Sunday, October 5, 2008

37 Down

You know the song. You've heard it sung by someone, sometime, somewhere. It stuck with you because it's one of those rare pieces of music that both states and interrogates, that not only offers its wares the world but demands something back. Written by Leiber and Stoller, originally recorded by Peggy Lee but covered by a host of others, the song, with its open sore of a question, has long since oozed into the Zeitgeist.

Or, better, the Zeitgeist has long since oozed into the song.

I can get away with saying Zeitgeist because 1) I've had three cups of tea, 2) I spend most of my days trying to get small children to make "k" sounds, and 3) This blog entry is really about crossword puzzles. Yep. Is that all there is?

Peggy Lee may have asked aloud, but we're born with the question wriggling around in our gut like a worm in an apple. It's a universal query, though not a particularly interesting one: in order to live, we pretty much have to answer no. It's how we answer -all the different ways we refute Ms. Peggy, all the different arguments we marshall- that gets interesting.

A good portion of folks turn to one religion or another. Others use travel, constantly reassuring themselves that there's more out there, yet more stuff they haven't seen. Still others use movies, or reading, or meditation. I do the NY Times crossword puzzle every Sunday.

I almost never finish. Usually I manage to crack the central trick, but there are always some squares I can't fill. I do it in pencil, the better to erase, and I do it slowly, revisiting the puzzle like a chronic hurt. I do it for the prestige, for the glory, for the hordes of screaming crossword groupies who plaster themselves against my windows, hanging on every stroke of my number #2.

OK, OK. I do it for the moment I scribble "virid" under 37 down in answer to the clue "strongly green." Who knew I knew this crap? Yet here comes the word, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of some scrap of knowledge I burned long ago.

Is that all there is? There's more. There's strength, and green.

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