Crossword puzzles still my nemesis/foe/bane/ruin

“I’ve been enjoying your crossword puzzle,” a friend mentioned to me at a party a couple of weeks ago.

We tend to get a little insulted when people talk about what they love most in the paper and it’s something — like horoscopes or police beat — that we did not write.

But this is a friend I know to be an avid reader of the paper. So I wasn’t offended when he told me he has been enjoying our crossword puzzles. I recognize he is not alone due to the uptick in our phone call volume whenever we have to pull the puzzles page to get in a late ad.

I, on the other hand, have never been crazy about crossword puzzles, which I admitted to my friend. But I appreciated his enthusiasm.

“I’ll have to give it a try,” I told him.

So I did. And I was reminded of why I am not a fan.

I started with the March 8 puzzle and was rolling along nicely, identifying Arnold and Amy as the first names of the famous Traitor Benedict and Winehouse and Poehler, respectively. I knew quite a few others off the bat and was able to deduce a handful more based on those answers. Then I hit a wall.

What is Latin for “I love?” I only know Spanish.

Maybe I should call District 86 Superintendent Bruce Law. He knows Latin.

What was the 1970s TV hospital drama? I had “MEDICAL” and “_EN_ER.”

“Medical Gender” didn’t sound right and the only other show I could recall from my childhood was “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” which clearly did not fit.

“Medical Center?” Jim Slonoff offered after listening to me talk through possible answers.

Darn. He was right. What a stupid name for a TV show, I thought. I told him to shut up and let me do the puzzle by myself.

My anxiety level increased the longer I stared at it. With eight clues left to solve, I was feeling downright uncomfortable.

I changed my mind about help and Slonoff pointed me to

Need a five-letter word for brawl? Melee, of course.

I cheated on a few others, as well, before just looking up the answers. They conveniently run the same week as the puzzle in our classified pages (a benefit my friend had pointed out).

All in all I solved 48 out of 54 clues correctly or about 89 percent. A solid B+.

Doing one crossword puzzle reminded me of trying to play one level of Candy Crush. I knew I could do better. I got out the March 1 puzzle. I cheated less and scored 83 percent. Not too bad, but I wanted to try one more.

I should have left well enough alone. The Feb. 22 puzzle kicked my butt with clues like “Lummox” and “groups of quail” (which my husband said should be “coveys” but was “bevies”).

The best score I was able to manage was 94 percent. That, unfortunately, was on the first crossword puzzle ever published. In 1913.

The unavoidable conclusion to all of this? I am too stupid to do crossword puzzles.

Smart people do crossword puzzles, like Leo on “The West Wing” (who called the New York Times in the pilot episode about how they spelled Qaddhafi’s name in 17 across).

I am more like Ralphie’s dad in “A Christmas Story,” who couldn’t come up with the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse (Victor).

“How the hell did you know that?” he asks his wife when she offers up the answer.

“Everybody knows that,” she responds.

Not me.

— Pamela Lannom is on vacation. This column was first published March 15, 2018.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean