Actually, you can have my Eggo. Just keep your mitts off my Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle.
Don’t touch it. Don’t get near it. Don’t even think about helping me with the clues. There will be a price extracted for any of that. Just ask anyone who’s been around me when that happens. It’s not pretty.
The NYT Crossword people just celebrated their 75th year of publishing crosswords. I’ve been addicted for almost 50 of those years.
I buy anthologies of NYT crossword puzzles. I still fill in every blank, knowing full well that I’ve done most of them more than once. I have just as much fun now as when I did them the first time. Of course, a little memory loss enhances that second-or third time around experience.
For many years, summer Sundays were spent poolside with like-minded fiends, hovering in the shade with the Times puzzle, making sure no one was looking over our shoulders as we filled in the squares. No sneaking a peek at anyone else’s puzzle. No whispering. No colluding. We were on our own to get the thing done. A.S.A.P. And the tennis people thought they were competitive!
One of my dearest treasures is a handwritten note from Eugene Maleska, NYT puzzle editor from 1977 to 1993. For a crossword puzzle maniac, that’s like getting a letter from the Dalai Lama. I had written to the editor asking for help on a puzzle I’d solved but had no idea what it meant. Apparently, there were many who were equally confused. In those days, there was no Xeroxing, no faxing, no emailing, no robo-response. Just a handwritten letter of apology to each of us.
I do the NYT puzzle during the week. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are usually do-able. Thursday starts to challenge and, most weeks, Friday and Saturday are over my head.
And then there’s Sunday. A lot like Thursday, a little bit bigger and always thematically fun. I fill in the squares, just like I always have. And I enjoy it, just like I always have.
And yet, in my mind, I’m back at the swimming pool, surrounded by children playing Marco Polo, fellow puzzlers toiling away and, yes, those annoyingly competitive and sweaty tennis players.
I miss that part. A lot.