I like a good New York Times crossword puzzle. That is to say, I like a good Monday or Tuesday Times crossword puzzle. That checkerboard pattern seduces me with its white squares just waiting to be filled in with my favorite yellow mechanical pencil, its point fine and precise. I like when the top section comes easily and I get in the flow, working my way down and across. Even struggling a bit is good if it pays off with a clever answer and a completed puzzle.
For me, doing the occasional crossword is a fun exercise in language—a hobby that keeps the brain humming. I don’t take it too seriously. The participants who attended The Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament this weekend are nothing like this. You get the sense these people wake up, go straight to the front door to grab the Times, and whip through the puzzle before they’re even half awake. They do a Friday puzzle for fun on their way to work and a Sunday puzzle in bed with their hyperverbal cruciverbalist partner in five minutes flat, before drifting off to sleep again where they dream of 12-letter synonyms for unbelievable.
Sitting behind these people in a tournament held at Harvard (just in case you weren’t feeling inadequate enough), you wonder why the crossword constructors who designed these choice puzzles have it out for you while you stare at a half empty puzzle, watching the time clock tick down to zero.