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?”
She works extremely long hours under difficult conditions and she is often lonely. When she is, there is very little I can do to help and that breaks my heart.
When I am lonely, distraction helps and as you know from the contents of this website, I find cryptic crosswords to be a wonderful distraction. I could not give my friend a hug or make her dinner but perhaps I could distract her from her loneliness, I reasoned. Perhaps I could show her the hidden door that leads into the magically complex world of cryptics, and in so doing, give her some respite from the world around her. I wrote her a guide to solving cryptic crosswords. And, to make the process as engaging as possible, I wrote her a personalized puzzle, with clues and answers designed especially for her.
I don't typically read memoirs but I recently sat down with astronaut Chris Hadfield's autobiography and it was great. Hadfield generalizes the things that made him successful as an astronaut to every day life in a way that I found surprisingly relatable. (The full title of the book is "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth".)
Three things in the book caught my particular attention.
The first was Hadfield's advice to start making choices that are consistent with your long-term goals. For example, when he was tempted, in childhood, to skip his homework, he would ask himself which a future astronaut would do -- complete his homework or slack off -- then, act accordingly. (Hint: no one gets to be an astronaut by slacking.)
The second was his recommendation to be prepared for the situation you'd like to be in, even if it's a long shot. He describes how he prepared for a possible but unlikely appearance alongside Elton John by learning to play "Rocket Man" on the guitar. (It was unneccessary, it turns out.)
The third thing that caught my attention was this:
Chris and Helene Hadfield do the New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday.
I'm a writer, explorer, amateur setter of cryptic crosswords, and new mom.