Doing Crosswords in Ink

“Dear God Please Don’t Make a Mistake”

My relationship with crossword puzzles has been long and passionate, full of peaks and valleys that one experiences with any drawn-out love story.

Like The Notebook, but with less house painting.

For nearly a decade, I’ve used words to make money professionally, but crossword puzzles were part of my life when I existed in single digits. My parents would calmly read the Los Angeles Times every morning, and take turns filling out the crossword.

You would think that as someone who likes words, I would be talented in word games and teasers. Well, I’m not. I refuse to play Bananagrams because I get so stressed and frustrated that I’m not better at it. I think I lit my Scrabble board on fire in college. I don’t need a board game to make me feel inadequate, dammit.

Crosswords have avoided my wrath, but like an old flame from college, they make strong appearances in my personal timeline, waxing and waning in popularity like the cycles of the moon.

When it comes to educational word games, crosswords dunk on word searches, and we can all agree on that. However, when you start doing crosswords with regularity, you consistently run into the same bizarre clues or phrases that have stayed alive in the English lexicon only because of their frequency in crosswords.

Kill Bill Actress Thurman. It’s Uma. It’s always Uma, but lots of times crossword writers just need a spot to jam in a u, an m, and an a.

A few years ago I got a crossword app on my phone and would do a few a day – but I have to admit, I was crosswording with kid gloves on. I had the phone notify me when I put in the wrong letter. It didn’t have the same stakes of a real paper crossword.

When our relationship began, my girlfriend’s next-door neighbor would give her the NYT Sunday crossword every weekend. Seeing an easy opportunity to demonstrate value, I signed us up for a Sunday subscription.

This brought two major changes into my life – the first being that I started doing the NYT crossword in pen, and I started reading the New York Times and begrudgingly agreed that they are the gold standard when it comes to newspaper writing.

I always considered the Los Angeles Times as the superior paper, but the NYT just does stories better. Then again, we’re seeing journalists jump from established papers and take jobs in the news division at Buzzfeed, lured by better pay and hours. So it’s safe to say that print journalism is in a tough spot (It would be less so if we followed my brilliant wrapping paper plan).

Doing the crossword in pen resulted in several lengthy “discussions” between my girlfriend and me, entirely focused on how dumb I was being by putting in a clue in pen without cross-referencing it. Our relationship almost ended a few times by a miscalculated seven letter down.

The error of my ways revealed to me, I began to write questionable answers in the margins of the clue, letting my girlfriend ink them into crossword history – that way if they were wrong, I was dodging any misdeeds.

Writing in an answer with .5 Muji pen gives one a sense of accomplishment – no matter what the rest of your day holds, the record will show that you (hopefully) answered 51 across with aplomb and excellence – cracking the rest of the puzzle.

If you penned in the wrong answer though – my girlfriend would like to speak with you. It’s best to start with a five-letter word for an apology.

Doing a Crossword in Ink – 3 out of 5 Stars

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