I guess there are worse things to be addicted to, but in the last four years I’ve been getting up quietly around 5:30 a.m. and with slippered feet, I make my way to my studio office. There with the plantation shutters still closed, I turn on my computer and carefully type in my Password. Within minutes I am opening an email and pressing the Search button. No need to even type in the whole word, as a C will do. It brings up what I seek every day except for Sundays…you know…never on a Sunday. Then I press enter and lo and behold what I am looking for appears. All I must do then is select Print.
I’m not the only one I know who is guilty of sitting down with a sharpened pencil and eraser to fill in the white blanks on a square grid with answers to clues running horizontally and vertically. My friend, Donna does them now and Robert does, too. Even Martha Stewart boasts of this habit saying it gives her mind a jump start each morning before she even begins her lengthy day of meditating, making granola from scratch, pruning her apple trees, creating a new recipe of foie gras beef wellington, then taping a cooking segment with Snoop Dog in which they make matcha brownies. I’ll admit it, I’m not as busy as Martha, but I still need that daily dose of fact recollection and synonym retrieval from my mind’s archives to rev me up for my day ahead.
Who do we have to thank for this brain teaser? Meet Arthur Wynne, a manager who worked at the now-defunct New York World newspaper and who in 1913 was asked by his editor to create a new “mental exercise” for the Fun section of the paper. Like the “Magic Square” puzzles he remembered from his childhood days in Liverpool, Wynne created a larger grid and offered clues with answers to fill in, instead of providing a word bank. He called it Word-Cross and when an illustrator mixed up the words referring to it as Cross-Word, the name stuck.
From my journal, written on November 9, 2021 Thousand Oaks, California
“Couldn’t resist…ordered the LA Times Crossword Puzzle book for myself – FUN!”
There is a litany of reported benefits from working on crossword puzzles. Among them: it builds vocabulary, relieves stress, and helps improve focus. Another biggie: it may delay the effects of dementia!
Starting out each day exercising my mind gives me a boost and helps me navigate the challenges of everyday life. And on Sunday mornings when we receive a hard copy of the Los Angeles Times we take the Comics / Puzzle section with us to our local deli and solve the puzzle together, which I’ve heard, strengthens social bonds. And as Martha would say, that’s “a good thing”!