‘Chick Lit” where the title answers were neither books written by women or for women, but books that have birds in the answers: To Kill a Mockingbird. Six Days of the Condor. The Maltese Falcon. Fie on you, Will Shortz!
My favorite Christmas present this year, and the reason no one has seen me for six days, is a collection of New York Times Sunday crosswords. Refusing to cheat, (I had a reliable source—the husband—who I now suspect just wanted to get rid of me for six days—tear out the answers from the back and lock them in a safe deposit box.) I’ve been wrestling with Puzzle 4 for three days now.
Unshowered, unfed except for a gift box of Frango mints, I wander the halls of my home mumbling epithets and imagining what I would do to Will Shortz if I ever encountered him in a dark alley.
I can see it now.
I will rush toward him, grab his red suit by both shoulders and scream, “39-Across!! Just a hint! The color of the bird! Anything!” before dissolving into a puddle of despair. Then, I would look up at him imploringly. "Please," I would beg him. "Don't ever let it get easier!"
Because where would be the fun in that?
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