Crosswords, Crossroads, & the Road Ahead #sol21
I have summer rituals. I talk to my husband on the phone until he gets to work and on his way home even though I was just talking to him over coffee moments before and will talk to him over dinner in a short time. I think it makes his drive shorter. At least it distracts him from the distance.
I talk to my dogs, linger over coffee and every morning, I complete the crossword in the paper, the actual paper form of the paper that arrives at the end of the driveway each morning. No cipher, no jumble, no word search, no sudoku, just the headlines and the crossword.
I have a ritual to the crossword. Ninety percent of the time, I confidently complete it in ink, writing over changed letters if need be. If I get stuck on a word or words, that crossword will lay there on the table until I figure it out. I’m sure this says a lot about me as a problem solver. Give it a go and then fix if need be.
I don’t know if you know this, but the crossword gets progressively more difficult across the week beginning with Monday and ending with the Sunday crossword. That makes sense. Monday needs a gentle entry and my Friday, just bring it already. The Sunday crossword isn’t our local ‘easy’ crossword, but the notorious New York Times crossword. That’s ok, Sundays are for lingering over Mimosas and waffles, generously making the crossword a group effort.
I remember as a child, my parents got the morning and afternoon papers so they could each have their own separate crosswords. Their folded papers and their Cross pencils dropped on their respective end tables, the soft glow of their lamps shining on their progress. My father’s jagged, aggressive, all capital printing strokes identifiable from a distance and my mom’s soft almost cursive curves barely visible, they are so faint. My letters, as you can see, are the letters of a primary school teacher, mostly even block capitals filling the whole square. Years of teaching letter formation has made my printing even and true.
There are techniques to crosswords as personal as fingerprints. Both my parents took the method of starting with the top of the clues, all the across words, crossing out easily identified words and circling trickier clues to return to later. Then the down clues, some already completed or nearly there, a check on their initial responses. These are not my ways. Though DNA is probably strong, much like I don’t resemble them at first glance, my methods are predictably my own. On further thought, these methods are most likely telling of my ways as a whole. I do start with the across words, but upon each solve word, I move to the crosswords that are formed by those completed letters. So if I completed vaguer across, I would move on to VCR, Ali, Gop, Aspouse, seen, and yurts intersecting the longer word. In the end, I go back to check my answers by looking up words in foreign languages or references to things I’ve never heard.
I know summer is drawing to a close when the puzzles feel easy and there isn’t ever one left on the table when Bob returns in the afternoon. It’s a good thing. I’m a little resistant to his help as he peers at the open squares. Remember that the clues are punny, he says. I pull my lips together and give a small nod. My solutions are my own.
I have been hesitating to mark the summer’s end this week as the school opens for set ups and post summer greetings. I’ve been lingering here at home with the chats, the dogs, and the crossword. Perhaps it’s the weather, so extreme this year, the bathroom project not quite finished, the books brought home happily nestled in my home library not eager to return to the literacy center. Perhaps it’s the continuing uncertainty of it all. My school year routines are not drawing me yet.
This morning, the steady school year routines gently pull on me. The crosswords are mastered, the dogs are settled, and it’s time to return to a different rhythm. My crossword solution strategy will be applied to the daily puzzles of our learning community literacy life. The new interventionist to settle, the students’ to relearn and resettle, the teachers to gently reveal, erasing missteps and confidently finding just the right letters moving forward in the puzzle as it reveals itself, knowing the completion will come eventually if I leave it sitting on that table for just a little while longer.