Thursday, October 13, 2005

Concinnity? We don't need no steenking concinnity!

Or something.

MarcV asked the other day
Do you also like the number puzzles, like Cross Sums, or do you just stick with the word puzzles? Cross Sums are my favorites.

And of course the answer is: (in order) yes, YES!, and no. Me too!

Some of my earliest memories of my mother are of her sitting and working crossword puzzles. I was always amazed at her ability to recall what were, at least to me, obscure words and phrases. "Mom, what's a ten letter word for literary harmony?" I never have quite figured out how she knew so much. When I was little, she'd save the easy puzzles in the beginning of the crossword puzzle book for me.

If you don't work crosswords, you probably don't know that unless the puzzle book says "only crosswords", it will contain a wide variety of word and number puzzles. With few exceptions, I like them all. But some definitely more than others. The one's I don't particularly care for are the ones where you get a bunch of squares with patterns and you have to draw them in the correct box to form a larger picture (no good at drawing), the diagramless crosswords (my mom's favorites) and the Solicross puzzles (they just don't wow me). I didn't used to like the cryptograms, but those have kind of grown on me.

My favorites are the Cross Sums, the logic problems (but just the ones with the standard grid - I've been known to make my own when necessary), the Soduku puzzles (though they go by a different name in the puzzle books) and, of course, crosswords.

When I was a kid, there was only one "brand" of crossword puzzle books - Dell. I remember in the early seventies when the Penny Press books became available (at least in our area). They were cheaper than the Dell books, but tended to have more typos and editing errors. Plus they were printed on cheaper paper that tended to tear more if you had to erase. But they had this deal where you could send off and get ten back issues (random pick of their choice) for a ridiculously low price. (Proving the idiom that quantity has it's own quality)

Even though today the quality of the Dell and the Penny Press books are pretty much the same, I still tend towards buying the Dell books over the others. And over the years, my working style has changed. I used to work all my favorites first, then start with the easy puzzles in the front and work towards the harder puzzles in the back. (The sequence is Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert, and Challenger) Now, I start at the back of the book and work my way forward. The first half of the book takes forever. The last half goes about as fast as I can write. Oddly enough, I sometimes have more difficulty with the Hard puzzles than with the Expert or Challengers. And yes, I will peek at the answers when I've completed everything I possibly can.

My big accomplishment for the weekend was working the Sunday Times crossword in the paper. I think this is the first time I worked the whole thing without having to peek at the answers. Again, for the uninitiated, the Sunday Times puzzle is the Holy Grail of crosswords. I did get one letter wrong, so I can't claim perfection. But I do know (now) that the Japanese martial art is Kendo not Kenjo.

And for those of you who might think that I think I'm smart ... my oldest brother works crosswords in ink.

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