Pandemic Diary Day 5
March 29, 2020
The New York Times Crossword Puzzle gets harder each day. So Monday’s are easy and quick and Saturday’s a brain buster. The Sunday puzzle is equivalent to a Wednesday in difficulty, but four times as large.
Now that I am in a different place in my life regarding employment I rise around 6 am go down stairs, make a double espresso come back up stairs open my lap top and proceed to do the NYT crossword. From there my day may vary, but that is the foundation of my day.
It wasn’t always this way, I loved going to the front porch, grabbing the newspaper off of the ground and watch my fingers turn black from ink and hear the sound of the paper as you turned the pages and growled with frustration as the middle pages would crinkle and make that page turning just a tiny bit more difficult.
Monday through Friday, in order to get the paper small enough to do on the BART train or bus sometimes required eight folds so it was small enough to sit in your hand and not bother the person in the seat next to you. There was a time when you could spot Charlie Gibson of the Today Show with his puzzle folded and sitting to his right on the anchor desk, I knew his passion was as pointed as mine, the day just isn’t really on an even keel until the puzzle is done.
On Sundays the fold was always a little different, and the paper always felt a tad more special in my hand. Sure it was fold in half and then fold again, but the paper was a little longer than wide on Sundays and just had a nicer feel to it. The joy of Sundays are that I have the time to make coffee and dawdle over the puzzle. I always did crossword puzzles in pen, and I miss that action of pen to paper. But, newspapers are now pretty much entirely on-line that little joy is a thing of the past.
Sundays puzzles are structured differently, they are wonderful because they are so big, but they are disappointing because they are fairly easy. So for twenty years now I have played a game with myself. I start at the upper left hand corner and require myself to make a pattern where every word must touch and I make a snake to the bottom right hand corner. Sometimes the snake is fat in the middle before I get to the bottom left, sometimes it is pretty dang top heavy (notice todays), but I try to do my best. From there I fill in the puzzle, but again never filling in a word unless it uses a square that has already been filled in. It makes the puzzle last longer, and therefore my Sunday morning lazing in bed, just a little bit longer as well.
This sounds flippant and just a tad full of bragadoccio, so I want you to know that sometimes it isn’t very easy. I am horrible at popular culture, I hate the pink colored cards in Trivial Pursuit if I draw a pink card I know I am going to loose the game. Note Disturbia, in the upper left hand corner of today’s puzzle for example. So when doing the puzzle I sometimes have to work three squares over in my head, mentally filling in squares until I can work something out that actually crosses a filled in square.
Crossword puzzles have a learning curve. They may seem intimidating, frivolous and aggravating, but eventually you learn the style of the writer and editor. I still mourn the death of Merle Reagle, his L.A. Times puzzles always put a smile on my face.
Next you start to learn all the words that are used out of necessity for their vowels, like gnu, alee, ewe, asea, erato and the like.
There are lots of ways to cheat now that we have the internet, and that is a shame. I was never adverse to using a dictionary, sometimes, simply because while I had the word correct my spelling is absolutely abhorent (sic). I remember using the 4" thick dictionary that my grandmother gave me, kept permanently beside my bed, and searching through the entire dictionary for words starting with sch when I first started out. Sunday solving in those days made for very long days. I eventually got more adept and now I can do them fairly quickly, but everyone close to me in my life knows, I do not leave the house on Sundays until the puzzle is finished, so plan accordingly.
I love Sunday puzzles, they keep me on my toes.
There are lots of puzzles available. The Washington Post has daily puzzles, The New Yorker has wonderful puzzles on Fridays and Mondays and a Cryptic Crossword once a week. I will NEVER be able to do those, although here is an interview with the editor on how they work, and maybe I am just a great big giant chicken about them.
One I subscribe to is Fireball Newsflash Crosswords by Peter Gordon. He works the headlines into crosswords and it challenges my disdain of Pink Trivial Pursuit subjects. He funds through a Kickstarter campaign and I am sure if you email him here he will be happy to add you to the next campaign. I don’t know him, so hope that is actually true.
My Horoscope for today: It’s a week for flights of fancy and getting your deepest ideas down on paper. Words that feel too risky or intimate start to become real when you write them down. (Well thats a tad spooky)
The NYT Crossword Puzzle — Easy but a lot of fun
San Francisco weather: 50 degrees and drizzling when I began and sunny as I finish writing this.
Italian word of the day: piedistallo (pedestal)
Spanish word of the day: almendra (almond)
OED word of the day: cockshut
Days of Shelter in Place: 15
Reading: Margaret Bourke-White by Vicki Goldberg
My neighbor Jasmine dropped two giant slices of a decadent chocolate cake on my doorstep last night. Seriously beyond delicious!
My Black and White Picture of the Day
If you like this post, please give me a clap and let me know. Thank you!