Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And now, for something completely different

I'm aware of most of my Grandma tendencies. I enjoy making small talk with neighbors in the street, I can get down with Tony Bennett, and if I had a purse, you better believe it'd be stuffed with butterscotch. Ever since a particularly unsightly accident in which I concussed one of my closest friends, I drive at a speed more closely associated with the elderly, except, you know, I've still got depth perception and don't choose to wear those geriatric sunglasses that everyone over the age of 65 is required to wear by law. You know, these. But the oldest and most persistent of my Granny habits is a daily addiction to the crossword.

Now, sure, crossworders come in all adult ages, certainly, but to me, the crossword will always and forever be associated with my Mom's Mom. She was voracious. Every morning I slept at her house, I'd awake to that morning's crossword, completed completely, sitting on the kitchen table next to what I then craved in the newspaper: the comics. Specifically, Calvin & Hobbes. I think I may have enjoyed Garfield at some point in my life, but I've had those memories removed, Eternal Sunshine-style, because of the groaning agony that strip now produces daily. Of course, it took me until college to become any good at the crossword. That skill was honed largely in thousand-person lectures about subjects I'd soon get "D"s in, largely because I wasn't paying any attention, as, you know, I was actively trying to remember some six letter Greek god with an "R" and an "M" in the middle. Looking back, not my best decision, I'll admit, but in a way, it was strangely more valuable. After all, the crossword has taught me about all manner of vaguely useful things: geography (AGRA and URAL), arcane, discontinued pesticides (DDT), and the unorthodox spelling of Popeye's girlfriend's surname (OYL), while the professor I was ignoring was probably yammering on about Faulknerian wordplay or Hopi genital size. I think I made the right decision.

Crosswords have been around, in their current form, for roughly a century. It's odd to think that when they first appeared in newsprint, they were something of a fad, a fad that, at the time, most resembled the American population's lust for Mah Jong. Newspaper men and cultural prudes condemned the practice as fleeting, bogus, and silly, a diagnosis that should have been saved for pogs or troll dolls or any of the other risible absurdities that followed---and yes, Crocs count. Sorry. Crosswords eventually appeared in most American newspapers, either originally or syndicated, even in the papers that bemoaned their supposed idiocy and frivolity, most notably the New York Times, the paper which editorialized against the puzzles diligently before becoming the purveyor of what essentially is the gold standard of all crosswords. That's called "irony."

So, somehow, after spending oh so many mornings and far too many lectures and a few guilty times at my desk at work doing the crossword, I got it in my head that I should try and make one. I figured, "hey, I know all the ridiculous non-words they use, I'm well-practiced; how hard can it be?" The answer: really effing hard. I spent a large majority of my secular Jesus day vacation trying to make one. I had weird, obsessive dreams I haven't had since a relatively embarrassing Tetris addiction I suffered when I was nineteen. My brain started hurting. Yet, after probably twenty aggregate hours staring at a piece of pentimento-laden graph paper, I ended up finishing on the plane back home while my sister stared at me, probably praying she was adopted. If I'd been wearing a collar, I would have popped it.

Now, with Birdmonster about to cloister itself in a dank studio for three weeks, the upcoming posts will be, largely, about the album. After all, that's the idea of this here blog dealy, and, after months of practicing and writing, we're like a bunch of toddlers on Christmas Eve, only if Christmas was twenty-one, twelve hour days with ear goggles on. We start Saturday. But today, we take a pre-emptive break and, like so many of my other mornings, we do a crossword.



(And since I didn't spend several hundred dollars on a fancy-pants program, you'll have to print this one out. Sorry)

Clues:

ACROSS:
--------------
1- Shady deal
5- Floral groupings
9- The cheap seats
13- Face in Grenada
14- For an additional time
15- Bootlegger Butler of fiction
16- Bus beginner?
17. Org. for Cardinal, Volunteers
18- Speak
19- What this puzzle was nothing but, once
21- Kingsley Shacklebot's vocation
22- Brad and Ed played him in Fight Club
23- Digit
25- U2 single, 1992
28- 60's, 70's Browns quarterback Brad
32- Sport which involves paddling?
37- "______ little dream"
38- Consumer
39- What's hidden in 9 & 35 down, 19 & 59 across
41- Avoid
42- The Great Desert
44- Civilized meal necessities
46- Taken without permission
47- Lemony drink
48- Lemony auto
51- Dio's genre
56- Sambuca flavorer
59- Nervous system study
62- Bad, bad first name of song
63- Give's partner
64- Beloved
65- What a parent might take on a big day?
66- Free from fluctuations
67- Overhang
68- Cubs slugger Sammy
69- A pause in the music
70- Part of a RR sched.

DOWN
----------
1- "Move over"
2- Like a Waters film
3- Steve's successor in Journey
4- 23rd State in the Union
5- Causer of hardship
6- Contain, abbr.
7- Gave kings or queens
8- The sound waves make
9- What the Knights of Ni were, pre-Aurthur
10- It may be brought up
11- Ralph and Milhouse's bus driver
12- Hip ender
15- Aimless sort
20- Corn or cotton
24- Not yet stained
26- Wanderers
27- Producer of 25 across
29- It's often had with sushi
30- Recent Romanian President Constantinescu
31- Brief sleeps
32- One may be sour, perhaps
33- "___ the sign", 90's lyric
34- Brand of 35 down
35- Fizzy, fruity drink
36- Wildebeest
40- Probable hr. of homecoming
43- What might ruin a pirate's photo?
45- Verne sea captain
49- It takes you down a line?
50- Exit
52- One who should be respected
53- "How ___ Fried Worms"
54- Cactus juice
55- Troubadour's instruments
56- Mount Blanc is their highest peak
57- Famous Roman fiddler
58- It's more often brown than green
60- Four stringed instruments, familiarly
61- 90's rock musical

5 comments:

Trott said...

I too had the brilliant idea of trying to create a crossword puzzle after doing the Sunday NY Times crossword for years. I had a great theme idea and everything. But I gave up. Just like you said, it was freakin' hard.

There was a great (OK, how about just good?) documentary a year or three ago about crosswords and the people who do them competitively, but also about the even smaller cadre of people who create them professionally. Although there was only a bit about those people, you know for damned sure they're the weirdest people ever.

Michael said...

Omigod I can't wait to tackle this later. Somehow, this should've been a contest.

birdmonster said...

Trott: I actually befriended a cruciverbalist or two while researching the ins and outs of constructing a crossword, one of whom was, indeed, in the documentary you referenced ("Wordplay," in case you're curious. And it is great. Don't be shy. It's no "Hands on a Hard Body", but still). Anyway, they were both helpful and mega-intelligent, the sorts of people who could probably play anagram games over their morning tea. The moral? God bless the internet. Or maybe not.

Michael: Good luck. So far, I've gotten one person to complete it and he didn't bring any glaring errors to light, so it should be doable.

Everyone: I'll post the answers either tomorrow or Friday, in case you're curious and/or nerdy. Preferably both.

SOL's view said...

Oh yay. My damn fingers got a life of their own and have busily begun Google-ing for online crosswords. Thanks. Thanks a lot, BM. =D

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