a not-so-average crossword puzzle

Today was almost an average day.  I looked average, my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was average, I got to work in an average amount of time, my assignments were averagely interesting, news from around the world was averagely depressing.  But there was one thing that prevented the 14 hours I’ve been awake from being completely, averagely boring: my crossword puzzle.

Since I haven’t set up (can’t afford) a subscription to the Post, I usually grab an Express from the friendly lady as I’m walking down to the metro.  I spend about 25 minutes commuting to work, which gives me ample time to browse through the articles that capture my interest and get a significant start on a puzzle of my choice.  Usually I opt for the Sudoku, but today the combination of the label “challenging” and my slacker attitude caused me to flip right to the crossword on the next page.  I am generally terrible at Sudokus, but I am infinitely worse at crossword puzzles.  I used to do the ones that are online on msnbc.com, which were awesome because if you typed in the wrong letter, it would pop up bright red.  So, when I got stuck on a word, I would just type in every letter on my keyboard until it DIDN’T pop up red.  Brilliant.  Unfortunately, I can’t lug my computer around on the metro every day just so that I can feel like a genius for cheating my way through a crossword puzzle.  So when I do attempt a legit crossword puzzle, I usually read through all the clues and find that I only know about three of the words, leaving me depressed and wondering what the point of a college degree was when I could have been traveling the world to learn the useless knowledge that inevitably shows up on crosswords.

Anyways, today’s crossword was magical.  As I was reading through the clues, I started to realize that I actually knew what a lot of the answers were.  I started frantically filling them in and arrived at work with practically half the puzzle done!!  Since this crossword was obviously destined for me to fill out, I put all my work to the side and concentrated on finishing it.  Allowing myself (only!!) three online look-ups and infinite amounts of white-out, this is my end result:

I would say that nothing short of an award is necessary for this feat.  I can count only SEVEN words that I didn’t figure out, which means that I will be keeping this crossword forever.  (Should I frame it?)  But I think another reason why I enjoyed this puzzle so much is that a lot of the clues conjured up memories from all different points of my life.  Every time I did a quick fist pump for filling in a word, I was also reminded of something or someone or somewhere that means a lot to me.  Sometimes the connection from the word to my memory was so obscure that even I can’t figure out what my brain was doing, but most of the clues took me straight back to a point in time with an eerie accuracy.  Never did I expect to take a walk down nostalgic, emotional, passionate, unsettling, sad Memory Lane when I opened Express this morning– but the ride I went on today makes me want to try the crossword to see what previously forgotten story I might unpack out of my proverbial attic.

#1 Across

Eighth Greek letter: THETA.  Immediately this took me to Jennings, a teammate from the swim team who is in the Theta sorority at UVa.  Thinking about Jennings and Theta together took me to Yeardley Love, the lacrosse player who was killed just weeks before graduation.

This tragedy rocked the entire student body at UVa, but hit the athletes especially hard.  I think that as athletes, we have a mentality that we’re somehow separate and different than regular students, so we don’t think that things that happen to “average” people will ever reach us.  Well, this did, and it went straight to our collective core.  I never knew Yeardley, but I had a politics discussion with her and watched her lacrosse games and recognized her around Grounds, so I was extremely shaken when we learned what had happened.  It really made me think about what is important in life, and how the unexpected should always, to some degree, be expected.  There is a run being held in Richmond on November 13 in honor of Yeardley and the phenomenal person that she was, as well as to support the OneLove Foundation (learn more here).  I encourage you to check out the website.

#17 Across

Painful thing to have for lunch: KNUCKLE SANDWICH.  This is an uncanny reminder of my fabulously quirky Aunt Gail.  I think everyone has heard the knuckle sandwich joke at some point in their life, and I can still remember (in excruciating detail) the first time my WOAG told me this joke– it came with a punch to the arm.  The other one she got me with was the “hurts doughnut” joke– also complete with an arm punch.  My WOAG is an amazing joker, especially in the practical sphere.  The first time she met one of my high school boyfriends, she stuck a nasty piece of spinach onto her front tooth, mortifying me and making him outrageously uncomfortable.  I could hear her peals of laughter ring out as soon as we got through the door.  I was lucky enough to see my WOAG twice this summer, the second of which included a visit to a waterpark, where we repeatedly went down a slide reminiscent of a massive toilet bowl.  We weren’t even phased when we saw that the boy in front of us in line was 4 years old and the guy behind us was one monstrous tattoo and glued by the lips to another (female) monstrous tattoo.  I am hoping that my WOAG will come visit me in DC as soon as possible so that we can have another adventure (COUGH COUGH I know you’re reading this!).

#28 Down

Arcing tennis shots: LOBS.  This literally made me snort into my coffee this morning, giving me a really attractive snot-covered, coffee-stained look that I just wasn’t able to pull off.  The reason that I laughed is because I am practically a tennis SUPERSTAR.

This is a lie.  I am terrible at tennis.  I think it might be the thing that I am worst at.  I got into it because I needed some form of exercise that wasn’t swimming and all the cute tennis skirts in the Nike outlet were calling to me.  I took an intro to tennis class in the spring, where I officially improved NOT AT ALL.  I was seriously THAT GIRL in my class– the one who makes people cringe when they have to watch her play because they just feel bad.  Even though I may be the worst tennis player in the United States (not the world– there has to be some poor starving child in Africa who would try to eat a tennis ball instead of play with it, so I count them as being worse than me), I still really enjoy the game.  There’s something so utterly satisfying about whacking a teeny, neon green ball and watching it clear the net.  The sound that you hear when the ball hits your racket just right–twanngg–makes the thousands of other terrible shots totally worth it.

My racket... Someday

#10 Down

Child’s make-believe dessert: MUDPIE.  Yummmmmm.  You know that you used to make these when you were little– they are the quintessential imaginary food item that adorable children make and then cover themselves with.  I didn’t used to make mudpies so much as I used to make sandpies (self-explanatory, guys).  In my first house in Santa Rosa, we had the most amazing backyard, complete with playhouse, swingset, grassy hill, gigantic tree, and a sandbox.  My sister Lisa and I would bury ourselves in the sandbox, emerging hours later with sand pouring out of our ears and clinging to our eyelashes.  We used to hold tea parties in our playhouse, with sandpies as the main course.  This clue took me straight back to that backyard, playing in that sandbox, and made me ache with longing for that time of innocence, forgiven tantrums, endless mushy food, and extensive plans to reach China through the sandbox.

Me and Lisa, circa 1992, in front of the playhouse


Me and Lisa, 2010

#34 Down

Line discontinued by GM: OLDS.  This reminded me of our (very) old car, which was a heinous tan Oldsmobile.  I was pretty young when it was replaced by a mini van, but I’m sure we had some pretty great family times in the Olds.  I distinctly remember driving to swim practice one day with my sister, and us getting into a nasty fight.  To get revenge (or to just be evil), Lisa reached around behind her, found my brand new cloth (remember those?!) swim cap, and blew her nose into it.  BLEW HER NOSE.  INTO MY CAP.  EWWW.  I think I threw a humongous tantrum and probably refused to swim– I mean seriously, her snot was all over my cap.  No way was I going to put that on my head.  The Olds was eventually totaled when it was left out on the street and our neighbor’s suburban mysteriously rolled out of their driveway into our car (the story was that their baby girl accidentally kicked the gear stick and shifted the car into reverse as the mom was taking her out, but there are so many things wrong with this concoction that we just gave them points for creativity and let it go).  The mini van quickly made its way into our lives, as cloth swim caps slowly meandered out.

RIP Oldsmobile. You will always be remembered with the sun setting behind you.


You can obviously see from my extensive ramblings how twisted and tormented my journey down Memory Lane was.  While it was a little of an emotional rollercoaster, I feel indebted to the Express crossword puzzle for shining a light on memories that had grown dusty with forgetfulness.  Consider picking up the puzzle tomorrow– you never know where it may take you.


One Response

  1. Hi
    I loved this. I thought it a very original idea to write about the connections between the crossword answers and your associated memories. I loved the photo of you and Lisa in front of the playhouse. I’d forgotten what an awesome playhouse it was! The part about Lisa blowing her nose into your cap was simultaneously disgusting and hilarious–leave it Lisa to think of something so outrageously insulting! Of course, reading about myself was a nice surprise (sniff, wipe eyes), but you should probably have explained what WOAG meant for your noneducated readers.
    Love from your WOAG

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