When all else fails, there’s the crossword. In the world of the crossword, everything fits: every letter has its place; every word interlocks. The grid is clear even when the clues are not, the perfect combination of word thinking and pattern thinking. Even if I can’t solve a crossword, I’m comforted by its self-contained certainty.
I do the New York Times crossword. Weekdays, the puzzles are published at 10pm. I should be going to bed by ten, but lately I’ve found myself up, puzzling. What body part name comes from the Latin for “little mouse”? No idea, but – wait – I can almost capture it. I think I knew this once. It will come once I get one of the letters. When will I get the vaccine? I cannot know this; I will not think about it. Metaphor from Homer’s Odyssey, “wine dark ___”? I know that one. I keep going.
Sometimes the puzzles feel like old friends: clues I half recognize, names I dredge up from the past, facts I can place without batting an eye. Sometimes they delight me with their cleverness. Sometimes I am disgusted by their cleverness
Tonight, I told myself that I would be upstairs by 10, but when the time came my mind was jumpy. Monkey mind, I’ve heard it called, and these days I’ve got it. I need to settle my monkey down; racing thoughts will do me no favours as I try to fall asleep. If I just turn on the computer… there, laid out in orderly black and white squares, the reassurance that the world is, ultimately, knowable, that if I can make the right connections, I can complete something. Anything.
I do the crossword, even though I know that in the morning, I will regret having finished it tonight. Ah, well, the morning will have to provide its own reassurances. Sudoku has a lovely grid, too.