Crosswords have been my thing lately. I pick up the two free dailies on my way to school and get one almost done on the bus. Then I struggle with the last three boxes for the rest of the day.
I didn’t used to do crosswords. I didn’t think I could. I’m smart, of course, but I don’t have the best memory. I’m a good speller, but no dictionary. It’s actually made me realise how much of what I know is grounded in context. Ask me to define irony” and I’ll put together some rambley paragraph containing more words and references to be defined.
The way I do crosswords is the same way I do everything else: with patterns and archetypes. I’m always looking for ways to explain my world. Crosswords, I’m learning, are not about being smart. They’re about recognising that the clue is written in present tense, which means the last letter is an S, and that the answer anything having to do with elevators is OTIS. If you’ve already got an H at the beginning, the only letter that can come next is a vowel. It’s linguistics that helps you solve a crossword, not the thesaurus.
Now I’m feeling cocky, ready to tackle the next level. At my grandmother’s for Thanksgiving this week, my brother picked up her half-finished New York Times crossword, and I leaned over his shoulder. I pointed where; he filled it in.
This is New York Times? I said. This is easy.
Sure, it was Monday, but, still, New York Times!
Then he pointed to the blurb above the box, the short description of today’s puzzle and its maker. Teen Week, it said. But fuck it. We finished a New York Times crossword.