Crossword Follies

CROSSWORD FOLLIES….Several weeks ago, with some spare time on my hands, I decided to see the film Wordplay, a documentary about crossword puzzles and crossword puzzle tournaments. It was both charming and fascinating.

Too fascinating, in fact. I’ve never done crossword puzzles before, but the movie gave me the bug, and soon I was slightly obsessed. (The same thing happened after I read the book Word Freak a few years ago. Marian and I played Scrabble nightly for months after that.) I started off doing the LA Times puzzle, but within days I knew I had to have more. Before long I was working half a dozen puzzles a day.

Unfortunately, this is fairly time consuming. Dr. B has recently hosted a guest blogger named Orange who, typically for serious puzzle solvers, plows through even difficult puzzles in about five minutes flat, but this sort of linguistic facility is just a distant dream for me. At 20-30 minutes per puzzle, I was flushing away several hours a day.

So I set a goal. I don’t think I could finish a crossword puzzle in five minutes even if you gave me the answer key and just told me to transcribe it, but after a few weeks I got good enough that I could at least successfully solve most puzzles I tried. (Yeah, low bar.) My goal, then, was to have a day in which I solved all six of my daily puzzles without any hints or errors. Last week, on Monday, I came close: only one error. Tuesday was the same. On Wednesday I had two goofs. On Thursday I was back to one. Finally, on Friday, I did it: all six puzzles solved without a mistake.

Whew. Does this mean I should declare victory and give up on crosswords? Probably. We’ll see. But I decided that as a swan song I should try to create a crossword puzzle instead of merely solving one. Guess what? It’s hard! But for anyone with a crossword jones, here it is in PDF format for easy printing:

Kevin’s first (and probably last) crossword puzzle

It’s got a bloggish motif, and all answers are guaranteed to consist of genuine English letters. I don’t think it’s all that hard, but who knows, really? I imagine that judging the difficulty of your own puzzle is something that comes either from long experience or from the judgment of an editor, both of which I conspicuously lack.

And I suppose I should just fess up right now that 21 Down is pretty ridiculous, and 69 Across is really ridiculous. That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an amateur. Then again, I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous crossword answers over the past few weeks, so maybe these are both perfectly legit after all.

If I’m feeling benevolent, I’ll post the answers tomorrow. Have fun!