There’s something about us humans that makes us appreciate a challenge. It’s one of our most stimulating occupations.
Nowhere is this more true than in games. We want to win. Yes, of course. But not every time.
Our opposition, the degree of difficulty, must be just enough to stretch our capabilities to the limit. Just enough to keep us from winning every time.
Thomas Middleton is a worthy opponent for me. He’s a cruciverbalist who composes acrostic puzzles (much tougher than crosswords), and he’s puzzle editor for Simon and Schuster. I’ve been battling it out with him for years, and I’ve found him a most worthy opponent. I always finish his acrostic puzzles, but I am not always the winner.
You see, I have my own rules for doing these puzzles. First, I go through the clues and jot down any possible answers that come to my head. If I have seven or eight, I’ll take a pass through the puzzle to see if I can get a word or two. If I can, I inch my way along, one letter at a time.
If I do not have enough for a start, I check my Franklin Thesaurus for possible synonyms. Or, if I on my computer, I will allow myself to look up a few (not too many) answers in an online encyclopedia, the bible, in literary references, or Google.
Sometimes, if stumped, I will ask Ed for an assist. If he can give me two or three right answers, that’s usually enough to allow me to finish the puzzle.
In a very difficult case (“Saint, leader at First Council of Nicaea,”) or some scientific name, I will be unable to complete the puzzle without looking at the answer in the back. In such a case, clearly, Middleton has won.
When I can do a whole puzzle without any assists from reference books or friends, that is a knock out (full count) win for me.
The others are all gradient decisions, with no clear, obvious victories. If I have to look up too much, get too many answers elsewhere, I know that the win goes to Thomas. Better luck next time.
I get better over time. I’m getting to know my opponent. (Thomas, that’s the second time this week that you’ve used escritoire for secretary or a writing desk. Getting a little hard up for “E” words, are you?) As I learn all of his favorite “E” words, I win a little more often.
But I still have to look up quite often. I still have to get help.
He’s tough enough that I can win only some of the time–and even then I’m often quite bloodied after the battle.
That must be just the way I like it.
© Ruth Minshull 27 July 2016
* * *