December was a month that started out hectic and only became more frenzied as the days wore on. Our flight left on the 20th and as the date approached, it was starting to look like I wouldn’t get everything crossed off my “to do” list before boarding. For the most part I didn’t mind but one item that stung was my annual Christmas Cryptic, a personalized puzzle I build for my family every year.
Ostensibly, the Christmas cryptic is my gift to the family. Really, it’s a gift that the family gives to me. I savour their coos of excitement as my parents, sister and husband first glimpse the grid. I smile ear to ear as they retreat to the armchairs and couches with mugs of coffee, ballpoint pens, and the puzzle. “Which one are you working on now?” I pester excitedly. “Have you got 12 Across yet?”
One of the things I love most about practicing yoga is the absence of comparison. When I attend a class, there may be twenty or thirty other people there, but we're all working at our own pace. We have to: our bodies are all different. We are different ages and weights. We have different flexibilities and different amounts of muscle. Different things have happened to us over the course of our lives, and that changes how we move.
When my sister, my parents, my husband and I do the cryptic crossword on weekend reunions at my parents place, we all retreat to our separate spaces to dive into the puzzle. We work at our own paces and (unless someone accidentally cries out an answer in a fit of enthusiasm) respect one another's individual puzzle solving. In that respect, it’s a bit like being in a yoga class: we’re all working towards the answers in our own way.
Having someone call out "You don't have 17 Across yet? But it's so EASY!" would be akin to someone in a yoga class calling out "What do you MEAN you can't do full lotus position? It's SO EASY!”
It would be judging someone else’s practice by the standards of one’s own experience.
And what’s the point of that?
Like many families, we have long-standing Christmas traditions: watching White Christmas, felling a (typically very scrawny) tree from our own property, tackling Fraser Simpson's full-page regular crossword puzzle, and leaving out Christmas cake and sherry on the 24th. We have newer ones, too. My husband introduced us to the tradition of listening to The Shepherd on CBC Radio, which we now all do in rapt silence. My brother-in-law (and his culinarily skilled mother) introduced us to feasting on bacalhau on Christmas Eve.
And then, there's the very new tradition of the cryptic crossword.
I'm a writer, explorer, amateur setter of cryptic crosswords, and new mom.