News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

August 6, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Puzzles do make the best games

TERRE HAUTE — I come from a family of game players. Mom and Dad would pass the evening hours with a cribbage board sitting between them on a table.

Of course, I learned cribbage. I also learned to play rummy and 500 and pinochle at an early age. But I never did learn to play euchre, and I wish now someone had taught me to play that. Mom played bridge, but Dad did not and would not learn. I could not be bothered with old maid and slap jack. I thought that was too easy, but I did figure out the rules by careful observation.

One game that no one shared was a game with oneself — crossword puzzles. The morning paper became a race between Dad and Grandma to see who could get first shot at the puzzle. When Dad was traveling, Grandma always got first try because Mom was busy fixing breakfast and, if Dad was home, Grandma would defer to the man of the house. I never did learn to defer.

I did look forward to growing up so that I might subscribe to a newspaper and have a crossword puzzle all to myself. As it was, anyone with a spare moment would add a letter or two as they passed the table holding the puzzle, but by the time I got home from school, only the hardest words were left for me.

Maybe because I never got the paper first when I was a kid and was stuck with the hard clues, the daily crossword became less and less of a challenge. But, finally, I believe it was in a magazine called “The Saturday Review,” I found a challenging puzzle. I discovered “quote acrostiks.”

We did not subscribe to the magazine, but the school library did, and I would work away at the desk — I volunteered as a student librarian so I got a good shot — and I’d puzzle away. The library also was a source of reference books which I considered a fair way to get assistance. If I got it right, the answer spelled out a literary quotation, while the first letters of the clues provided the name of the author and the title of the work.

I still prefer those puzzles above all others, but any old puzzle will do in a pinch. I have found that I now need to work with pen and ink so I can see the clues and write in the letters. Ink does not erase well and some of the more difficult puzzles are illegible when I finish. I once saw an ad for a pen with erasable ink. I wish I had saved it.

I have discovered the print magazines with nothing but acrostiks! Wow!

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com

 

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