Happiness Is A Crossword Puzzle


I am a crossword puzzle addict.  A cruciverbalist.  I can’t get enough of them. The harder the better.  Name a variety and I’ve tried it .  The British ones have  anagrams in their clues…pardon me… clews.  Which we Yanks  frequently meet in ours—the other day one answer even  was the word  ‘anagram’—  for this clue: “chemical agent  vis a vis climate change”.   But as a rule, the  anagram is not  a sine qua non  in  our crosswords  as it seems to be  over there .  The 15 X 15 configuration is my favorite.  I consider it the  Goldilocks of crosswords.   Just the right size.   And the creme de la creme is  found in the  New York Times.   The Times syndicates the daily 15 X 15  which is  carried here— allowing for a time lag of a few months—  by the Sun-Times.

There is a beautiful  symmetry to the 15 X 15.  The top 7 layers mirror the bottom 7.  An  architectural  property that  helps in the solution..   Especially for the diagramless ones  which don’t  show where one answer ends and another begins.  For whatever reason though, the diagramless puzzles have never appealed to me.

A theme also helps to solve a crossword  and adds to its  delight.   The  theme can be just about any subject,  like ‘Movie Epics’ or ‘Famous Chefs’.   Typically,  themes are revealed  in  the longer answers,  maxing  out at 15 letters, of course,  in the NYT daily.  Take for example, a puzzle  entitled SALES PITCH by Jordan Lasher—which the NYT first published on my birthday, July 5, in 1974.  The  three 15-letter answers across were : AMAZING LOW PRICES; EASY CREDIT TERMS; and  TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

The first crossword puzzle appeared in 1913 in the New York World.   Across and down the years since  unheralded constructors and editors have labored on this peculiar art  of interlocking words and ideas.  To all of them, I give thanks.   Despite the bafflements and the  seemingly insurmountable impasses along the way, there are few pleasures in life as sweet as that aha moment when you  fill in the last squares of a  crossword puzzle.

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