I don’t know if I should take advice about maintaining mental balance from Norman Mailer considering the fact that he stabbed his wife, Adele Morales in 1960, following a drunken party, and nearly killed her in the process.
But. Mailer did maintain – he had a huge fear of going gaga in later life – that the brain must be regularly exercised like every other part of the corpus. For that he advised following his pattern, which was to do the New York Times crossword on a daily basis to aid with basic information that we might be in jeopardy of losing; as well he also played a few hands of solitaire to help with numeracy, logic and ratios.
Truly, it all makes a hell of a lot of sense. I too do the NYT crossword, especially the Sunday one and it does keep me mentally spry and quells the impulse to stab my domestic partner (just kiddding, dear, it was a cheap throwaway line). I love that crossword and its editor Will Shortz (pictured) is one of my cultural heroes.
I do that one and I also do the LA Times weekend one and also own a number of crossword books just to keep myself in form. Sports demand that we oil the mechanism often.
When I was young I didn’t do crosswords. I also got laid a lot and partied a lot and maybe that’s kind of self-explanatory. Now those activities demand levels of energy that I don’t perhaps have any longer. So, crosswords fill the void. And you learn stuff. You know, for example, if there is a question pertaining to an obscure town in Oklahoma, that town is bound to be ‘Enid’. If the puzzle wants you to name Anna Karenina’s lover you will know immediately that it is ‘Alexei’
Some categories I am weak in, like football coaches and the like. I do better with baseball players and if in doubt the answer is bound to be the Alou brothers or Mel Ott. I am confessedly bad at rap or hip-hop questions, anything to do with Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter which I am inclined to think are the same thing. Hint: they’re not.
I am also a confessed coward with crosswords in that I don’t attempt the cryptic ones, which are the British speciality. Why don’t I do those? Because they suffer from a fatal flaw for me – they’re too difficult. And also I think I’m just mentally alert enough to be able to carry on as it is without them. I don’t like failing at something and I am left with the nightmarish memory of once traveling on a train from London to Edinburgh and I bought a crossword book to help me while away the hours. It was a London Times crossword book. Huge mistake. For one thing, to do them you need a cache of reference books a la Inspector Morse. And look what happened to him.