One of my new indulgences to fill time during these strange days was to download the Microsoft Ultimate Word Games on my desktop computer.
I had to find something. Candy Crush was turning my brain to mush. I refuse to spend any actual money on Candy Crush perks, so I often get stuck on a hard level for days, depleting my lives after only a short time of playing. I am often a Candy Crush social promotion – where the game masters take pity on my inability to move on and just bump me up to the next level.
I began by doing the Microsoft Challenge every day and have kept that commitment during these self-isolation days.
The daily challenge consists of two word challenges and a crossword puzzle. They vary in degrees of difficulty – easy, medium, hard and expert – and are random in which ones you get each day. I enjoy all three games, but was first lured to the table because of the crossword puzzle.
My husband, Neville, has been a crossword puzzler for years. The main thing he missed when we canceled our subscription to the print newspaper was putting pen-to-paper to do the daily puzzles.
I always declared I didn’t have the time to fool with them, which translated means, not enough patience to see them through. Occasionally Neville would toss out a clue for my help. I was almost always right with the answer.
So it was with great confidence in my ability to master the crosswords that I began my journey. It has been a humbling experience.
Turns out my husband was only asking me for help on questions that fell within my areas of interest. We are perfectly compatible in an “opposites attract” kind-of-way. I could quickly tell him the Iliad is an “epos,” that the Lion King villain is “Scar,” that Rochester married is “Eyre,” and that Marvel’s Black Widow’s name is “Natalia.”
With just a little beginning letter help, I also could remember that “Priam” was the father of Paris, that a part of speech beginning with a “g” is “Gerunds” and that “Typhon” was the father of Greek monsters.
Where I began to falter once on my own in crossword land was with overcoming my innate tendency to take everything literally. I am easy to fool, easy to mess with because my mind goes straight to the literal answer.
For example, “fitness center,” four letters. OK – Spas, Gyms, YMCA? No matter how I tried to change the words around it, I could not make any of the words work. Even when I got every letter except the first one, I just couldn’t see it. I finally cheated with Crossword Solver to find the answer is “Core.”
I am also not very good with pop culture singers and sports figures, but can usually puzzle those out with the clues around them. The other ones that prey on my literal mind are also ones that show my age. I am tripped up with technology references frequently and have to remind myself that if the clue says “mail,” it usually means an email reference. (Mail scam: “phish.”).
The latest one that had me scratching my head was no doubt due to the way all our brains are leaning these days. The clue was “colds that last a long time.” It was a seven letter answer, which meant no dice to “flu,” “viruses” or “pandemic.” “Plagues” seemed a little harsh for “colds” and didn’t work with the surrounding words anyway.
The answer was “iceages.”
Even being a dinosaur didn’t help me with that one.
And, if you are trying to figure out the answer to the headline, it’s “duh.”
Stay home, stay safe!
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987.