Crosswords, an Addiction

Hi, I’m Randall, and I’m addicted to crossword puzzles.

I was sitting in a cafe earlier doing some work. A guy came in, purchased today’s Tulsa World, and asked if he could sit in the empty chair next to me. I welcomed him. We sat in silence as he read the paper and I searched online job ads (my job is to help other people find jobs). He eventually noticed a seat open up farther from the door and having grown tired of the cold draft, he moved. As he got up, he tossed a section of the newspaper on the table beside me. It was the “Scene” section, which contains the comics (the most insightful page of the paper) and two crossword puzzles. I don’t know why he chose to leave this section behind. Maybe he has no interest in local food and music scenes, or he noticed, via ESP or something, that I was looking for a fix for my addiction. Either way, I’m thankful.

This won’t fix me for long, though. The Tulsa World crosswords, provided by the NEA and King Publishing, aren’t very good. They have a difficulty level that is usually a couple steps shy of a Monday New York Times puzzle, and the clues are often poorly written. Also, they don’t progress in difficulty like the Times. It’s fun to start with the ease of Monday and work through to the more challenging puzzles of the week. Monday puzzles usually take me 10-20 minutes, and Friday and Saturday puzzles may take me hours. Then there is the grand Sunday puzzle, what a jewel!

Crosswords puzzles are an appropriate addiction for a writer, I think, and especially for a poet. They are great for all writers, or anyone who wants a better vocabulary, because the solver must find the perfect word for the meaning that is implied in the clue. Sometimes a clue has a relatively easy answer, but the first answer that comes to mind doesn’t fit. We must then search the thesaurus of our minds for the correct synonym.

I say they are especially good for poets due to the mathematical processes of crossing certain words. This mode of thinking helps me see the meter of my poems better. If I need to count iambs, syllables, or rhyme scheme to fit a poetic form, I need to think both mathematically and creatively. Even free verse has a certain rhythm rooted in mathematics. Pardon the pun.

So if I ever tell you I’ve been sober from crossword puzzles for any length of time, stop calling me a poet. I am no more than a sad man.