The crossword in the Jan/Feb 2011 edition of Life Times, by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

Backstory: I volunteer with the blind once a week, because I am a better person than you. This takes the form of many a task, one of the most common being reading consumers their mail, like the health paper Life Times one senior’s insurance sends him every other month. In it, along with some articles about adult asthma and healthier living through bowling, was a crossword he thought he’d try his hand at.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really like puzzles that depend on English. This might go doubly for crosswords, which have clues so vague I have no idea if the five-letter word I’ve thought of is the correct one, if I can think of anything at all. Unlike sudoku, where you only fill in the box when you know with LOGICAL CERTAINTY that it HAS to be a six or whatever, you just have to put down what it probably is and be prepared to erase it later if it doesn’t work.

Crosswords in general: C

So, THIS crossword. Well. The first clue that caught my eye was “Jack Sparrow expression, perhaps”. Five letters.

Answer: AARGH

What the hell, crossword? No. No, that is not anyone’s expression. Perhaps you are thinking of ARR, or ARRRR if you really must have five letters.

More clue examples:

Horse feed, four letters: MASH
Flower part, six letters: RACEME (It isn’t.)
Ran, three letters: LED
Waste piece of wool, four letters: NOIL
Cut, five letters: HEWED
Athlete’s concern, four letters: PACE
Primo, four letters: AONE (I had to stare at this answer for forever before realizing it was “A-One”)
Eagerness, four letters: ELAN
Level, four letters: SHIM
Bursa, three letters: SAC
Arachnids, five letters: ACARI
Shrouded, old word: CERED

Okay, sure, these are for the most part technically appropriate clues. But the answers are just so…weird. So frequently unintuitive, or completely unheard of. Is it me? Is it because I spend all my time squinting at symbols? Has my vocabulary atrophied? Dear readers, if you are people of letters and not numbers maybe you can tell me if I’m being too harsh.

Perhaps my judgement is colored by context as well. After all, I was reading the clues aloud and checking the consumer’s guesses, filling them in when they were right. So mostly it was him guessing significantly more appropriate answers, like “oats” or “bran” for “horse feed”, and me rejecting them over and over. And this went on for THREE WEEKS. By the next week, he’d caved enough to use a dictionary, which meant I’d read surprisingly long dictionary entries for words like “cut” out loud, and he’d keep an ear out for five-letter words with a ‘w’ in the middle. But that didn’t work, because ‘cut’ is secretly its own past tense, so by the third week we were scouring thesauruses and the Encyclopedia Britannica as well.

At this point, the crossword might almost be forgiven. A good chunk of its clues are duds, but not moreso than your average crossword perhaps. But then, there are the fourteen and fifteen letter clues. The ones the entire puzzle is built around. They are health themed. Let’s see if YOU can guess them:

Good Exercise!, fourteen letters
Omega three sources, fifteen letters
Game suggestion, fourteen letters

Stumped? Well, sure you are. After all, you’re not meant to get those until you’ve gotten a lot of the smaller clues which intersect it. Let’s fill in some letters, then:

Good exercise!: _ I K E I N _ _ E _ I _ L _

Omega three sources: S A _ D _ N _ S _ _ D T _ N _

Game suggestion: _ _ T S P _ A _ T _ N _ _ S

Still stumped? Perhaps you pulled out a thesaurus yourself, and have filled in more letters:

Good exercise!: _ I K E I N T _ E H I _ L S

Omega three sources: S A _ D I N _ S A N D T _ N A

Game suggestion: _ E T S P _ A Y T _ N _ I S

Got your final guess? Let’s see how you measure up! The answers, of course, are HIKEINTHEHILLS, SARDINESANDTUNA and LETSPLAYTENNIS. Obviously. Because those are common phrases we hear every week, and not at all assortments of thoughts so random it’s like the puzzle writer just grabbed the nearest magazine, flipped to somewhere in the middle and wrote down the first four words that caught his eye.

This Specific Crossword: D-


1 Comment

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One response to “The crossword in the Jan/Feb 2011 edition of Life Times, by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

  1. takinthelongway

    I like crosswords. I enjoy them FAAAR more than Sudoku (wherein I mostly cheat.) But this one? BLEH.

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