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Crossword Puzzle Night 101

My two daughters, mother-in-law, and son-in-law joined my wife and I at my daughter's belated birthday celebration. The celebration began at Noon in our home in Libertyville – guests could graze for hours and munch as they went along until the grill finished its performance, which was late afternoon. After grilled chicken, Beyond Meat burgers, veggie salad, chips and salsa and plenty of other condiments and salads, we had Bundt cake and ice cream – it was the start of Football Night in America on NBC – a highlight show and commentary. My two daughters spontaneously decided to tackle a crossword puzzle -- compliments of People magazine. Instead of the glamour and glitz of People, they jumped into their crossword puzzle, working together, exchanging thoughts and sometimes verbally brain storming – it resulted in success!

My daughters don’t typically gravitate towards crosswords so their commitment on Sunday was both surprising and puzzling. They finished at 7 pm and I quickly wondered if they’d be interested in Sunday Night Football on NBC but they had no interest in what occurs on the gridiron and looked for a more challenging puzzle. After my oldest daughter climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor, by happenstance, she found several New Yorker magazines from the March-May timeframe of ’21. She grabbed the pile and headed downstairs to the family room.

I know it’s quite the jump from People to the New Yorker but there we sat. Because of the challenging puzzle and questionable clues, all adults chipped in sporadically. Comparing the difficulty of a People magazine puzzle to the New Yorker is like comparing a layout to a 3 point jump shot. The clues would be less transparent with many challenging sections. Several in the group thought frequent clues were not too helpful so the clue turned out to be less of a clue. For most of the clues, my daughters were looking for a reasonable and possible clue to assist -- at least a “fighting chance” without resorting to other means.

Many of us moaned when comparing a clue to the actual answer – the broad interpretation of a word or phrase was commonplace. A cruciverbalist is someone who constructs puzzles. I wonder if some of these cruciverbalists felt at the moment it would be fun and cute to make that clue more obscure? One other comment, when constructing puzzles with an answer 2 or 3 words, that information would be greatly helpful.

For example, one clue was ‘strike a chord’ which means your first interpretation may lead to the fact that chord is typically associated with music. So you follow that line of thinking but not realizing that your initial assumption was not correct. So all verbal chatter about finding the answer related to music was useless. The answer was ‘hithome’ which reminds me of the fact that the answer is two words but that bit of information was not part of the clue. Considering that answer, most crossword puzzle enthusiasts would be quite challenged to deliver that answer without additional assistance.

Another unsatisfactory clue involved the clue ‘safe kind of job?’ with the answer being 'heist.' In my mind, heist could be defined as a crime in which valuable things are taken illegally. In my mind, that's too broad a scope after that clue is given. How could heist be in any way close to a ‘safe kind of job’? Why not the clue, ‘unsafe kind of job’ and leave it at that.

Some of the clues were above our knowledge level lent us to use technology as a life-line. While thinking out loud during this puzzle challenge, I thought a rating system for all the clues: poor, fair, good, or very good. Perhaps a little more direction with the clues would shorten the time needed to find the answer.

We couldn’t find all the answers online, is that a verdict on us as puzzle players or something else? We didn't have an answer, which was not good because answers were something we were searching for.

I did provide a new copy of the New York which had the answers to this particular puzzle. Without this, there was no way that puzzle was going to be completed that Sunday night! Imagine if we didn’t have this magazine available while limited success from the internet? My daughters would have been apoplectic if that had occurred after their 60 minutes of work.

My wife Susan used the answers to work through questionable or hard clues. With the answers, Susan could also assist my daughters that their current answers were correct. Once they began to complete the more sparse areas, this support approach gained momentum, as my daughters would then target different sections of the board, using the existing letters and clues to complete another part of the puzzle.

This worked well. After the final hard clues, the kids broke through and the puzzle was completed. A team effort which made me especially proud of how determined and creative they were in accomplishing this puzzle.


As a family, we occasionally play Monopoly but with 5 or so players, factions can be created which can add a lot of competitiveness to the game. With this new approach while completing a crossword puzzle, it was much more fun while being collaborated instead of competitive.

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