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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!


#47. I can work the three-star puzzles in Games magazine. Sometimes, anyway.

Okay, so maybe this only makes me a nerd. Still, it’s quite an accomplishment to finish up one of the hard-hard crosswords or cryptics in Games or World of Puzzles, and then look in the back to see that everything’s right. Not that it happens often, mind you. Usually, in the bigger crosswords, there are one or two places where two words cross that completely mystify me, and I have to enter a ‘T’ or a ‘K’ or ‘U’ as a guess. And my guesses are always wrong, of course. You’d think, just maybe, that one-twenty-sixth of the time, I’d get one right. Or one out of six or so vowels, right? Right? But no. I’m zero for, I don’t know, several thousand by now, I suspect. It just doesn’t happen.

I don’t see why they have to be so goddamned devious, either. I’m not completely stupid — evidence to the contrary on this site notwithstanding, of course. But I can infer answers. I know things. So I can work around one or two things that I’m not sure about, and circle around them, and fill in gaps until I can make an educated guess about most things. I don’t mind that; it’s part of the challenge.

But is it absolutely frickin’ necessary that the answers for shit like ‘Ancient Sumerian god of dysentery‘ and ‘Small river port in central Bumfuck Nowhere, circa 1508‘ have to cross each other? Give me a fucking chance, would you? I mean, the answer to each is ‘Xygrylty’, or ‘Ic’, or some equally-impossible shit like that. How the hell am I supposed to work around that? That’s just cruel.

Still, every once in a great while, I win. The cryptic crosswords are good for this. I’m still at the point where I have to work one over a couple of weeks, but I can finish, if I get just the right puzzle. I just stare at the clues for a while, until I can get a few answers, and then I quit. My brain gets locked into one speed (usually ‘puree’, though ‘whip’ is another popular one), and after a while, I’m just not gonna get any more. So I put the book down and go do something else for a day or two. And usually, when I come back, I can get a couple more. Usually, they’re obvious — I guess they’ve been simmering under the surface of my brain for a while, and just sort of work themselves out while I’m busy watching Blue’s Clues or picking lint out of various body cavities. Amazing how complex multitasking works, isn’t it, folks?

But, of course, I don’t get them all on that second try. I’ve got to go through several rounds of this — think, think, think, ignore, ignore, ignore, think, think, think again — before I get as far as I’m going to. Usually, there are one or two answers left that just seem impossible. Usually, I just keep banging my head against it anyway, until I finally give up in a huff. Or, more often, another magazine comes, and I start working on the next Herculean (for me, anyway) feat. Every once in a while, though, I’ll admit defeat and peek at the answer, which never turns out well.

See, at that point, one of three things can happen. One, the answer, once read, may be excruciatingly obvious, which only leads me to kick myself for how stupid I was not to see it. Even worse, the answer, once read, may still make no sense, viz a viz the original clue. So then, I get to kick myself for how stupid I still am, because I still don’t understand it. Yuck.

But worst of all, the answer is sometimes some obscure, never-used archaic son-of-a-bitch word that I’ve never heard of, and which hasn’t been used since Shakespearean times. Those are the ones that really piss me off, when I think about how frigging close I was to finishing a puzzle, and they went and stuck ‘forsoothily’ or some ridiculous shit like that in the middle of it. Grrrrr. I mean, I finish few enough puzzles as it is; do they really have to torture me with this crap?

But once in a magical while, it all comes together. The obscure bullshit all crosses with the words I know, and they leave the Pig Latin and fucked-up place names out, and I can just use logic and general trivial knowledge to nail one of those bastards. Sure, it still takes a week or more to get through one most of the time — I’m not gonna win any speed awards — but it feels good to win once in a blue moon. It makes me smile, and swell with pride, just a little. I put the magazine down and just take a good long look at this rare accomplishment, a sigh a little sigh of relief and joy.

And, so, of friggin’ course, what do I do then? Start another one, of course. Stupid bastard. I know I’m not gonna get lucky twice in a row, but do I sit on that good feeling, and milk it for even a minute? No. Before the ink’s even dry, I’m flipping pages, looking for the next puzzle to tear my hair out over. Clearly, I’m stupid after all. Not even praying to Xygrylty can change that. Though it might make me more regular, so maybe it’s worth a shot. What have I got to lose?

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