Say the word

The crossword puzzle turned 100 last week, which has prompted all manner of adulation. The first ‘word cross’ puzzle debuted December 21, 1913 in the New York World and has been a fixture in newspapers ever since. I know that many people actually like crossword puzzles. I do not. Here is why:

1. There is really no point to a crossword puzzle. If you manage to fill in all of the blanks you get a square that is subdivided into little squares, where all of the blanks have been filled in. That’s it. Oh sure, you might get some momentary satisfaction from having completed all of the squares but really, if that is your biggest accomplishment of the day I think you have set your bar pretty low.

2. Apparently studies have shown that people who do crossword puzzles are less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and will probably live longer. I think the only thing crossword puzzles actually do is clutter up your brain with useless information, like the name of the symbol used for Chinese currency (the renminbi, by the way), or the names of all of Santa’s reindeer. I admit that some of this information is also useful to people who play Scrabble, but as you have probably guessed I hate that too. And I also don’t think that solving crossword puzzles makes you live longer – it just feels that way.

3. People who create crossword puzzles are called cruciverablists. The fact they even have a formal name and that the name sounds like secret society or cult should be the first clue that they should be given a wide berth. Cruciverablists also do not need to conform to rules that apply to the rest of us. For example, they need not restrict themselves to dictionary words when creating their masterpieces and are known to use Roman numerals with abandon even though most of us stopped using them in the 11th century. If I started using mostly words that aren’t the dictionary and counting in Roman numerals, I think I would be carted off to the locked ward pretty quickly.

4. People who do crossword puzzles never actually do the puzzle. They just pretend they do. They are really playing a do-it-yourself version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, complete with ‘phone a friend’ and ‘ask the expert’, the expert usually being Mr. Google or an old fashioned but still functional crossword dictionary. No pursuit where people think that cheating is normal and indeed make no attempt to hide their subterfuge should be encouraged. In fact, I think there should be extra scrutiny of the tax returns of self-admitted crossword puzzlers.

5. It is possible to fill in all of the blanks yet get the puzzle completely wrong. I have seen this myself in airline magazines where they typically include puzzles to placate the captive (because certainly the food isn’t going to do it). I can only hope it wasn’t the pilot who got hold of the copy in my seat back.

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