STEVEBLOG Home on the Range

9Jul/111

Crossword Puzzles: Child’s play or playing you like a child?

Crossword puzzles are a great way to pass time on a rainy day, keep your mind sharp, spend some quality time with your loved ones, or make your latte last longer while you hold the best seats in the coffee bar forcing others to separate from their friends or go wander the rainy streets for somewhere to sit. While they probably have an entirely different history, I would have checked but the Wikipedia article was really boring, they are a natural extension from a child’s word search. Both puzzles have the puzzler trying to find words in a grid, just the grownup version does not explicitly tell you what words you are trying to find. Like a child, word searches are imbued the spirit of exploration and innocence; the magical words are hidden in plain sight and just need the dullness of reality to be stripped away. Crossword puzzles have abandoned those values to instead become a dry exercise of general knowledge retention; words can only go in specific places and even though a clue might have multiple answers, only one is correct. Have you ever stopped to think what other adult characteristics snuck into crosswords? No? That’s probably because you have never stopped to think, but do not worry, there is always someone else to think for you and today that is me. Here are some more qualities that crossword puzzles share with the real world.

The world wants you to fail

I am sure there are some nice people in your life that take joy in your success but they are not the world. “The World” is everyone else that you don’t know and unless you know a bunch of crossword makers, then you are out of luck here. There is a very simple reason why shows like MXC became so popular and why we collectively follow celebrities hoping they embarrass themselves; other people getting hurt is funny and we feel less successful if others are more successful than us. Naturally, this extends to crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles dangle the proverbial carrot waiting for you take take that intellectual lunge into a pile of failure. You may be able to hide your failure by disposing of those partially filled puzzles but if you are playing with others, you can bet your idiotic suggestion will not be left unmocked, especially if you had been leading the word charge.

embigot Embigot? Do you even know the effect of the prefix “em” on a word like “bigot”? Inbigot would have made more sense, caveman.
Also, seriously, sheep are opile? Hey, I didn’t realize this was make up words Friday.

“You will fail” is generally left out of the fables I read growing up but it is ever so present amongst adults. Take that, judgemental crossword!

They are out to get you

Crossword puzzles seem like the creation of a whimsical games maker or the calculated product of a computer algorithm. Either way, you would expect the puzzle maker is either on your side or is not aware of your existence. The truth is that they thrive on your anguish. The most popular crossword puzzle is the New York Time’s Sunday crossword, which is known for its extreme difficulty. The tricky balance is that these puzzle makers need to string their audience along just enough for them to feel they can complete the crossword before crushing them with clues so obscure or ambiguous that they give up in frustration. On the plus side, they have not yet figured out how to punish us if we somehow manage to complete the puzzle.

18119_f260
Congratulations, you solved the crossword!

Failure is final

Chances are that you have heard the saying “you’re only as good as your last mistake”. Well crosswords like to drive that point home. Grownups play with pens because pencils are unprofessional. The one strength of the pencil is for correcting mistakes, which would be incredibly helpful for crossword puzzles. The puzzle makers know you use a pen, so they make sure to leave you with tiny boxes that don’t even let you properly scratch out words you got wrong. Once you have committed to a word, your only options are a barely legible correction or an unsolvable puzzle. That’s right, all it takes is one wrong word and you cannot solve the puzzle. Well, maybe if you fill in some imaginary words like embigot or opile. A favourite trick is to provide a clue with multiple answers that seem right to people who don’t really know for sure.

uranus Ain’t no rings here, just a black hole.
Also, they seemed to have compromised with “centeen” for “in the middle”. I guess sometimes it takes some time…

How much do you want to bet the players gave up and decided to try a new puzzle? If you answered, “for sure!”, then congratulations on not actually answering the question. We would have accepted any object relevant to wagers, such as a large denomination of money or your child’s saxophone. They did give up though.

Things are not always what they seem

Ever since us adults learned about subtext and subliminal messaging, we seem to have taken it as our duty to abuse them. We always use those concepts as much as possible from sarcastic insult-compliments to pilfering lunch money from children through ads. Well guess what. Our “friends”, the crossword puzzle makers are continuing that tradition. They have several ways to send us messages, sometimes the words in the grid form phrases when read in a certain way, other times a puzzle contains similar themes to invoke a response. My favourite, however, is taunting you with the left over clues. This is a very tricky method, being that they aim to have the most difficult clues act as thinly veiled taunts. Just think, you are scratching your head trying to figure out what the last few words are when you see it: a big F you.

magiceye
At this point it seems less like a list of clues and more like a magic eye poster of a big middle finger.

There you have it, not only do they want us to fail, they are also there to spit in our faces when we realize it. The best part? We can’t get enough of it. Now if you can excuse me, I need to grab my safety blanket and cry myself to sleep.

Your pal,

Steve