Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Copyright © 2007, Steven E. Houchin. All rights reserved.

( Originally written 11 November 2007 )

Having nothing better to do one evening, I watched a television program on people who take part in an annual crossword puzzle competition. The speed with which these contestants whizzed through them was truly amazing. During the program, it showed bits and pieces of clever clues and their answers. Now, I’m not interested in expanding my small universe of skills to include competitive puzzle solver, but it got me thinking whether tackling the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle might prove useful for a writer. As writers, we are constantly confronted with the need to find different ways to say the same thing in order to avoid word repetition. For many puzzle clues, this kind of thinking is exactly what is required. For example:
  • “Promised to give up” -- Swore Off
  • “With wisdom” -- Sagely
  • “Cast a spell over” -- Enchanted
Beyond that, you can just plain learn new things you never knew before.
  • “Brine-cured cheeses” -- Fetas
  • “La Vie en Rose singer” -- Piaf
  • “City on the Rhone” -- Lyons
So, if I were to do the crossword every day, would it make the words, phrases, and cultural references in my writing richer and more varied? Other than taking up a little bit of time (they get harder through the week), it seems as though it might. Who knows, it may even help with those frustrating moments when I get stuck, grasping for ideas on how to move the story forward. Putting on my hat as an engineer, though, I doubt there is any effective way to actually measure any benefit from doing this unless, of course, my story’s plot would turn nicely on some brine-cured cheeses.

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