This week, obviously, is the week of the Great Hampshire County Crossword Puzzle.
And I’m going to be honest with you: I’m absolute poo at crossword puzzles.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a word game fiend. I grew up playing word games like Scrabble (extra points if it’s the fancy-shmancy Scrabble game with the little turntable board), Quiddler (that’s a word card game) and Bananagrams.
Have you ever played Bananagrams? It’s like creating your own crossword puzzle out of the little letter tiles you draw out of the center pile, and you just keep making words in front of you until you run out of tiles. It’s a speedy word game. I highly recommend it (even if I’m bad at explaining it).
Once, a handful of my cousins and my brothers tried playing Bananagrams with my grandmother, who liked word games, too.
She also liked to cheat.
She was a big ole cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.
During our brief Bananagrams stint, she tried to make the word “icy,” but she spelled it “icey.”
She was trying to use up extra letters to win. We were all obnoxious, rowdy youths (as opposed to now, when we are all obnoxious, rowdy adults), but we were trying to be gentle with her.
“Hey, Grandma, that word is actually spelled, ‘I-C-Y.’ There’s no ‘E’.”
And she, of course, disagreed.
“Of course there’s an ‘E’. Don’t you try to cheat me.”
And then, out came the Big Red Dictionary. Growing up, we had this massive red dictionary that my mom kept on our buffet that was always used when we played word games to pinpoint who was trying to cheat whom (or, in most cases, who just was bad at spelling).
In case anyone was wondering, icy is NOT spelled with an E.
Grandma never played Bananagrams with us again.
Years and years later, after Grandma had passed, my cousin Grace was visiting my family in Fredericksburg for Thanksgiving, and she and I decided to take on the local newspaper’s crossword puzzle.
Grandpap, who had already pretty much read that paper cover-to-cover, was amused by this.
He was even more amused when Grace and I used our smartphones to look up some of the hints. We maintained that it wasn’t cheating, since the only ones we were looking up were the hints that were about people who were famous before we were born.
(OK, OK. It’s still cheating, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And we take after our grandma.)
Grandma used to do crossword puzzles. We used to clip them out of the paper for her. Grandpap didn’t do crossword puzzles. He wasn’t a big gamer, but he was a great cheerleader when Grace and I tried our hand during that Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago.
I won’t judge you if you cheat while filling out the crossword puzzle. It’s a pot-and-kettle situation, so cheat away. Or don’t. Either way, here’s a hint to start you off: “icy” isn’t in the puzzle.