Hello, my name is Rena and I have a problem. It all started about a year ago, but it really crept up on me slowly, you know? I believe it was last week when I decided I needed help – needed to somehow release this burning tension within me. I walked into Angel Hall at 1 p.m. just like any other Wednesday afternoon. I instinctively shied to the right side of the doorway with my habitual intention of grabbing a paper, only to find the box empty. I felt a twang of anxiety but I was used to this occurrence.

Paul Wong
Rena Greifinger

The panic did not set in until I approached the second box, which conveniently stands outside my lecture hall. It had the same fate as its companion at the entrance to the building: EMPTY!

I tried to keep myself from completely hyperventilating and continually rubbed my sweaty palms against my jacket, as if I could somehow wipe away the fear that I would have to sit through an entire lecture without that page of the paper. As I entered the auditorium, my eyes nervously scanned the floor for that familiar black and gray of the first section. Someone was bound to have left one there. I couldn’t seem to see straight, everyone was blurry, and all I saw were papers everywhere – scattered all over the floor! But they were all Sports sections! No! I don’t want the Sports section! I NEED the crossword puzzle!

(Deep breath). Now, I know I am not the only one. There are thousands of us out there, trying hard to keep secret from the world that we get off on figuring out that last clue and filling in that final word so that we can stare at the beauty of a completed puzzle! There is a crossword puzzle craze on this campus and I have fully taken notice of it! Everywhere I go, I see people hunched over, pencil in hand (props to those who have moved onto the pen), brow knitted over that damn clue that they so know the answer to. Each day there are hundreds of newspapers flung (five letter word for “let fly”) all over classroom floors and corridors, yet always with the puzzle ripped out. And may I just say that when I pick up an abandoned newspaper and find a jagged edged hole where a crossword once laid, my heart drops in disappointment. Everyone is obsessed!

The thing is, I’m not even good at these puzzles. It was only recently that I actually completed both Monday’s and Tuesday’s on my own! (I don’t really understand this, because my grandmother could do the Sunday Times puzzle in pen! Shouldn’t that be a genetic trait?). But the anticipation of how each day’s is going to turn out is overwhelming! The challenge of each little, sneaky, clue sends shivers up my spine. And the satisfaction of conquering the trickiness and filling in those scrumptious, little boxes … oh the excitement! (I am a total dork!) I know some of you know what I’m talking about, though.

What I can’t decide is if this whole crossword puzzle phenomenon is a wonderful endeavor upon the student body or if it is its awful downfall. In some ways, this addiction could be the new anti-drug. It’s possible that one night of downing ten beers may be replaced with pondering 10-down! (I don’t want to push it, though). I would much rather see everyone needing their daily fix of words and phrases, rather than a daily fix of many other things. This is also a great incentive for students to pick up a paper in the morning and actually read about what is going on in the world. We are stretching our intellects, digging into our memories, and becoming more keen and observational each day. But, could this also be the source of our falling GPAs? Could we possibly be spending so much time on these puzzles and these problems that our work suddenly comes second? Could it be that we would rather miss a class altogether if we cannot have a crossword in front of us to hold our attention? It hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but it may.

I don’t truly think I have a problem, but I just find the craze about crosswords hysterical, myself being one of the many who has gotten hooked. Personally, I think it’s great! I always preach about balance. As long as we can keep the various entities of our lives balanced in harmony, we will be healthy and successful. Let’s concentrate on our studies. Let’s relax, release stress, and party on the weekends. And by god, let’s tackle those daily, mind-boggling challenges with vigor and enthusiasm so that we can all feel the exhilaration of hanging a completed puzzle on our wall! (Shit, am I the only one that does that?)

– This is dedicated to Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis. Throw me an email at rgreifin@umich.edu.

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