Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thanks, Sis - I found the puzzle you left for me!

Every week I do the Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, which appears in the local Sunday paper, and then I post an entry about the puzzle and my experience solving it on a blog I have for just that purpose. I enjoy doing this and the process has become an important part of my weekend routine (and we all know how much I love "routine".  I do other crosswords as well and for the most part I enjoy sharing the experience with whoever happens to be around to participate, but I really like to do the Longo puzzle as a solitary exercise so I can focus on what I like or don't like about the puzzle and can analyze my own reactions to it without being distracted by anyone else. It's my way of carving out an hour or two of "me time" without outside distraction or influence, and I like it.

Last week, delivery of the paper was delayed by the arrival of a major snow storm - the motor-carrier who delivers my daily paper plus the Sunday Telegram is super efficient but he's not crazy so he wisely chose to delay delivery until the roads had been cleared and made safe by the very excellent Public Works employees who take care of these things during and after a storm. By the time the paper arrived I was already busy clearing my own yard so the puzzle had to wait. It was still undone by the time I retired for the night so I planned to take the puzzle page with me the next morning to work on while I waited for the veterans whom I drove to the VA facility to be ready for the return trip, so no problem.

But, as Robert Burns famously wrote in his poem "To a Mouse, On Turning Up Her Nest With The Plough", "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] " (, and my plan did just that. I had not counted on an insomniac house-guest completing the puzzle while I slept but that's just what she did, so I arose in the morning to find a completed grid along with a note proudly announcing that she had completed the puzzle without any help! Good for her, bad for me, but I quickly developed a "plan B". 

The route I take in the van takes me right past a local convenience store and I surmised that, due to the storm, they might very well have Sunday papers left over when I went by early Monday morning - I would simply pick one up, chuck the rest of the paper which I had already read, and do the puzzle while I waited at Togus. Genius! So here's where things get weird.

I went directly to the paper rack in the store only to discover that there were no Sunday papers left - I was disappointed but it wasn't the end of the world so I started to leave when I spotted a single paper on top of the ice-cream freezer near the from door, obviously left there just for me! I picked up my trophy and took it to the cashier who very helpfully pointed out that it was "yesterday's paper" but I assured her it was just what I wanted and she happily took my money, saying that I had saved her the trouble of throwing the paper out, which somebody was supposed to have done before her shift began just a little earlier. So I got a paper that wasn't even supposed to be there to begin with, but that's just lucky! Then things got even more weird.

The paper had the appearance of having been read and put back together, which didn't bother me because I just wanted the puzzle section anyway. But when I finally had a chance to search for that section I couldn't find it - of all the sections and inserts in the paper it looked like the section that contained the puzzle was missing! Panic started to set in. But I'm a determined individual not given to quitting easily so I started to go through the entire paper piece by piece in search of Section G, where the puzzle resides. That's when the situation went from weird to just plain spooky.

In the center of the paper, amid all the ads and inserts that abound during the holiday shopping season, I spotted a torn page kind of crumpled up and jammed down into the crease of the center fold - it looked more like a scrap than anything useful but I pulled it out anyway. It was the top half of a single newspaper sheet which had been torn roughly in two, probably by some mechanical processing error, and as I extracted it and uncrumpled it I discover that I had found the Premier Crossword with the whole grid and all of the clues intact. With a little more careful unfolding and application of some Scotch tape to hold the whole thing together, I had my puzzle!
I've written in this space before that I truly believe there are forces which we do not understand at work in this universe and that not everything that happens can be chalked up to random chance, pure luck, fate, or whatever you call it when something entirely unexpected happens like that. I could be wrong but I don't think it was pure accident that placed that one vital piece of a destroyed section in my paper. Or maybe it was - I don't expect to ever know the answer in this lifetime but if I learn the answer in whatever comes next, I'll try to let you know.

Until I get an answer, if I ever do, whenever something unexpected and good like that happens I like to think of my departed parents and sister and wonder if just maybe one or all of them is still keeping an eye on things back here and helping whenever they can. Probably not, but I still take comfort in the thought - because, really, I need all the help I can get.

Speaking of angels (which I was, without using the word) here's a seasonal song on the topic which enjoyed and I hope you do, too:

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