I am not a crossword kinda gal. Seeing all those empty white squares makes me want to grab a handful of crayons and color them in muted ombre variations, like an art project. I am not sure where this fear of crosswords comes from, except possibly that they make me feel dumb. I tried them in high school, again in college, and from time to time while waiting for planes at the airport. My first mistake was not using a pencil with an eraser. My second mistake was not memorizing every piece of trivia that has been introduced to my beleaguered brain since 1982. Crosswords are very, very hard, and I have all the half-finished and quarter-finished relics to prove it.
So it should come as somewhat of a surprise that I picked up The Husband’s crossword puzzle book off the dining room table and began to leaf through.
It was funny, I never realized that The Husband was a fan of crossword puzzles. In our 11-year marriage, he had never mentioned this interesting tidbit about himself. But there it was, in black (ink!) and white, page after page of neatly filled-in boxes of letters, most even spelling actual words.
Now, The Husband is a sharp guy. He has some important cost-analyzing-type job where he tells big companies what they can spend (this bossiness about spending carries over into our personal life as well). He is very good at what he does, and I was thrilled to discover this fun, literary side of him.
If The Husband can do crossword puzzles, maybe I can, too! It had been a while (a decade, maybe longer) since I had attempted one, possibly my brain had matured and captured all that information that is necessary for crosswords.
You know where this is going. I decided to answer a couple of the questions. I scanned the clues for one I could recognize: “33 Across: Skip to my _____.” Lou? Lou! It fit! Wow, this wasn’t as hard as I remembered. Getting older makes you smarter, not dumber!
After this initial confidence boost, I decided to try a few more. “16 Down: The main color of a stop sign.” Red! Wait—was this a trick question? That seemed a little obvious. Maybe it was burgundy. Maroon. Reflective, was that a color? I scanned the puzzle, 3-letters. Red was the correct answer!
Why did I think crossword puzzles were so difficult all those years? What was I so scared of?
“2 Down: Typical.” Uh, normal? No, usual? Right!
The complex puzzle progressed like this for the next three and a half hours until each and every square was finally filled in. (The only one I really stumbled on was “Last name of the author of Winnie the Pooh.” How should I know? I haven’t read any of those books in years. But, luckily I was able to piece together that it was Yilnx from the answers in the squares going the other direction. This made me feel smart and resourceful, traits I am sure Mrs. Yilnx would appreciate.)
I looked over my puzzle with an immense feeling of smugness and self-satisfaction. I could hardly wait to tell The Husband about my newfound (latent) crossword genius skills! He was out running some errands but would be back soon. Gosh, he was going to be so impressed.
I was giving the crossword book a little hug, as if to say, Thank you for reinstating my confidence in my abilities, and showing me that I can do something hard if I focus and put my mind to it, when in walks my second-grade son Tall.
“Oh, good, Mommy, you found my crossword book!”