Conquering the Crossword

I read The Week, within a few days of its arrival, cover to cover.  Even in the haze of the last semester, when I had to snatch 10 or 15 minutes away from my precious sleep time; even in these last few weeks of unapologetic laziness, from which I'm just now beginning to emerge.  It is my most cherished shortcut.  In an hour or two, I can be reasonably informed about major world events, daydream about a tiny niche of the real estate market (last week it was Cape Cod) read a good recipe and add two or three books, movies or albums to my mental list of things to do.

For our first few years of reading, I really thought the final page couldn't get any better.  Technically, the final page contained highlights of upcoming television programs, items I never even glanced at (we don't own a TV) so I didn't really count it as the final page; that honor belonged to "The Last Word," a thoughtful excerpt of literature that has resulted in my formal boycott of professional football and my discovery of many fascinating works I would not have read otherwise.  But in 2009, they dropped the TV listings in favor of a Puzzle Page.  A joke contest (out of my league.)  A Sudoku (Rob's area of expertise; I think they're boring.)  And a crossword.

As literary as [I like to imagine] I am, I have always been a poor puzzler.  I usually only do them on airplanes, when I am a captive audience and can't think of anything better to occupy my time.  I'm easily frustrated by things I can't immediately excel at, and I don't seem to have the right cross-connections to anticipate all the tongue-in-cheek witticisms, so I have never actually finished one.  Even the fun documentary Wordplay didn't inspire me; in fact, it depressed me (a scheister like Bill Clinton can do the New York Times crossword?  In INK?!)  But The Week helps me feel smart enough to tackle it, a little at a time.  I've tried every puzzle they've printed, and I usually get about halfway through before giving up (my own personal rule is that I can look for clues within the magazine or ask Rob, but not call my mom or use the Internet, which would make it far too easy.)

But!  Last week, I was taking my second or third shot at Puzzle 26, and lo and behold, I finished it.  Done.  Every single space filled, and only one or two uncertainties that turned out to be correct.  Progress!

Try it yourself (I don't think you need a subscription to see it.)  Do me a favor, though: if you finish it, don't tell me.  I enjoy feeling smart. And Grandma, you are disqualified.