I’ve been focusing for awhile on recovering some “smarts.” I’m online less, reading more, and so on. I mean, I used to be smart! A bit of a high achiever even. I graduated Summa Cum Laude (from a state college; the state college part has to be mentioned. It wasn’t Harvard). Years, many years, have passed. I guess a lot of people get their intellectual stimulation from their jobs. Okay, at least some people do. I don’t. My (current) work is satisfying in many respects and it’s not that my brain isn’t involved, but it’s not about staying intellectually keen. Compounding the issue was that, due to online use I believe, I wasn’t focusing as much as I used to. I’d give up too easily when presented with a strictly intellectual challenge. Point being, I realized I was losing my edge and I wanted it back!
My focus is improved. I read books. Hell, I’ve almost already achieved my 20-book goal from my 2019 Kinda. Sort Resolutions. I challenge myself more. I didn’t lose my smarts, they were snoozing.
One of my goals for the year was to get my hands on the New York Times crossword puzzle. Recently I did. To tell the truth, I’m still picking away at the puzzle; I haven’t embarrassed myself but it’s definitely not complete. I’ve noticed, when I do crosswords from various papers or sources, that I get better at specific ones over time. You learn how the puzzle maker thinks in some cases and what kinds of tricks they employ. In doing crosswords generally, I find myself recovering information I didn’t know I knew. It’s funny that way; I’ve stored away a good bit of information/knowledge, but I need the right impetus to prompt it. At least that’s what I find when I do crosswords.
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t the crossword but another puzzle I found in the New York Times (I didn’t know they had several puzzles but they do).
This particular puzzle listed 7 letters. The challenge was to make as many 5 letter or more words from those 7 letters as you could and, in this instance, you HAD to use the letter “o”. You could use a letter more than one time in a word. Each word made got a point. If you used all 7 letters in one word, that was worth three points. The puzzle scoring system was: 5 points = Good, 10 points = Excellent, 15 points = Genius.
Okay, I liked this challenge. I love all types of wordy stuff, particularly making words (I once won a weekend vacation to an amusement park because I came up with over 600 words from the name of their new roller coaster). I thought I could get “Excellent” if I put my mind to it. I sincerely, immediately ruled out the possibility of hitting anything the New York Times would consider “Genius.”
Here’s the paper scrap where I did my work. I worked on it on two consecutive days, drawing a short line between the words I came up with on the first session and the words from the second session.
I came up with 15 points!!! I didn’t cheat, I didn’t rummage around the dictionary, I just sat and thought. What I didn’t know was the the answers were not to come in a following issue as I might have expected, but were printed on the next page (I’m glad I didn’t know). The two words I didn’t come up with were (as I wrote in the upper corner after I’d hit 15 points) were dolar and doodad. I don’t know the word “dolar” so I was never going to think of it. Quite frankly, WordPress doesn’t know it either; as I write this, the editing program keeps putting a red underline underneath it to signal it’s a typo.
Look. I wanted to share this even at the risk of sounding like I’m boasting. Mostly, I’m surprised and pleased. I want to share it because I’ve been open in earlier blog posts about feeling I had lost something over the years. Five years ago, at the time I started this blog, I don’t think I could have gotten those 15 points on the word puzzle. I think I would have come up with a few words, maybe achieved ten points – maybe – and then given up. I WASN’T TRYING ANYMORE. I’m trying again.
I’m trying again.