My Crossword Obsession

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of our official workers’ holiday, I thought I’d share/confess my favorite form of relaxation/obsession – my daily crossword fix. It began as a hobby over a decade ago (I was never a huge puzzle fan as a child or teenager) and has now morphed into a bit of an obsession…one primarily focused on the NYT crossword, but which has spread so that I can no longer resist the temptation to try each and every crossword I come across – whether it be in an airline magazine or the local newspaper at a coffee shop. Nowadays, my handbag invariably has a folded, squished, half-completed crossword stuffed inside.

When I first started doing the NYT crossword, I could barely make it through Monday and Tuesday. Now, even though I might be tearing my hair out by Saturday, I’m determined to do it every day (as the NYT crossword gets harder as the week progresses, my success is measured by which day I can complete without any ‘cheating’:))

My boys have tried to encourage me to extend my crossword mania to other puzzles – and, although I enjoy doing word problems and puzzles (in Australia I loved doing the daily word Target puzzle), I simply can’t come at any of the mathematical ones like Sudoku or KenKen. I think my mind just doesn’t work that way, and the amount of frustration experienced always outweighs any satisfaction I might feel when completing these kinds of puzzles. One day I hope to challenge myself and face the dreaded cryptic crossword…but so far the ability to process any of those clues has eluded me…

As I’ve progressed over time, I’ve discovered that I’ve developed a few crossword tics. The first of these is that I have to do it on paper and always in pen, never in pencil. Although I’ve tried doing the crossword online, it just doesn’t feel the same. Ditto when it comes to trying to complete it in pencil – I just can’t do it. I have to complete a crossword in ballpoint pen, even though I hate writing with these kinds of pens as a general rule (go figure..). So my crossword on a difficult day looks like a mess of pen marks, cross-outs and (more often than not) smears of vegemite toast fingers and coffee drips…exactly how I like it:)

I’ll probably be catching up on Sunday’s NYT crossword as well as tackling Monday’s crossword this holiday weekend. What about you, TKZers, what’s your favorite puzzle? Are you similarly crossword or puzzle obsessed?

26 thoughts on “My Crossword Obsession

  1. I’m not but you make me think of a typical scene at work. There’s a lady who brings in her People magazines and leaves them on the breakroom table when she’s done. Evidently it has crossword puzzles in it.

    There’s a core group of 3-4 people who like to fill in some of the puzzle at breaks or lunch. So the crossword puzzles bring together a bit of a cooperative effort. The only time there’s any angst is when someone removes the magazine before the puzzle is finished. LOL!

    Back in the olden days when the basic Kindle first came out, there was a program on it with crossword puzzles. I’m not sure if that’s still an option on tablets–haven’t looked but should.

    • I love the idea of a cooperative crossword habit!…Although I’m very pathetically possessive of my own – it’s okay if I ask for help but no one else is allowed to fill in the crossword:)

  2. I love a good cryptic crossword – but not the ridiculous ones where even when you get the solutions later they don’t make any sense.
    But my quick go to, something I’ve been doing every day for the past few years is Upwords (online). I love that you can play one move a day, or knock out a game in a fast-paced frenzy with people from all over the world. Anyone here play? I’m OzJay if you wish to play and chat about writing and books as we kill each other. Words do make the best weapons.

    • Kudos to you on the cryptic crossword front! I’ve never been able to quite get how those work but it’s probably about time I did:) I’ve not heard of Upwords, but will check it out…sounds addictive!

  3. I am addicted to playing several games a day at the Washington Post site: Penny Dell Daily Crossword, Penny Dell Sunday Crossword, Penny Dell Word Search, Mini Crossword, and Word Wipe. I justify the daily playing as a mental warm-up exercise.

  4. Ditto on the cryptograms. It’s fun to break down the words, and helps with my English. But I can’t do them every day. I do a bunch for a few days, then take a few weeks break until my mind can’t focus on anything, then I pull them out. I use an online site, but instead of doing them online, I copy them into a document and do them myself, one letter at a time. Takes longer and more satisfying.

    When I was in elementary school, my favorite puzzle was the word search, but I guess I’ve grown past that.

    • For some reason doing any kind of puzzle online doesn’t seem as satisfying to me either. My kids do the NYT daily mini crossword each morning online but I think their generation views the online stuff differently.

  5. Hello. My name is Mike, and I’m also a crossword addict.

    They’re relaxing, challenging, and educational. You sharpen your spelling skills, learn to work through the crossword master’s tricks (the more the better!), and you pick up lots of trivia.

    The best ones weave in puzzles within puzzles, challenging you to figure out the hidden theme. Sheer bliss!

  6. I enjoy crossword puzzles, too. I used to do the puzzle daily in the Kansas City Star, but since we quit subscribing, I only catch the occasional copy left in the breakfast place I frequent. My mother was a crossword addict, and one year we got her a giant wall poster puzzle billed as “The World’s Largest Crossword Puzzle”. It took her a while, but she finished it – in ink, like I prefer with mine.

    • A fellow inkster! The NYT occasionally has a huge crossword – can’t remember why or when but I remember it took a while and was very satisfying. I think I’d drive my family mad though with a giant wall poster one!

  7. I’m a Words With Friends person. Although I occasionally glance at the leaderboard and wonder whether how many games a day those people play, and if they do anything else.

    • Hey Terry I dumped WWF for Upwords. Well I didn’t mean to, but when I trialled the Upwords app and got into a few matches, all else paled.
      The great thing is you get word glow, so don’t waste time making moves that fail. I have a nice core group of players I enjoy, and we slay each other over hours, days or even weeks. It’s up to you how fast you play. People are really patient there, and with multiple games on the go, it really takes away that pressure.
      Give it a try. OzJay

  8. Fellow addict here. I have been doing the NYTimes puzzle for about 10 years now and the day just doesn’t feel right until I have finished the thing. Got my husband addicted to them, too, about two years ago. So now we divvy up the week — he gets Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is up for grabs. The rest of the week is mine, all mine! (Bwahahaha!) The Sunday puzzle is always fun because it is themed, but I love Saturdays the best, cuz they are the hardest with hardly any black squares!

    And yeah, I have to do it in ink in the original paper. 🙂

    Do you know about the blog Rex Parker Does the NYT Puzzle? He’s a competitive puzzler and critiques the puzzle every day. He’s a true crumudgeon and his commenters are funny as well. Plus, if you’re stuck you can see the answers.

    Here’s the link:

    Hey, where else would you learn words like etui (needle case), nene (Hawaiian bird) or amah (Asian nursemaid)?

  9. My husband and I love cryptic crosswords although we are still at the easier end of them.
    Some friends are big fans and our neighbour used to do “The Sunday Times” crossword, then we would meet at the fence while he explained all the answers. Gradually, we worked out how to solve the different types of clues. We also bought some Crossword dictionaries, including the Collins Puzzle Solver which explains how cryptic clues work.
    We prefer cryptic puzzles to straight ones, because you usually know when you hit on the correct answer. It solves both parts of the cryptic clue. With a straight puzzle, there may be several possible answers.
    I should clarify, we prefer the cryptic style where each clue is made up of two parts that point to the same word. One is the key: a straight synonym. The other part may be an anagram, a synonym, or other word-play clue. Some cryptic crosswords rely on just the word-play part and you really need to think outside the box to find the right word.
    By the way, we also love Sudoku puzzles and usually alternate between Sudoku and cryptic crosswords. It’s our breakfast activity!

  10. I have always loved to do crosswords, also in ink. I have done the online ones, but I don’t like them as well, either. I like logic puzzles too, but sometimes they are confusing. I get the crossword puzzle magazines since I quit subscribing to the newspaper. I can get all of the news online for free, so I wasn’t reading it much anymore. I do them in ink as I mentioned but sometimes the white-out is a companion along with the pen! 🙂

  11. I do the newspaper Jumble every morning with breakfast and coffee.
    I also do the daily crossword. If for any reason I don’t have the time to spend in the A.M. I save the newspaper until later.

  12. I’m also crossword obsessed. But for me, it’s only the NYT Sunday puzzle. I print it out on Sunday and work on it at breakfast each day. On good weeks, I finish it in a couple of days. Usually, though, it takes me all week. I am in awe of the themes some of the crossword authors have come up with.
    One of my ambitions in life is to have a Sunday puzzle accepted by the NYT, but it’s sort of low on the list right now.

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