Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Theology of Crosswords: A Shortz Sermon

(reflections on the New York Times Sunday Crossword Omnibus, a series edited by Will Shortz.)

Photo by: Donald Christensen

Will Shortz, editor and NPR's "Puzzle Master," whose games have been a highlight of my Sundays since the Reagan administration.

When you begin a new puzzle, it's creation all over again: a paradise of potential.

Inspiration comes amid the perspiration: You suddenly know that "_ _ _ _ _ R I N" must be MANDARIN, and out roll the words "muMs," "basAl," "eleNa,""larDs," and, fittingly, "ahA!"

Like the cornerstone that the builders rejected, a three-letter word can be the key to solving one-fourth of a puzzle

Little sins have consequences that spread wide: so many words "across" went awry because I misspelled "Omar Kaayyam!"

Sins can be erased, once you recognize that none of the "across" words make sense until you've changed one bad answer "down"

How wonderful to perceive a pattern! ("Whoa! Birds are concealed in miCROWave and T. E. LaWRENce!")

Often words mean more than they seem to mean: "English channel" can be the BBC.

Reincarnation makes sense. How else could I know instantly that a "leafy vegetable" is chard?

Trust that the creator has a plan, even though you can't see it (and you won't peek in the back!)

Z: When you fit the final letter in place, it's time for renewal: Next page!

(Another of Will Shortz's puzzle collections inspired somewhat more serious reflections, detailed in a blog entry in 2007: http://smootpage.blogspot.com/2007/01/cartoon-puzzles-real-intelligent-design.html )

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