News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

May 29, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Avoiding the heat no puzzle to Indy the dog

When it gets this hot, I’m with my eldest granddog, Indy. We both look for a room with a ceiling fan. She also demands that the room have a tile floor to cool both bottom and top. She has the floor of course, but there is a cool corner for me in a comfortable chair and a small table for my ice water.

She just closes her eyes and lives for the moment. I pick up a book of crossword puzzles. If something has to be working, using the mind doesn’t require a lot of exercise. Indy doesn’t mind — just so she doesn’t have to move.

I spent a lot of my childhood looking over the shoulders of my parents and my grandmother as they labored over crossword puzzles. They were all puzzle addicts. Grandma lived with us and often got to the puzzle first. If Dad brought in the newspaper, he might get a few words in before he had to leave for work, but while Mom was cleaning up the kitchen, Grandma polished it off.

Now, I have the luxury of a puzzle all to myself — with an occasional assist from my Best Friend who knows all sorts of technical stuff and most of the sports questions.

As many of us puzzle addicts have discovered, there are the easy ones and the hard ones. The New York Times, especially the Sunday puzzle, is a mind bender. There is always a “gimmick,” often a groaner of a pun. If you can catch on, it is pretty easy to fill in the other letters. They do give you a clue at the top of the page, but even the clue can be obscure. This, of course, adds to the fun and makes you feel really smart IF you can figure it out.

The Times puzzle usually includes the name of the word merchant who created the puzzle. I learned early that some of the puzzle-makers are tougher to figure out. When I do manage to finish a difficult one, I’m really puffed up.

I really liked the Pensacola News Journal, which continues to have several puzzles in each edition. The week begins with the Monday puzzle almost too easy to bother solving, but by the time Friday or Saturday rolls around, you are going to need your dictionary. The News Journal also carries a past-date New York Times Sunday puzzle too — every Sunday.

So, during the heat wave, you can find me in a relatively cool corner logging extra time with pen and print. I don’t have to share them with Dad or Mom or Grandma, they are all mine! Indy sleeps. She couldn’t care less!

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter and columnist.

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