Potent Quotables!

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Quotations are a major part of the puzzle landscape. From cryptograms and Syllacrostics to crosswords where you end up with unhelpful clues like “Part 1 of quote,” I’d bet that an avid solver rarely goes a day without encountering a quote somewhere in their puzzling.

I was working on a quote puzzle just the other day, and it occurred to me that, despite the hundreds and hundreds of puzzles involving quotes that I’ve created and edited over the years, I couldn’t think of any that were actually about puzzles.

So, naturally, I went looking for quotes about puzzles.

I had to narrow the field to crosswords, because quotes about puzzles were both too numerous and, oddly enough, not actually about puzzles.

“Each person is an enigma. You’re a puzzle not only to yourself but also to everyone else, and the great mystery of our time is how we penetrate this puzzle.” — Theodore Zeldin

Oh sure, they mention puzzles, but only as a metaphor for something else. People are puzzles, or life is a puzzle, or the world is a puzzle, or writing is a puzzle, or acting is a puzzle, or making a movie is a puzzle. Insert topic, blah blah, puzzle metaphor.

You get the idea.

At least some people stick to the subject of puzzles when getting metaphorical.

“There seem to be two main types of people in the world: crosswords and Sudokus.” — Rebecca McKinsey

Betty White has something to say on that subject:

“I love words. Sudoku I don’t get into, I’m not into numbers that much, and there are people who are hooked on that. But crossword puzzles, I just can’t — if I get a puppy and I paper train him and I put the — if all of a sudden I’d open the paper and there’s a crossword puzzle — ‘No, no, you can’t go on that, honey. I’ll take it.'”

See, now we’re getting into actual crossword quotes.

Oh, no, wait. One more metaphor:

“Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer.” — Taylor Swift

Apparently Taylor Swift doesn’t know how crossword puzzles work. (Then again, she had that song where Romeo and Juliet had a happy ending, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here…)

I shall rebut Miss Swift with a Stephen Sondheim quote: “The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution.”

Okay, we’re back on track.

This might be the most famous quote about crosswords:

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There’s a definite theme of crosswords being associated with retirement and relaxation.

“But I’m really enjoying my retirement. I get to sleep in every day. I do crossword puzzles and eat cake.” — Derek Landy

“I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword.” — Olivia de Havilland

“I enjoy walking my dog and completing crossword puzzles.” — Brian Jacques

Of course, some folks have regrets…

“Do I rue a life wasted doing crosswords? Yes, but I do know the three-letter-word for regret.” — Robert Breault

Others have complaints…

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I won a helicopter in a crossword puzzle competition? There is not much hope though I am afraid, as they never give such practical prizes.” — Leonora Carrington

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But, to be honest, my two favorite quotes about crosswords didn’t come from celebrities or revered thinkers. (At least, not yet revered.) They came from college students on Tumblr, sharing observations, either their own or those of others.

“Who did Jessica Simpson last divorce?! Like, I don’t know. I could tell you all about Rousseau though.” — Girl doing a crossword puzzle in class

I think I’ll give the final word to another Tumblr user, who summed up crosswords brilliantly.

“A crossword puzzle is an unholy marriage of spelling bee, trivia contest, and a troll that lives under a bridge and asks you riddles.”


Do you have any favorite quotes about puzzles, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Crossword Cameos!

When he was asked if his name had given him anything but grief over the years, actor Rip Torn replied, “Well, when I couldn’t get a job, everybody would say, ‘Where do I know you from?’ I said, ‘Crossword puzzles!’ That kept my name alive for years.”

And it’s true. Some names are simply crossword friendly and have shown up regularly over the years, transforming from pop culture reference to fully established element of crosswordese.

Many constructors have ETTA James, Arthur ASHE, Alan ALDA, IONE Skye, and Yoko ONO to thank for getting them out of a tight spot. Others owe completed grids to Mel OTT, Bobby ORR, ESAI Morales, Judge Lance ITO, and Robert E. LEE. (At this point, some of these actors could probably cite The New York Times or The LA Times on their IMDb pages.)

Then, of course, you have the numerous obscure ladies offering helpful three- and four-letter names to constructors. UNA and ONA and OONA and OSA and ENA and ESME and ISA and EWA, for starters. (Of course, INA and ANA have lucked their way into being more contemporary references, thanks to SNL’s ANA Gasteyer and Food Network’s INA Garten.)

(Una Merkel, someone many crossword solvers easily recognize
by name, but probably wouldn’t recognize from her picture.)

The one I’m guiltiest of overusing in puzzle editing is easily author ELIE Wiesel, because there’s only so many ways to clue ERIE before you start looking for other options.

If there was a top contender for person most frequently appearing in crosswords, I have to imagine it’s an ALI, ELI, or LEE, though each of these can reference multiple people, so the title would have to be shared.

Unless you also want to factor in fictional characters. I imagine ULEE of “Ulee’s Gold” or Mr. SMEE from “Peter Pan” would rank pretty high on the list of common crossword entries.

Unfortunately, some names are simply more suited for crosswords than others. Author Norman Mailer actually commented in an interview that he was disappointed not to be a common crossword entry:

“I’m hurt that I’m never in one of them. And I’ve got a last name with three vowels. You’d think I’d be hot cakes, but I’m not.”

Tough luck, Norman. But hey, maybe you’ll make a cameo in one of the puzzles in this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this weekend!

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