Cross Words

Crossword

CROSSWORD PUZZLES LEAVE SOME PEOPLE BLANK

Some people just don’t understand what people like me get out of doing crossword puzzles. We sit for hours, poring over ambiguous clues, to fill in little boxes, and when we’re done, all we have is a page full of letters.  I mean, we don’t even get a prize for all that work.

As you’ve probably guessed, lots of folks, my darling wife included, do not find crossword puzzles _ _ _ (three letters across, first letter F)  Even though I’ve almost made a C_R_ _R (life’s work, six letters) out of writing and playing with words, trying to do a crossword puzzle is an agonizing chore for many.  Their minds just don’t work that way.

My wife will sit for hours without saying a word, while I do my puzzles.  If I happen to muse aloud, “What’s a four-letter word for a garden tool?” she will quickly reply, “Spatula.”  I say, “No!  I think it’s rake.” and write that down.

If I had simply asked her to name some garden tools, she could have rattled off a whole list, from rake and shovel, to trowel, spade, and ‘Garden Weazel.’  Because I specifically mentioned a four-letter garden tool for a crossword puzzle, she can’t think of a single one.  Her mind just goes BL-N- (empty, five letters)

In fact, the moment I posed that question, she couldn’t think of a garden tool to save her life, even if she were being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.  The Inquisitor could say, “All right, heretic.  Give me a three-letter word for ‘poem’, starting with O, or I will lock you in the Iron Maiden.”  She’d probably just stand there and say, “I think it’s ‘Owl’, before they ran the sharp spikes into her body.

CROSSWORD PUZZLING

The reason that some folks can’t think of answers to crossword puzzle questions is that, whenever they’re presented with a clue, their mind becomes a big, dark room where they rummage around, trying to find something, anything, to fill in the blank spaces.  They grab onto it, and shout ‘Spatula’ for no apparent reason.

The best they can do with crosswords, is come close.  If the clue is – a beverage: P_ _, they write down PUB, which is actually fairly good, since at least a pub is a place where you can get a beverage.  If the puzzle wants ‘Lennon’s widow’ in three letters, they put down ‘Mrs.’

Crossword clues are just plain confusing to some.  They read the clue: ‘state that borders Mexico’, starting with A, and try to put in ‘Atlantic Ocean.’  Or they look at the clue: ‘High ranking marine,’ with five spaces, and try to fit in ‘humpback whale.’

Obviously, they have to write really small when they do crosswords like that.  The boxes get so crowded that they have to stack letters on top of each other.  On the other hand, sometimes the word they want doesn’t work, because they don’t have enough letters to fill in all the boxes.  The clue will be: ‘balloon filler,’ needing four spaces, and they put in AIRR.

For some, the problem started back in school, with tests that had them fill in the blanks.  They’d get the history question, ‘The Gettysburg Address was delivered by……..’  They would go into that dark room and come out with, the Post Office.  Or, on a Geography quiz, the question would be, ‘The United States capital is in……’, and they put down, ‘total confusion.’

A fellow-student in one class would look at the first question on the test and panic.  Your name……….  He would wave his hand frantically, until the teacher said, “What is it, Myron?” and quickly write Myron down.

I had an uncle who liked to enjoy the company of a crossword puzzle book and a glass of wine after dinner.  After he passed on, I happened to pick up his puzzle book and look in it.  The clue would read: Lone Ranger’s horse, and he would have written GZODKE.  He had fooled us.  He didn’t like crossword puzzles at all!  He just liked the quiet, and a chance to drink.

Wine

The Olde Philosophy Shoppe

philosopher

I have strived for years to absorb the wisdom of the ages, and all I wound up with was the ages – very little wisdom. Even my LinkedIn profile (under The Archon) lists my job description as ‘Sage’….more like oregano – or thyme.  Just as taxis are being pushed out by the likes of Lyft, or Uber, so too do I find my respected Adored Elder position of ‘disseminator of arcane knowledge’ being replaced by part-time amateurs.

During the summer, I took the wife and daughter (more than once) to a couple of plant nurseries. Valuable tribal lore used to be passed by word of mouth, from older, experienced, veteran warriors, to green, wet-behind-the-ears youngsters, around the campfires at night.

I found that wisdom (and what passes for it) is now passed from smart-mouthed hipster Millennials, to plant lovers and random passers-by, via garden plaques. Here are a few of the ones I saw.  Perhaps you’d like to copy and save one or two, and pass them on, when the time is right.

philo2

philo1

philo3

philo4

philo5

smartphone-ignore

truth

no-humor

Ah well, you guys come here mostly for the humor….or is it just to humor me?  I’ve armed you well.  Go forth and be philosophical – and come back in a couple of days for some jokes.

Flash Fiction #84

Flowers

PHOTO PROMPT © The Reclining Gentleman

BEAUTY BLOSSOMING

In Great-Grampapa Bollini’s village in Italy, everyone grew much of their own food. In the mountain passes north of Milan, every available square metre was treasured and planted with vegetables and fruit.

When he came to America, he declared, “Food is for the belly, but the soul needs feeding too.” He manages to grow grapes, as well as zucchini and beans, but beside the driveway out front, his daffodils trumpet the coming of spring, and urge the tulips to rise from the warming ground and spread their beauty for his eyes and ours.

Our souls rejoice when we visit him.

***

Got to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Adoption

Buddha

In our continuing quest to get a front-page spread in Better Huts And Hovels (Pagan Press Intl.), the wife decided to dress the place up a bit, and give it some character. To that end, we decided to adopt a few more characters as lucky amulets.

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She felt we should get a small statue of Buddha for the back deck, among her many plants, as a sign of peace, so off to Lowes we trekked. We found a lovely Buddha, and right next to him, Elfen (above). One look at that smirky smile, and we said, peace on Buddha, we’re taking him. That shit-disturbing little grin just says, “Take me home, so that we can start getting into trouble.”

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The son keeps acquiring semi-precious stone skulls. His total now is about 20. I’ll show you his rogues’ gallery complete, later in the summer. His interest has rubbed off on the wife, and she has also begun a collection. As homage to our alien overlords, she now displays in a place of honor, a replica of Ming from Mong, their revered leader.

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On a lower shelf, to demonstrate our obedience and subjugation, sits a little crystal human skull replica, that the son gave his mother for Mothers’ Day. Isn’t he sweet and thoughtful? That’s so much better than the Swiffer Sweeper and electric fry pan I got her. My head still has a lump from when she accidentally dropped it while putting it away.

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If two heads are better than one, then 20 should be better than 2, so the son continues to expand his collection. He says this big obsidian skull has been talking to him from the Rock Shop at the Farmers’ Market, for over six months….He just means that he’s been attracted to it, right?? I mean, it couldn’t really talk to him – could it??!

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To help him with his thinking, the son recently got another set of wooden heads. He claims that they stand for See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. There’s nothing evil about this house, but I think these guys just don’t want to see or hear what’s going on. Poor Moe, on the bottom, saw and heard, and is now trying to keep his stomach down. Nice of him, but with a couple of sensitive cats, one more stain on the rug wouldn’t even be noticed.

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These new kids sit not too far away from their older, larger brothers, which the son obtained back in the fall. The old Market building burned down because it was made of dried wood, and had no sprinklers. Perhaps I should dip these in fire retardant, and tell the son that I’m staining them for him. 😉

So, all in all, we’re now better protected from random psionic and thaumaturgic attacks. Maybe I should obtain a couple more and send them to Cordelia’s Mom, to protect her from the imps who infest her neighborhood.

#482

Protection From Demons

Oops, sorry!  That title should read Protection, From Demons.  When the glaciers marched into and out of this region ages ago, they dug up and left behind a lot of stone.  This is one of the most geologically varied areas in the world.  When we moved here, I hired a separate van to move 3000 pounds of rocks that we’d obtained over the years, to be used for landscaping and garden accents, quartz, marble, sandstone, agate and shale, often with fossils in it.

Over the years, we have also purchased a variety of garden figures.  Not silly little gnomes, these guys have some character, like the characters who own them.

Igor 2       Igor

This is Igor.  He came to us blind, because he had one eye closed, and the other one missing.  We provided him with a blood-red marble to see with.  He spent years beneath the wife’s magnolia bush, which didn’t do well in sandy soil near the river, when we lived on the other side of town, but has grown and branched and bloomed in the clay-ey soil here.

a New Magnolia

The first photo shows the small, but blooming plant 15 years ago, before we moved.

Bare Magnolia TreeThe next shot is the same shrub, transplanted, after we moved, 12 years ago.  Not much more than a stick, we didn’t hold much hope for it.  You can see a couple of the accent stones we brought along.

 

Magnolia [2] 2009The blooming shot is from five years ago.  It blooms in the spring before it leafs out.  The last pic is from the same spot as shot number 2, giving some idea of how it continues to grow.  It’s a shrub magnolia, not the tree variety, but 14/15 feet tall.  We get some re-blooming, especially on the sunny top, mid-July/Aug.

Magnolia 1, 2013

 

Igor bade goodbye to years of Halloween trick-or-treaters.  He’s an anorexic 7.5 pounds of fibreglass and resin, easily talked into walking down the street with a teenager, like a three-pound pottery angel which disappeared off a flower table on the front porch.  Or maybe she was just embarrassed by the company she was forced to keep, and flew away.

Goliath [1]Goliath

When we had the chance to adopt Goliath, we gave him a Moonstone evil-eye – and Igor’s spot under the magnolia.  Goliath is 75 pounds of pure concrete, promising a hernia or broken foot to any potential thief.  Igor moved to the back deck.

Go Away

Go Away (front)

Back on the deck, he moved in with “Go Away”, my personal mascot.  I was going to use his photo as my gravatar, but decided on something a little more welcoming.  There are (un)welcome mats which also read Go Away, but it’s cheaper just to ignore the doorbell.  Back beside Go Away, is the wife’s final word to her flowers, “Grow Dammit”.  Seems to be working.

GrowDamnIt

They are watched over by Winged Victory, who can’t fly off the fencepost because of a six-inch spike up his little fiberglass ass.  He was the painted display model and the last of his discontinued line that we brought home from a Mediaeval Faire.  He is a grotesque, because only waterspouts are correctly named gargoyles.

Fence Boy [1]Winged Victory

Continuing in the son’s hear-no-evil, etc. theme, are the matched set of concrete goblins which he purchased.  I managed to set them out in the correct order.  The child whose head is full of even more useless trivia than mine, says their Japanese names are Mizaru, Mazaru, and Mikazaru.  Some sets include, “Do No Evil”, with the hands over his crotch.  As well, there’s the vertical, resin, green and white frog-set version.  He has others, indoors.

See No, Hear No, Speech No 1 Froggies

Back around at the front, keeping intruders out of the washroom window are two of three concrete goblin-lions.  They’ve been out there 24/7/365 since we bought them.  Sadly, the third must have had a crack, and this spring, freezing split it into three unequal pieces.  For backup, they hang out with a demented Sesame Street-like character the grandson formed in pottery class in grade eight.

                          Window Sill Grotesques [2]

If anyone manages to get through the window, without upsetting the goblins, or our cats, they are not welcomed inside by Hellboy’s younger brother, Redboy.

Red BoyLurking near the door, waiting to trip up unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witnesses, kids selling school chocolate, and other ne’er-do-wells, is The Thinker, looking like he just climbed down off an Aztec sacrificial pyramid after ingesting a bit too much peyote, and thinking about who he’ll have for lunch.

Porch Thinker [1]Thinker

Providing a stumbling block in front of a three-tier brass plant-stand and the aforementioned plant table, at the end of the porch, is Todd The Toad.  While not much for rending undesirables limb from limb, after the rest of the Wrecking Crew do their number, he eats up any incriminating DNA evidence.  He hopped home with us all the way from the three-ended bridge in Zanesville, Ohio.

Toad

Tod the Toad [1]Having written about a Yankee transplant in Kentucky whose God-fearing neighbors wanted him burned at the stake for having two little concrete demons out at the end of his driveway, it occurred to me to wonder what the neighbors thought of our unusual “pets.”  One weekend, when the neighbor-lady’s father was visiting from Buffalo, I asked if they were offended or worried in any way.

Logical thinkers, they had no problems.  The dad asked, though, “Shouldn’t they be facing outwards?”  He don’t know us very well, do he?  On the wall, just inside the front door, is a small parchment which reads, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re just a nice normal family.”  They’re there to protect the rest of the neighborhood from us!

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Liz

The couple of recent posts about cookies have reminded the wife and me about an ex-neighbor.  Far from stupid, she just suffered the all-too-common affliction of not noticing and not thinking.  A stay-at-home mother like the wife, she sometimes visited back and forth.

The first odd thing we noticed about her was strange eating habits.  She claimed to be Scottish, but no Scots ever acknowledged her.  Scots are frugal, for they’ve not got a lot to be frugal with.  One of her favorite snacks was to burn, not toast, two slices of bread.  Then she would slice pickled beets, and make a sandwich of them.  Maybe this treat had originated because of a need to consume food which would otherwise be wasted.

Perhaps a precursor to today’s entitled generation, she wanted what she wanted, Right F**kin’ Now, without the bother of work, or study.  Long an accomplished gardener, the wife had the entrance to our house nicely landscaped.  Liz complained that her place was so plain and bare.  The wife instructed her how to prepare a garden area, and told her to plant flowers in it.  She and her 14-year-old son prepared the bed, then she picked up some marigolds at a local nursery and planted them.

When the son came home from school, his first question was, “Mom, where are the flowers’ legs?”  She had buried them in the ground, up to their little chins – stems, leaves and all.  The little garden looked as if someone had plucked the blooms off and strewn them on the earth.

Next, she decided that she wanted a hanging basket like we had, and another neighbor went with her to the nursery and helped her pick out a nice one with petunias in it.  The nursery staff instructed her to pinch off mature seed-pods, to encourage continued blooms.  She complained to the neighbor that the stupid flowers bloomed at night when she couldn’t see them.  Turns out, she’d been pinching off all the ready-to-bloom buds.

Like our Chiropractor, her favorite cookies were ginger snaps.  She had to go to hospital a couple of times for extended treatments, and the wife visited with a can of cookies for a treat.  She pulled several of them from the tin, and stacked them within her fingers, like poker chips, all the same size and perfectly round.  She looked at the cookies, and then at the wife.  “I hate you.”  Like me and my Jeep parts, when you’ve made three-quarters of a million of them, you get consistent.

The wife instructed her how to make them, at our house.  After a miserable failure at home, she accused the wife of leaving out some ingredient or preparation step, so the wife agreed to visit her place the next time she wanted to try.  The mixing proceeded nicely.  Then she took out one cookie sheet, because that was all she had.  The wife has four aluminum sheets used only for cookies.  They are so clean and shiny that you can use them as mirrors.

Her only sheet was steel, and had been used for everything from baking squash, to roasting meat.  It was about the color of the dark-chocolate cookie buds.  Oh dear!  Well, if that’s what we have, that’s what we have to use.  When the oven came up to heat, the wife opened the door to insert the pan, and looked at the single rack.  It was down as far as it could go.  “Of course!  That’s where the heat is!” says Liz, and still didn’t understand why she had burned all the previous variously sized/shaped cookies.  The only baking she had done was to make Angel Food cake mix, and that is always baked on the bottom rack.

Her second husband was a police officer.  He went to work at 11 PM on a winter’s Sunday night.  At about 12:15, he got a radio message to call home.  Before cell-phones, he plugged a quarter in a pay-phone and called her.  She told him that the house was getting cold, as were the three kids.  She thought something must be wrong with the furnace.  He asked, “Did you check the fuse-box?”  She answered, “Oh Gord, don’t be stupid!”  He managed to locate a technician who made emergency calls, got him out of bed, paid him almost a week’s salary, and sent him over to the house.

For the week’s pay, the guy took her fuse, and screwed it into her fuse box.  “But Gord, it’s a gas furnace!  How was I supposed to know it ran on electricity?”

When pre-aged, stone-washed jeans were the rage, he decided he wanted some, but the store he went to was sold out.  How a mere man might know, is a mystery.  Perhaps one of his drug informants gave him the info.  You can pre-age bright blue jeans with bleach.  He bought two pairs of very expensive pants in regular finish, and gave them to her with the instruction to soak them with “a bit of bleach.”  She put both pairs in a large pail, poured an entire gallon of Javex bleach on them, and left them for a week.  He got back wet, pale-blue Kleenex.

A fun friend, and a nice companion to my house-bound wife, she was also the source of considerable unintentional humor.  When they sold their house up the street, she told the kaffee-klatch that it had gone to “The Curries.”  Oh, you know their names already?!  We discovered some unexpected racism when she explained, that was another term for “PAKIS– duh!”  Both families have moved several times and we have lost track.  The wife and I are still trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad one.