I admit it. I've become addicted to doing the New York Times crossword puzzles. I enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine and a pen and that day's set of clues. Perhaps the first thing I say to my husband when he walks in the door at night is," Did you bring me a copy of the puzzle?" but I'm quick to ask him about his day next.
This is only my second year as an avid crossword puzzler. The New York Times puzzles get harder each day of the week. I don't know how they do this, but they do. Mondays are easy now, but by Friday I'm struggling. Saturday's puzzles are a joke. Rarely do I get more than a few clues.
Sundays are especially wonderful because there is time to settle in and do the big puzzle at the back of the magazine. Sunday puzzles are harder by far than Monday's, but nothing like Friday's, so they're a good level for me. Someday, perhaps, I'll get to the second Sunday puzzle, the acrostic, but I'm a long way from that yet.
Lately, we've been traveling most weekends to watch our son play college soccer. Often we get back to the Island late Sunday evening and only then can indulge in the zone of puzzle relaxation. Usually my husband goes for the car and I head to the Stop & Shop to grab a New York Times. We make a copy of the puzzle at his work, so we can both do it - no sharing - and head home happy.
A few weeks ago, I grabbed the Sunday paper as usual. I had a moment's thought about checking to make sure the magazine was there with its delicious Sunday puzzle at the back, but I decided that I was getting too neurotic.
I walked to where our car was parked, eagerly flipping through to find the magazine. No magazine. Some other puzzler had had the nerve to sneak the magazine out and leave the rest, and not pay the five dollars. Don't people read the news any more? I was upset. The Stop & Shop was about to close, and I had taken one of their last papers. I ran back, told my story and emerged with a complete paper. Happy ending.
A week later, we decided to avoid any last-minute drama with the puzzle by buying the paper at a gas station in Connecticut. Good plan. We made the 6:30 Islander and found a place to read standing up in the lunch counter. All felt well with the world.
I started to read aloud a story from the Connecticut section about the elections, while my husband fumbled through the other sections sorting the ones we'd keep from those we'd chuck. Yes to Travel, Book Review, the front page, and Week in Review. No to Business Week and Real Estate. He culled the choice sections and threw the rest into the trash. "Do you have the magazine?' he asked. "No," I stopped reading. "Excuse me," he said to some people near us, "I need to go through the trash." No magazine.
Two weeks in a row? Was there some sort of message here? Was I taking this far too seriously? "Let's take a week off," I suggested, half-heartedly. "We don't need to do the puzzle. It's not a big deal." This lasted about five minutes. Once again, I ran off the boat and into the Stop & Shop. Thankfully, there were still a few New York Times left.
I carefully extracted the magazine section and paid my five dollars, leaving the rest on the counter. I told the surprised cashier she could recycle or keep it or give it away. I had the part I needed. Now we could go home, light the fire, and settle in.