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My 2 Sense

What I Have Learned From Crossword Puzzles

October 14, 2005
Crosswords A friend tuned me on to crosswords several years ago which started me on my downhill slide. If the truth be known, I am addicted to the morning crossword puzzle. Does anyone know of a 12 Step program for puzzle addicts?

I curse my dependence on the damn things. Who knows how low I will go; from The Province crossword to the New York Times one, or worse, to cryptic crosswords. Not only have they become a mandatory part of my morning routine, they have become a major source of irritation.

Why? Because whenever I can't get the correct word, I blame the creator of the puzzle; the clues are wrong, or his or her knowledge of the English language is sub-standard. I did everything buy look inward.

I'm sure this will seem odd but I have learned a lot about myself, and made changes to my behavior as a result of doing crossword puzzles. No one who knows me would describe me as a patient person but crosswords have helped me to develop more patience.

When I first began doing them, if I didn't finish one right away, I'd get in a mood. Later I found that if I was stumped I could leave it and come back later in the day to complete it, usually successfully.

Part of the reason for this is that I realized that even in the humble practice of crossword puzzles, the answers are already there. If they are not forthcoming when I want them, they will come later, or when I least expect them.

Now as male, firmly rooted in left brain linear thinking, I have had to learn to open myself up to all the possibilities of the mind. All knowledge is within and all we need to do is to become willing to receive to access the information.

A wonderful professor I had in art school hammered home the concept of 'art as an accident.' We were taught to recognize that some things appear out of nowhere, or what we perceive to be nowhere, to solve certain problems, or provide certain answers. Goethe said the same thing about once a commitment is made, all kinds of unforeseen ideas, people and events appear to accomplish the goal to which the commitment was made.

Many times I've found this in doing crosswords. Since I am a visual person, when I'm stumped, I try to look at the puzzle and see the word rather than try to recall from my mental hard drive possible words corresponding to the clues. Sort of like " Wheel of Fortune ." I don't believe I said that!

Many times I've found myself stymied by a combination of words needed. When I started, I feared making mistakes so I took no risks. Later when faced with the same situation I learned to take chances, stick in a word or several words to see if maybe they'd work. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't. Like life, taking reasonable risks or chances can only benefit one. I mean what's the worst thing that could happen? I'd have to use whiteout. (Does anyone still use whiteout?) Actually I now use an erasable pen. The point is, making mistakes is okay.

Another wonderful insight which crosswords illustrate is that there is more than one meaning to things, in this case words. Our language is full of words with several meanings and ideas expressed with more than one word. Recalling or choosing the right one sometimes involves looking at the clues in a different light. Exactly the way we are able to recreate ourselves by looking at our beliefs and making alterations which we hope will enhance our lives.

I have found that there is an opportunity to learn to release that which is unproductive through doing crosswords. At first, if I couldn't finish a puzzle it drove me crazy. Now if I'm unable to complete a puzzle, I accept the fact and go about my business. After all its only a puzzle.

I used to live in the past and dream of the future without fully living in the present. Crosswords require focusing and therefore doing them puts one in the moment, excluding time. As a matter of fact, I feel a crossword coming on right now!

Courtney Smith