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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Crossword Mania

One of the things I really like to do when I have time is the Sunday crossword puzzle from the New York Times. My local paper carries it in syndication, so I'm behind the people who actually get the NY Times, but that doesn't bother me. I don't like doing any of the other days' puzzles, although if I'm at my parents' house, I will sometimes do them to pass the time.

I began with the Los Angeles Times puzzle when my paper carried that, but I'm actually not sure how I started doing them or even why I wanted to. In the beginning, I also did them every day, but over time, that switched to only the Sunday puzzle. I think I like it because it's bigger and it's not too easy or too hard. I also like that there are themes for the major answers and sometimes the theme itself is fun, other times less fun, but it offers clues that make filling in the boxes easier.

When I first started out, though, the puzzles were much harder for me than they are now. The reason? Now I know Crossword-ese. :-) There are some clues that appear over and over in the puzzle. Spanish gold is ORO. Music producer Brian is ENO. Imitates is often APES. San Francisco Giant is OTT. Hockey legend is ORR. They're not all three letter answers either, but these are the examples that spring to mind.

Then, of course, there is the Crossword-ese that I never seem to be able to remember. Bambi's Aunt. Sigh. I'm not sure. Prince Valiant's son/wife. Um, yeah, I've seen that before lots of times, but ???

I also have trouble when I see a clue with var. after it. That means the spelling isn't going to be the traditional way, but some variable spelling. ::head/desk:: I'm a good speller, but I'm not perfect and some of the crossword answers are obscure enough that spelling it the correct way is a challenge for me. When I see the var designation, I just leave it alone even if I know the answer and try to get it from the answers that cross it.

It's my goal to make it through the entire puzzle without using Google, but I'm not always successful. It's a disappointment, but I'm not competing, I'm doing this for fun. It was an online search that led me to my favorite crossword blog: Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle. I don't know why, but until I found this, it never occurred to me that people might blog about doing the puzzle.

After I finish my efforts--whenever that might be (and sometimes when I'm busy, it might be months. I'm doing ones from last August now.)--I head over to the blog and read the entry and the comments. Yes, I'm a geek, but I find both the post and the comments entertaining and it's interesting to find out if my opinions of the puzzles jive with someone who's good enough to compete at the NY Times crossword competition. I've never commented over there. I've thought about it sometimes while doing a puzzle, but I'm a week behind because of the syndication (and that's if I've had time to do it the same week my local paper runs it)--and by then, at least one other person (often more) have said the same thing I wanted to say.

My paper syndicates two puzzles. The other one is called TMS, although I don't know what that stands for. I work that puzzle, too, as time allows, but it's usually a little too easy for me now and I don't enjoy it as much. It's gotta be the Times!