Cross Words for Trying Times
As I’ve written previously, I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety. These have worsened in recent years with the growing realization of the extent of hate and violence against marginalized people like myself. As I also haven’t had a day job for some time, I sometimes need motivation just to get out of bed in the morning. One motivator is my daily tea. Another is my daily crossword.
Like many people, I was drawn into the New York Times Games site after that company acquired Wordle early last year. I had been playing Wordle daily for months by then, and when I saw a link from my Wordle results to the Spelling Bee, I decided to check it out. I was quickly hooked, sprung for a games subscription, and began playing the Mini Crossword daily as well.
I was hesitant to take on the full crossword, however, as I had little experience or interest in doing crossword puzzles. I have large gaps in my knowledge of facts and trivia both modern and historical, so I thought solving a large grid would be a tough slog. And it was at first, especially for the more difficult late-week puzzles and for those that used tricky rebuses. I had to look up a lot of clues, and my first Sunday puzzle took me over five hours to finish.
I enjoyed reading the Wordplay column after finishing each puzzle, however, as it offered useful tips and fun facts. I found my skills improving steadily, my streaks growing longer and my finishing times shorter. Even the rebus puzzles (usually on Thursdays and Sundays) that I dreaded started to become fun.
Eventually, I challenged myself not to look up any clues or hints at all; I would either finish the puzzle with no help on the day it was released, or concede defeat (though some puzzles I would revisit at a later time). This challenge proved to be good for my brain — and ego — as I now get much greater satisfaction after each solve, especially the really difficult ones.
I’ve found that my daily Duolingo lessons have also helped a good deal when solving crosswords. Clues and answers in Spanish…