Oberlin Blogs

4-Down, an ode to crosswords

March 1, 2010

Alice Ollstein ’10

I didn't become obsessed with crossword puzzles until Oberlin started providing free stacks of the New York Times around campus. Sure, I had filled in a few People Magazine crosswords in dentists' offices and hair salons, but those were child's play, barely any mental titillation there (i.e. Four letters: "Gone with the BLANK"). Here, goaded by fellow solvers at my co-op junior year, I quickly became addicted to the daily puzzle. The puns! The synonyms! The literary references! I was hooked. Now I can't begin the day without a cup of strong coffee and a clever crossword.

While it helps to be well-read and know a lot of (otherwise) useless trivia, essentially the only way to get good at crosswords is to do more crosswords. I often find myself cursing like a sailor at Will Shortz, the editor of the NYTimes crossword puzzle, when the answer to the clue turns out to be groan-worthy or infuriatingly obscure. A few weeks ago I threw the puzzle across the room when "bread in a jar" turned out to be "tips."

Sometimes I hoard the puzzles to myself, only going to a friend for help after racking my brain. Sometimes I see someone struggling with the same puzzle in the library and join them, making a new friend in the process. But this year I've come to enjoy doing them with my housemates. Between us, we know Spanish, French, German, and Latin. Laura knows art, Emily knows music, Avi knows cinema, and I (usually) can get the literature clues. I love remembering how freakin' smart and talented my friends are here, how everyone has their own unique interests and loves to share them with others.

Unfortunately, we're up crap creek when it comes to science or sports. In that case we either call-a-friend or turn to everyone's friend Google. This, of course, is cheating, but shhhh...no one has to know.

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