Constructing => General Discussion => Topic started by: magus on September 21, 2010, 11:30:04 AM

Title: Why Do Crosswords?
Post by: magus on September 21, 2010, 11:30:04 AM
   I do a crossword puzzle every morning with a cup of coffee --- really two cups.  I have been doing so for about fifteen years, and when a friend asked me a few days ago why, I was hard pressed to answer.  “Habit, I guess” I said with a shrug, but it was an answer only because I didn’t have a ready one.  After thinking about it, though, I believe I know why.
   First, I like words.  I was almost ten-years-old before the family got a TV set, and stories came only from books.  I liked stories and majored in English in college and graduate school.  So the word was and is paramount in much of my life (I still write fiction [  then Anthony Gael Moral]).
   But the word in crosswords is different from the word in stories.  In stories words are tools, in crosswords they are the end in themselves.  One has to appreciate the word in its connotative as well as denotative form and see its relationship to other words.  How, for example, does the word man mean more than what one first might think it does?
   So the second reason I like doing crosswords is that they lead me to look at what I like to begin with, the word, in a different and often more interesting way.  And how precisely does the crossword do this?  By using a word or two.
   Yet crosswords provide another satisfying, perhaps psychologically compelling, element: a blank grid of geometric proportionality.  The clean lines and boxes seem to demand completion with equally clean lettering that when drawn properly yields an intricate ordering of crossing of letters resulting in scores of words related only in that they solve the riddle presented by the constructor’s clues.
   And that leads to the third reason I enjoy crosswords: the game.  Can I guess what word the constructor has in mind based on another word he provides?  I suppose one might look at it as a test, but I don’t think I do.  I enjoy the process of flipping through my personal lexicon for a word that might match the constructor’s.  The more clever the clue, the more misleading, the more fun.
   The final reason I enjoy them is the evocative element a simple word often arouses.  A word from a quotation from a literary work I love but haven’t read in ages, the name of a favorite actor or athlete, or even a random word that calls to mind a special person or place; all enhance the enjoyment of the task.  In this I know I am not alone. is dedicated to the rich association of words and names.  But, I don’t visit that site much for lack of time. 
And that’s another thing about crossword puzzles --- they require only the time it takes to drink two cups of coffee (java, the bean, joe, mud…)