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.
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.