Friday, January 8, 2010

Jonesin' for a six-letter fix

I once read the New York Times. Sort of.

Before I did, I used to talk about it kind of wistfully, as in wouldn't it be nice to have a real newspaper to read, and the Book Review, swoon. And then a couple of years ago on my birthday, ta da, there it was! A notice saying I had a Sunday subscription. Hubbada hubbada!

The articles in the NYT are not your run-of-the-mill stories. They are top rate journalism and explore issues outside of the day's big headlines. With the 2008 election just gearing up, I wanted something besides the blathering heads on CNN and the screes on Fox (it's not) News.

When I got out of bed that first Sunday morning I ran downstairs and looked outside and there it was. That big, fat honey of a paper wrapped in bright orange plastic just sitting on the driveway waiting for me. Come to mama!

I peeled it open like a fine chocolate. I scanned the stories on the front page and set it aside for later. What else did we have here? I tossed aside the Business section (snore), Sports (double snore) Style & Fashion (hello, this is Kansas) and the NYC Guide (irrelevant). I pulled out the Book Review and the Op-Ed section and devoured them both.

All this time I had been keeping an eye out and not seeing a certain something. Where oh where was the NYT crossword puzzle? As it turns out, it's on the last page of the glossy NYT Magazine. Good to know for when you need to get to it quickly. And you will when, like me, you reach the addiction stage.

Fast forward six months. Paper arrives. I stand, nose pressed to the window, as one of my preschool children runs barefoot through the snow to retrieve the paper for me. That's a dear. Here's a pop tart. I open the paper, pull out the crossword puzzle and toss the rest of it, unread, on top of the pile of recycling in the garage. The rest of the morning is spent in search of a 5-letter word for a Mideast inn (serai) and a 7-letter word for holes in the head (, sinuses!).

A typical morning proceeded like this:

Jim: Do you know where the coffee filters are?

Me: Congo.

Jim: What?

Me: No, wait. Gabon? Where is Brazzaville?

Jim: What?

Me: Huh?

Jim: The house is burning, I sold the children, ding dong, my mistress is here.

Me: Choo! Half a train toot is choo!

Jim: Never mind.

Me: Like basil leaves? What does that mean, like a basil leaf?

Nothing else could take place in my world until I had completed, or given up on, the NYT crossword puzzle. It was my new religion. I worshiped at the altar of Will Shortz.

When Jim came home one day with a whole book of NYT crossword puzzles for me and suggested, gently, that perhaps we should cancel our subscription, it was hard for me to come up with a coherent argument.
But the answers are right there. In the back of the book, I said weakly.

Don't look.

Supply and demand, I countered. If they are always available, masses of them...

How about this, he suggested. I'll save one newspaper and each week, I'll tear a new crossword out of the book and slip it into the paper. Since you don't read the paper, it won't matter that it's six months out of date.

We canceled the subscription. The book of crossword puzzles sits by my bed, collecting dust. Every now and then I pick it up and open up to a fresh page and fill in an answer or two before losing interest. I don't know why it's not the same, but it's not. Sometimes, on a cold Sunday morning, I'll get up before the rest of the family and come downstairs to make a cup of coffee. I'll pause by the window and look out at the empty driveway. I'll remind myself of the small section of forest in Borneo we have saved by not wasting stacks of newsprint on my crossword addiction. And then I'll throw a silent, internal tantrum. After all, it was ________ that said, sorrow makes us all children again.

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  1. I totally understand. It's completely irrational but I get you. It's a bit like getting a DVD box set of a series and being able to watch it whenever you like instead of having to wait until 8.30pm on a Thursday (for example). You just never watch them (especially once you've had children).

  2. Yes, Barbara, why is that? I bought a certain boxed set of DVDs once and it's still on a shelf, unwrapped.

  3. You and your husband are both hi-lair!


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