As most of us attempt to follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical professionals, there is an ongoing need to feel a sense of accomplishment.
In my generally solitary confinement, successfully solving crossword puzzles often does just that.
At present, I am working my way through a fourth ring-binder book of between 150 and 250 large print word grids, ink pens and a white-out pen always close at hand.
A close friend recently mentioned that one of her sons is discovering the fun and frustration of tackling crosswords and we both agreed that no matter how long one has been engaged in this mental exercise, there is always a myriad of new phrases and long-forgotten factoids to glean from them.
I confess to eschewing the really difficult puzzle challenges because my level of annoyance at being stumped by them would cause me more angst than is needed during these already difficult days.
That being said, I do work the Sunday crosswords in The Sentinel-Record and the Sunday one in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Some of the weekend ones I can complete in one sitting, others may take a day or two, and on occasion, I admit to just "giving up the ghost" as the idiom says.
My longtime penchant for movies and television leads me to try and fill in the blanks of the weekly TV Guide and People magazine word games. I often encounter some real brain teasers in these bafflers so I team up via phone with a friend who shares this interest in the entertainment world and we usually manage to get all the answers.
The old saw, "Tricks of the trade," certainly applies to crosswords. Puzzle aficionados know that "Early Russian monarch" is often "Tsar" but can also be "Czar." And a sailor's call for help is most likely "SOS" but is also the title of one of the Swedish group ABBA's hit songs. Presidents and their running mates are popular subjects for puzzle creators who seem especially taken with "Abe" for Abraham Lincoln, "FDR" for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and "Ike" for Dwight David Eisenhower. Richard Nixon's veep, Spiro Agnew, and Clinton's VP Al Gore are frequently found in word challenges.
Speaking of Eisenhower, how many of our readers can readily cite the general's area of command in World War II?
Trivial knowledge is a must in ultimately winning out over the enigmas of a crossword poser. Of course, recalling all the little things about this and that is a key. I do pretty well when it comes to sports figures and terms, but not so much when history and geography are involved. And to this day, I thank Elizabeth Buck and her Latin class for teaching me about word derivations and scientific terms in particular.
If one gets in a rush -- which many of us are prone to do at times -- misreading the tenses of a verb can really be troublesome. And truth be told, there are those days when we crossword fans just have to acknowledge that we are hopelessly stuck and turn to Google for help.
In the meantime, remember that there's a lot to be learned from completing a crossword puzzle.