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.