This morning I finished the New York Times crossword puzzle in less time than it took me to drink my cup of coffee (okay, so the coffee was on the cooler end of lukewarm by the end, but let’s say that’s irrelevant). On a Friday. In case anyone is unaware, the NYT crosswords increase in difficulty as the day goes on, which makes Monday the easiest and Saturday (in my opinion) the toughest. I was pretty sure that my brain had grown in size and that my synapses were finding connections they never knew possible and that my IQ could now be charted at genius, at least.
Because I knew it was too good to be true, I went on over and read what Rex Parker had to say, and he darn blew all the wind out of my sails. Rex Parker, for those of you who are not as crossword-obsessive as I am, evaluates the daily NYT crossword on enjoyability, creativity and difficulty. Despite this apparent subjectivity, I take his ratings as truth and subsequently berate or congratulate myself based on how difficult he deemed the puzzle to be. Today’s rating? Easy-medium. Of course.
While I don’t feel quite as ready to send in my application to MENSA as I did earlier today, it’s true also that one cannot completely take assessments such as these for absolute truth. There’s no way to judge how difficult something might be for every person, as everyone has singular personal strengths and weaknesses. Yet we’ve been told, ever since grade school, what types of things, books in particular, we will or will not be able to understand, follow and learn from.
How many times have you passed on a book simply because someone whose opinion you respect has said that it’s really dense, too complicated, or hard to follow? Or felt inadequate because a book that struck you as intricate and contemplative, but then had a mentor dismiss it as easy or boring? I know I’ve thought about reading Infinite Jest a number of times, because it sounds interesting and it’s a challenge I’d like to take on, but been dissuaded by general opinion. Of course, the same was true of Ulysses, but I’ve now read it twice, and I say this without pretense, it’s one of my favorite books.
There’s a reason general opinions stand as they do, but surely something as intimate and subjective as literary or intellectual pursuit should suffer because of them. I’m not entirely sure how to weight these values, because they do reflect personally.
Still, the day I finish a Saturday “Challenging” puzzle in one sitting will probably be one of the greatest days of my life.