Monday, January 08, 2007

Crossword Crazy

Once or twice a month I attempt the Chicago Tribune Magazine's Sunday crossword puzzle. Some weeks are pathetic; I fill in a dozen squares and quit. Other times I get off to a great start, completing an entire quadrant before getting stuck on a cluster of obscure clues. I have never finished one. I've learned to be happy if I can count less than ten empty squares.

But I'm not happy. My dad can do the Sunday crossword, and so can my mom's mom. That means I should be genetically inclined to succeed, darn it!

Tonight I attempted last week's puzzle. After filling in a few random answers, I caught on to the theme, which is half the battle (if you can't figure out the theme that encompasses all of the longer entries, you're generally screwed). I worked steadily, occasionally got stuck, and then found inspiration. Slowly but surely, the squares filled up. I began to think this might be the one. Finally, I was down to two squares. I didn't know the name of an old German coin or a Swiss river, but I had a decent guess. Yet it didn't quite seem right. Ten minutes later, I came up with a much better answer. That must be it.

I could hardly contain my excitement as I opened this week's magazine to look up last week's answers. My guess was right! Now I had to at least take a cursory glance at the rest of the puzzle... looking good... widening grin on my face... butterflies in my stomach... Darn it! I got one letter wrong. Early on I had guessed an answer. The clue was "playwright Jones." I had L-E-R-O-_. I don't know more than half a dozen playwrights, and none are named Jones. The cross clue was "Taylor of Mystic Pizza," a movie I've never seen. For that one I had L_LI.

"Leroy" seemed like a good guess for the playwright even though "Lyli" would be a bit odd. I went with it anyway. I was wrong. The playwright is LeRoi Jones -- actually he was LeRoi Jones, having changed his name to Amiri Baraka forty years ago. In my defense, that was before I was born, so I've always known him as Amiri. Except I wouldn't know Amiri or LeRoi from Adam's house cat.

Of course, if I had known actress Lili Taylor, I wouldn't have guessed "Leroy" instead of "LeRoi." Well, here's a site dedicated to Ms. Taylor. In a nod to the Who, the photo gallery is titled "Pictures of Lili" (except the Who used the more common "Lily"). To feebly defend myself again, let me note that there is an actress in the IMDb named "Lyli," though she had nothing to do with Mystic Pizza.

One freaking letter wrong, all because some parents got creative naming their kids. Now instead of going to bed satisfied, I will once again cry myself to sleep as a crossword failure. Maybe next week...

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