Conquering the Crosswords

It has officially been two years since I started doing the Guardian Quick crosswords.

One boring summer’s day I was in search of something to do. And I needed that ‘something’ to be constructive because I’d promised my mother that I was going to be productive that day (I had been spending my days binge watching ‘White Collar’ and drinking cranberry juice out of my father’s wine glass until then).

‘#18 Try doing the daily crossword’ That’s an interesting suggestion, Buzzfeed, let me try that one out, I thought.

I was too lazy to go dig up the paper so I opened up a new tab on my laptop and began my quest for an online crossword. No, not the trashy celeb crosswords, I told myself resisting the urge to click on the link. Cryptic crossword? Maybe not start off too confident; I continued scrolling. Ah! The Guardian Quick Crossword. The name was posh- check on the ‘mum will be impressed’ box. But it also had ‘quick’, which meant my TV-fried teenage mind might be able to solve something!

I opened up the crossword for the day and stared blankly at the screen for a few minutes. Wait a second, maybe 3 across is “Origami?”, I thought and with hesitation, I typed in my guess. Slowly I solved another clue and after a good half-an-hour of thinking and guessing, I had solved 9 words (even I thought the number was less, but trust me, Guardian Crosswords can really be a pain-in-the-ass). I clicked on the ‘Check Answer’ button and the 9 words became 8 for one of my guesses was incorrect. The low number of answers I had gotten that day didn’t matter, I was hooked.

I decided at that moment that doing the crossword daily was going to be part of my routine. It would improve my vocabulary, sharpen my skills, and, of course, give me a reason to gloat and act holier-than-thou because I ‘read’ The Guardian daily and others didn’t.

I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a single day of doing the quick crossword since then.

Throughout this journey, I have had days when I have gotten not even one answer (seriously, do you know what the capital of Manitoba is? Imagine every clue being this hard.) and days when I didn’t even have to use the anagram unscrambler and days when I have gotten nearly all the answers. Some days the overconfident me clicks on the latest genius crossword. The overconfidence immediately vanishes.

I still can’t forget the first time I solved the entire crossword. It took forty minutes and a small hint from Google. I was in such elation I danced all the way to our room and gloated to my sister.

There was one time when solving the crossword felt like an episode of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’. It was me and two of my classmates huddled around my laptop.

One clue left with two minutes on the clock (I had math class next). Status of being a crossword snob on the line.

We were racking our brains over what “very thin strings of pasta” was. Tick tock. Tick tock. What did my mom say the English word was for that noodle-dish my grandmother made the other day? Vermi-what? Vermi… Vermi… Vermicelli!!

My fingers danced across the keyboard as I spelled out Vermicelli. And as I clicked the check all button which revealed all our answers were correct, the bell rang and it signaled our victory lap all around the class.

Not all days have been this much fun though. But fun or not, sick or healthy, I haven’t missed a day of doing the crossword. Even when my parents scolded me for prioritising crosswords over my exams.

It’s sometimes frustrating when you know that word, you know, that word, it’s at the tip of your tongue but to no avail. It’s sometimes satisfying when you know those hours you spent on IMDb didn’t go to waste because you know the answer to “Demi ____ who was once married to Bruce Willis*

But it’s always fun. Just the other day my sister, my mother and I were ripping our hair out trying to figure out the answer to “on one’s back”. We had gotten ‘face-_ p_ards’ and couldn’t possibly think of the letters to fill up those spaces. I’m sad to say we ended up using the ‘reveal answer’ option to find out that it was ‘face-upwards’. Upwards? Really? I promise it didn’t feel that simple!

My knowledge has been tested, doubted and expanded. As a music student you better know who “____ Novello the Welsh Composer” is. As someone who studied Biology it’s surprising you couldn’t even name one insectivorous plant. And as someone who has never heard the word ‘gauche’ before, it is good to know it is just a synonym for awkward.

These days doing the crossword has become a natural part of my routine, just as one might have a cup of joe in the morning so do I open up my laptop and head on over to the Guardian website and see what good old Harry or Thomas (commenters who I imagine to be retired, monocled, old English gentlemen) has to say about the crossword for the day. And just as coffee gives one a jolt of energy (or so I’ve heard) so does doing the crossword, whether I solve it completely or just get ‘who is the smartest Simpson kid’.

*Not the exact clue but a pretty decent representation