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nytimes – My Journey to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament



It worked perfectly. Crosswords were able to keep my mind fully occupied, and could be done when I had short bursts of time. Since I was frequently interrupted, I could go back to the puzzle without redoing previous work. When days were long, doctors’ visits were discouraging and the future was uncertain, crossword puzzles gave me a sense of accomplishment, comfort and stability. I worked backward, through 2017, 2016 and most of 2015. My speed increased, my word knowledge grew and, most important, my state of mind improved with each week that I completed.

In all honesty, crossword puzzles were not the only thing that helped me get through our “annus horribilis” (speaking of increased word knowledge). I was incredibly lucky to have strong faith, a wonderful family, an excellent medical network, great insurance, supportive colleagues, a caring church congregation and amazing friends. Together, they were my bedrock and helped to preserve my sanity. But when I was alone in the hospital or waiting room, after saying a quick prayer, I always picked up the trusty clipboard. Crosswords were the constant, a few minutes’ reprieve from fear and worry.

Early in 2019, my husband’s health improved, and we would have the same conversation again and again.

“You’ve been taking care of me for a year; you need to do something for yourself.”

I would always reply: “What am I going to do? I hate to shop, I’m not a fan of spas and I don’t drink wine. My friends are all too busy with their kids’ activities to take a weekend trip with me.”

“Well, keep looking,” he would insist. “There has to be something you would enjoy.”

In one of the crossword blogs I read, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was mentioned. I did a little research, checked the calendar and discovered that Stamford, Conn. — where it has been held for most of the 40 or so years it has existed — is only two hours from our home. I approached my husband tentatively.

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