Crossword Puzzles: A finals week proposal

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

As the semester draws to a close and finals loom on the horizon, I have a suggestion for Duquesne students: Immerse yourself in the world of crossword puzzles. It’s my method this year for staving off end-of-the-semester stresses, and I think you could benefit from the practice as well. I promise, it’s a really good idea.

…crossword puzzles? Really?

Yes, really.

Last time I checked, crossword puzzles are for old people and nerds.

Now hold on a second, that seems like an unfair generalization. Besides, who says geriatrics and geeks don’t know what’s up?

OK, look — crossword puzzles aren’t exactly the hip college student activity. In the age of YouTube, Snapchat and Netflix, they even seem a bit antiquated. That said, I think they have some (strangely?) compelling attributes going for them.

At the very least, I’ve been on a weird kick doing them over the past few weeks. My word is a convincing enough argument, right?

Don’t get ahead of yourself here. But, fine. Let’s say you’ve piqued my interest. Last time I checked crosswords are printed in newspapers. Do those even exist anymore?

Why, yes they do! The Duke prints one every single week of the school year; you should read it some time. Unfortunately, we don’t print crossword puzzles, though.

But, yes, in the past that was the way to get your crossword fix, and you still can! Learn to be more attentive when you’re out and about on campus. You’ll find racks of larger newspapers other than The Duke that will have puzzles sections. Also, you can find little pocket crossword puzzle books at any bookstore, and they are always a great option to throw in a backpack or purse.

Really, however, as with most things these days, all you need is a computer. Google “crossword puzzles,” and you’ll find numerous sites that all have new puzzles every day. The New York Times is the hallmark, but you have to pay for access to their main daily puzzle. Cross that road when you get there.

Geez, you’re really into this, huh?

Yeah, I wasn’t kidding.

Clearly. So why should I want to spend my time doing crossword puzzles anyway?

Why, for mental stimulation, of course! I’m as much of a proponent for shutting off your brain and watching some Netflix as the next guy, but that isn’t always the best course of action. With finals week coming up, we’re all in full study mode, but powering down your brain during breaks from the grind won’t do you any good. Crossword puzzles are a way to get some studying relief while still keeping those mental juices flowing!

Sure, I guess that’s an OK idea. But, let’s be honest, that sounds hard.

Kind of! Mental stimulation is good for you. Also hard doesn’t mean not fun. Think of crosswords as a way to test your trivia knowledge, vocabulary and critical thinking skills all in one go. Don’t worry! It’s perfectly fine to start on easy puzzles and work your way up. The New York Times has a free daily mini puzzle that’s always a good three-minute brain test.

Also, top tip: Crossword puzzle difficulty almost always correlates to the day of the week the puzzle publishes, Monday being the easiest and Sunday being the hardest. Keep that in mind when picking your poison.

Poison seems like an accurate descriptor. What if I’m bad at them at first?

Well, not to be a downer, but you very well might be. There’s a set of intuitive skills needed to be good at crossword puzzles, and it will take some time to learn them. The New York Times, once again, really shines here, as it has some practice exercises to get you in the right head space.

You want me to do practice exercises for this? C’mon.

Hey, I’m not telling you how to live your life; I’m just saying the option is there.

This entire article is literally you telling me to do crossword puzzles as part of my life routine.

That’s a fair point. Well, do crosswords for sure. The exercises are up to you.

If I try one will you stop bugging me?

I guess. But only if you complete it without any hints.

Man, you’re the worst.

I know. Happy puzzling!