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Don’t get cross with these words

I have always been interested in words, so it’s probably no surprise I have been doing crossword puzzles for more years than I can count (which means more than 10).

That interest in words served me well in my years as a newspaper reporter. I found I could think of the appropriate word for a story without having to refer to a thesaurus or dictionary to find it.

Having the appropriate word is important. I have heard it said there are no two words in the English language with exactly the same meaning. There are always shades of difference, frequently because of the connotations a person attaches to each word. A word as apparently simple as ‘problem’ can mean different things to different people. To some, it means something that wasn’t foreseen in planning a course of action. Others may think of it as something that was perhaps foreseen, but thinking of a solution was delayed until the situation actually arose. Still others will have different ideas of what is meant by ‘problem’.

And, as any good reporter will tell you, it can be difficult to come up with the right word for the situation. As Mark Twain put it, “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.”

Crosswords, I have found, are not just a good way to build my vocabulary, but also a great way to relax. The only problem (there’s that word again) I have is that I have a large vocabulary, and so the majority of crossword puzzles present very little challenge.

I have sometimes bought a book of crosswords and done the easy puzzles simply from either the Across or the Down clues. A lot of times, this still doesn’t present much of a challenge.

So the best solution I have found is to buy a book or magazine with an assortment of difficulty levels. I then do the Challenger or Expert puzzles, most of which have a theme to them, which makes it more fun to solve.

I then pass the magazine along to my mom, who enjoys doing the Difficult puzzles. She sometimes tries the Expert puzzles in a magazine of her own, but finds too many of the clues deal with modern music and TV shows, which she has little interest in.

She then usually passes the magazine along to someone else, who does the Easy and Medium puzzles, and thus a single book or magazine furnishes solving enjoyment for three people

Sometimes, even a themed puzzle doesn’t present much in the way of a challenge, depending on the theme. I did one about a year ago where a number of the clues were simply a year and either American or National league, and you had to fill in the name of the Most Valuable Player that matched.

I found I got all the answers simply by looking at the length of the answers and thinking about baseball.

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