Thursday, February 4, 2010

eleven letters, third is m

1. pick up daily from newspaper holder
2. briefly look at the headline
3. remove cover and second section
4. place undesired sections in newspaper recycling receptacle
5. fold middle section hamburger style backwards over its seam
6. crease fold crisply
7. turn segment so bottom half is facing me
8. fold half segment hotdog style
9. crease fold crisply

these steps take approximately fifteen seconds and i do them every single day. i absolutely love doing the crossword. in addition to the la times puzzle printed in the daily, i also do the nytimes puzzle online, and most days i remember to put the ten-minute mensa page-a-day puzzle in my back pocket.

the crossword is an interesting form of reading. although successful completion requires a good vocabulary and cultural knowledge, i've come to find that there are definite patterns in puzzle construction. more simply put, there is a language of crosswords and familiarity with it makes doing them much easier. if you've seen wordplay (if you haven't, it's definitely worth checking out), you'll see that crossword experts can finish even extremely difficult puzzles in very short periods of time. are these people geniuses? unclear, but they do have immense crossword vocabularies which allows them to respond to clues with an immediacy that suggests a sort of crossword conditioned response. see clue and number of boxes --> automatic response.

it's fascinating, this manifestation of reading. if we consider the process of reading in general as associating written words with organizational mental schemas constructed of images and connotations (seeing DOG, imagining fido), crosswords hold a unique place in the mind. successful management of puzzles seems a result of constructing a different set of mental schemas in which words get new meanings, crossword connotations, if you will, in the form of schemas built of adjectives organized by number of letters. maybe these schemas are useless outside the world of crossword puzzles, but it makes me happy, and besides, there's plenty of room in my brain.

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