Week 5: We Are The Crossword Champions

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Monday, July 1, 2019


Terance Schuh

This one is for my dad.

I’m sure he is proud of me for lots of reasons (graduating college, working at NASA, not doing drugs, yadda yadda yadda), but I have a feeling after he reads this, I’ll have reached a new level with him.

The train/bus ride to work is boring; it’s long, bumpy, and crowded. During the journey it’s natural to want to find a way to pass the time. Looking around you see lots of people read, listen to music, catch some zzz’s, etc. and I must admit I’ve tried them all myself. Recently though, I’ve acquired a new train hobby, one that officially says I am a hardworking American. I have started doing the daily crossword.

Other NASA intern Nolan and I ride to work together every day and at the start of our journey each day we always see the same man at the metro station handing out The Express newspaper. For the first few weeks we assumed you had to pay for it, so we didn’t bother, but one day he just sort of handed a copy to us. I like to think it was fate.

I’m pretty sure since it’s free, The Express is a mediocre newspaper. I wouldn’t really know though because I’ve never actually read any of the articles. I always just go straight to the puzzles and games section. However, it probably also means the crossword is mediocre, but again, it’s free and I’m still a rookie so I don’t really care.

Anyway, once Nolan and I get on the train we get cracking. I know you usually do the crosswords alone, but like I said, we’re rookies so we still need each other. Between the two of us we have pretty much most areas of pop culture covered so it makes getting that 100% completion over the course of the morning and afternoon commutes a likely possibility. Now I’ll admit, I wasn’t addicted the moment I got a few clues right. Like most things, it took a little bit for me to become a fan. I would say I probably got hooked right around when we got 56 across in our 2nd or 3rd puzzle. You see, a couple of the answers that day were puns on musical titles where one word was replaced by a meaty food. 56 across was the final clue that tied everything together. “A place to dine while enjoying all the aforementioned meaty performances”. The answer: Avenue Bar-B-Q. That’s where I got the bug. That’s where I turned from an all-is-right-in-the-world young adult to a get-out-of-my-way-on-the-metro-escalator working-class American. I’ve been doing the crossword puzzle every day since.

Now you’re probably wondering how this all connects to my dad. Well, let me tell you, my father is a crossword guru. A Will Shortz disciple, if you will. A true man of the cross. I’m pretty sure he’s been doing newspaper crossword puzzles since well before any of his children were even zygotes. The man craves the literary brainteasers. Whenever we go on family vacations, during the weeks leading up to the trip he stockpiles crosswords from various papers, so he has enough to keep him occupied throughout the week. His ideal vacation is minimal social interactions and lots of newspapers stains. With that in mind, me becoming a fellow crossworder means reaching maximum affinity with my father. I have officially passed his final test. Are you happy now dad?

In summary, somehow or other I’m now hooked on crossword puzzles. I shouldn’t be too surprised that it happened though since I watched my father do them my whole life, so it was bound to happen. Either way, they’re pretty fun and also good mental exercises. They pass the time on the train and it’s a nice way to bond with Nolan. The Express is nowhere near The New York Times, but think of it like physics research. All the great physicists in the world were lil’ interns like me at some point and they probably never would’ve gotten to where they ended up without those experiences. We all gotta start somewhere. Slowly but surely, we’ll reach our dreams, it just takes time. I’m sure one day I’ll be a crossword puzzle champion, but for now I’ll stick with physics. Terry Schuh signing off.

P.S. If you thought this blog post was a lot like Jeremiah’s Week 4 post, you’re right, it was! We discussed it and I had this idea before I read his post, so he was cool with it. Looks like we both got the crossword fever!

Terance Schuh