Posts filed under ‘Crossword’

Learning with Losing

Sometime ago, Ryan and I were walking with the kids and he told about an interesting Ted Talk on “Arguing”. It was by Philisopher Daniel H. Cohen and he talks about the winners and losers in arguments. Traditionally we think of someone winning an argument and someone losing an argument. But Cohen suggests that it is the “loser” of the argument that actually walks away with the biggest gain. The winner walks away with nothing but a stroked ego. The loser on the other hand, walks away with a new belief– a “well articulated, examined, battle-tested belief.”

Last week, I was working on a Washington Post crossword puzzle and a whole section stumped me. After revisting the clues again and again without any new insight, I surrendered and decided to Google on my phone. It was, in my mind, the act of defeat. The act of a loser.

The very first clue I decided to Google was “Vanzetti’s Co-Defendant”. And just that like that I was enthralled. The rest of the evening, I found myself immersed in and fascinated by The Sacco and Vanzetti Trials of the 1920s, almost a century ago now. I read account after account until it was well past my bedtime. I read about the questionable aspects of their trials and conviction. I read about the world-wide protests, how renowed personalities such as Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells signed petitions urging another trial. I was surprised (and somewhat amused) at how generations before Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson, there was another famous trial that prominently featured an article of clothing being too small.

Sacco Tries on a Hat, Simpson Tries on Gloves
Source: Boston Post

I never returned to my crossword that night. Days later, those boxes remain glaringly empty. But with a wealth of new information in my mind, I’m having a tough time feeling like I lost.

September 16, 2014 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Christmas Crossword: Rock the Castle

Christmas Day I worked on a crossword from the Washington Post.  It wasn’t an especially festive puzzle.  The theme was a lot of large words or phrases that included “Bah” (as in “Bah, Humbug!”) in them. 

One of the clues was for a song by The Clash.  As luck would have it, that song is fresh in my mind because it is featured in Cingular (?) commercial.  One guy downloaded the song to his cell phone and he and his buddy argue over the words.  They both have them completely mangled– one guy even singing about a “cat box”

I did think the commercial was amusing, but I thought they should have picked a different song.  It was way too obvious what the words really were.  They should have picked a song where the words were more ambigious. 

Back to Christmas Day, I smugly filled in “ROCKTHECASTLE” and moved on with the puzzle.  But, something was wrong.  I had all sorts of struggles with related sections of the puzzle.  Finally, just to outrule what I thought was a very small possibility, I consulted the Internet about the song title.

And…it was at this point, I decided the Cingular producers did pick a good song for their the premise afterall.  I had fallen into the same trap as the guys on the commericial.  Even though in my crossword, I knew I needed BAH in the title.  And most embarassingly, even though the commercial actually shows the song title at the end. 

Sometimes, I guess it’s just hard to compete with first impressions.

(Want me to tie this into ISO 9000 and quality management?  The conclusion shows the importance of having clean work areas and facilities when the auditor comes.  If the auditor’s first impression is the office is in disorder, it is easier for him/her to believe your processes and procedures will be in the same state)

December 27, 2006 at 2:12 am 1 comment

Vicky’s Business Travel Essentials

Tomorrow afternoon, I leave for a business trip.  I’ve traveled quite a bit for business the last three years.  Since I’ve had a lot of practice, I’m very adept at my packing procedure.  For example, my Bowman Handbags Travel Cosmetic Bag is always perched in a basket on my sink.  All I have to do when I leave, is put in my deodorant and toothpaste and I’m off.  Everything else has a permanent residence inside the bag.

But it isn’t toiletries and clothing the help me make business trips personal.  For this post, I thought I would highlight some of the items I carry with me that provide fulfilling trips with memories besides conference rooms and server closets:

  • Rollerblades – It is my policy to travel with my rollerblades.  I have a business trip to Traverse City, Michigan in 2001 to thank for this.  On that trip I spent an evening walking the beautiful TART trail.  It was a lovely walk, but it was marred by envy.  A number of rollerbladers whizzed by me and each time I cringed and longed for my own skates.  Now they come with me (even overseas) and I make it a point to skate in new states as I go.  With Massachusetts in October, I’m up to 17 states. (Related Post: Rollerblading – 16th State)
  • Journal – This is an absolute must.  Waiting at gates, riding on trains, and spending evenings alone at hotel rooms is the perfect time for me to catch up on journal entries.  London is near and dear to my heart and I wonder if it is the city I love… or the fact that I get so much writing and introspection done there. 🙂  (Related Post – Travel as a Learning Tool in Journal Excerpt: An Evening with Talib Kweli)
  • GPS – Rollerblading is my priority, but I also like to take my GPS with me on business trips.  It allows me to explore the area and find some off-the-beaten-path parks and novel areas while searching for geocaches.
  • Dramamine – I started using this stuff when I was in the throws of emetophobia.  It would give me the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t get motion sickness.  That is no longer a worry of mine, but much like Viagra was originally envisioned as a treatment for hypertension, I found a side effect of dramamine to be much more valuable.  I’ve come to appreciate the ability of guaranteed sleep.  I pretty much sleep on planes regardless, but the dramamine ensures a timely decline and a restful slumber.  Delays, turbulence, uncomfortable seats and bad entertainment don’t bother me when I’m in my own induced hypersleep.  And when we land, I’m typically ready to go and start my adventures.  When I am only in town for 25 hours and I want to rollerblade, geocache and explore– being rested and ready to go is a wonderful thing.  Of course, my practice may bother the other passengers.  When we went to Las Vegas in 2005, my colleague, Mark Duncan, reported that he could hear me snoring even though he was seated numerous rows away! 🙂
  • Cell Phone and Cell Phone Charger – I rarely call my husband on trips anymore.  Instead we text message.  When I travel a lot, even when I’m discovering a lot and seeing great scenery, there are still points where my mood is dampened and I miss home.  My husband seems to have uncanny timing during those times.  I’ll suddenly receive a text message or picture from Sean, usually some kind of inside joke or reference, that is just downright hilarious.  I crack up and I’ll feel connected to home. 
  • Address Book and Stamps – I love letter writing and for the girl on the go, what better means than post cards?  You have no choice to keep your message short and quick, but you still get to reach out to the people you’ve been thinking of.  I’ve also taken advantage of hotel time to catch up on full blown letters.  I specifically remember writing Kevin Dublin from a hotel in Michigan and writing Emily Hackett from Kentucky.
  • Running Shoes and Workout Clothes – I like to take advantage of the free gyms facilities in hotels– particularly the eliptical machines and the stationary bikes.  There are exceptions, but for most business trips, I’m exercising every night– be it geocaching, rollerblading, walking or taking advantage of the gym.  I find exercise to be absolutely essential. 
  • Eugene Sheffer Crosswords – I’ll print out a series of Eugene Sheffer crosswords to work on during my trip.  I’ll work on them at the gate, on the plane and most importantly, I’ll work on them when I go to dinner alone and am waiting for my food.  (Related Post – Crossword Coincidences)

When I look back, I’ve seen so many neat places and have gone on so many great adventures.  Some of this I do have to attribute to my company– as they chose to send me and they took care of the bill.  Some of it, I have to attribute to the customers– they welcome me to their facilities and treat me so very well. 

But the financial backing of my company and the hospitality of my customers alone is not what made the trips great.  I’d like to think it’s the choices I make on how to use the downtime, that really makes the trips shine.

Here’s hoping for another shining trip! 🙂

December 17, 2006 at 9:27 pm 7 comments

Crossword Coincidences

In the weeks proceeding the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, the Allies found themselves a bit concerned with the crosswords in the Daily Telegraph.  Five of their codewords– Overlord, Utah, Neptune, Omaha and Mulberry appeared as answers in puzzles that appeared between May 2, 1944 to June 2, 1944.  It worried the allies so much that a counterespionage team at Scotland Yard (M.I.5) investigated the author, Leonard Sidney Dawe, and even showed up at his house to interview him on June 4, 1944.  From Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day:

“Mr. Dawe,” said one of the men as the questioning began, “during the last month a number of highly confidential code words concerning a certain Allied operation have appeared in the Telegraph crossword puzzles.  Can you tell us what prompted you to use them– or where you got them?”

Before the surprised Dawe could answer, the M.I.5 man pulled a list out of his pocket and said, “We are particularly interested in finding out how you came to choose this word.”  He pointed to the list.  The prize competition crossword in the Telegraph for May 27 included the clue (11 across) “But some big-wig like this has stolen some at times.”  This mystifying clue through some strange alchemy made sense to Dawe’s devoted followers.  The answer, published two days before on June 2, was the code name for the entire Allied invasion plan– “Overlord”

Dawe did not know what Allied operation they were talking about, so he was not unduly startled or even indignant at these questions.  He could not explain, he told them, just how or why he had chosen that particular word.  It was quite a common word in history books, he pointed out.  “But how,” he protested, “can I tell what is being used as a code word and what isn’t?”

The two M.I.5 men were extremely courteous: They agreed that it was difficult.  But wasn’t it strange that all these code words should appear in the same month?

One by one they went over the list with the now slightly harassed bespectacled schoolmaster. 

Dawe had no explanation for the use of these words.  For all he knew, he said, the crosswords mentioned on the list could have been completed six months before.  Was there any explanation?  Dawe could suggest only one: fantastic coincidence.

An old co-worker of mine, Chris Martz, got me hooked on the Roanoke Times Crossword (done by Eugene Sheffer).  I’ll have a few periods here and there where I don’t work on them regularly, but when I do, it isn’t unusual to run across a series of coincidences in the clues and the answers. 

It happens so much that I’ve written about crossword coincidences in my past journals, but I don’t have to tap into those today–  I have a fresh example to share!  Yesterday at Larry’s, I printed out a fresh Eugene Sheffer crossword and worked on it throughout the day. 

  • Pea
    Early on, I ran across the clue, “Cause of royal insomnia”.  It was a reference to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Princess and the Pea.  It was a story I had not heard a while, but it was still alive enough in my memory to know the answer.  Without saying a word, I filled in PEA. No more than ten minutes later, Larry Bowman starts mocking his daughter and her sleeping habits.  He ended his ridicule with asking her whether she had a pea under her mattress.
  • Hahn
    There was one trouble area in the upper right of the puzzle where I ended up being stuck.  When I had completed everything that I could, I decided to look up the answer to one clue I had little chance in knowing, “Physicist Otto”.  Four Letters and I knew _A_N.  It turns out it was Otto Hahn, a pioneer in radioactivity.  Once I had the two missing H’s filled in, the rest of the section was solved quickly. With the puzzle done, I moved on to another activity– reading Discover magazine.  The first article I started to read was called “20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Nobel Prizes”.  Number 13 and 14 both mentioned Otto Hahn– the very man I had just looked up.

It is occurences such as these that make me feel the Operation Overlord code words appearing in the Daily Telegraph was not that “fantastic” of a coincidence afterall. 

It seems to me that coincidences in crosswords are, in fact, commonplace.

September 24, 2006 at 1:41 pm 10 comments

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