Some families go to church on Sunday mornings, or so I hear. My family kept a more secular, but just as regular, tradition — the New York Times Crossword.
If anyone in the family was our puzzle pastor, it was Mom. Usually more comfortable fading into the background, she beamed while leading the family in the call-and-response ritual of clues and answers.
Not that she always waited for the response. Often, she’d see the answer more quickly than she could read.
“Seven-letter bird native to — oh yes, of course.” She would scribble the answer in pen. Always pen. My mother is quiet, but not timid.
She kept a leather-bound crossword puzzle dictionary, a kind of thesaurus with synonyms listed by length. We would crack the book and hunt for the right answer together.
“Tan, four letters?” Ecru.
“Morsel, three letters?” Ort.
I’d roll the unfamiliar word on my tongue and tuck it away for future use.
Dad liked the historical clues.
“Iran-contra colonel?" He’d tell me about Oliver North.
“Chinese Square, nine letters?” Time to talk about Tiananmen Square.
Once only the toughest clues remained, family members would wander off, until Mom was alone with her puzzle. Her eyes would narrow and brighten as she stalked her prey. Then, in a moment, it would come together. “Ah!” she’d say out loud as her pen danced across the puzzle. She’d set down the newspaper, get some coffee and do a crypto-quote for dessert.
When I was in high school, she started teaching me more advanced tricks. “The clue says ‘as seen by couples,’” she told me. “That means there’s going to be two letters in each box.” Like any self-respecting teen, I pretended I already knew everything. Undeterred, she kept teaching me. I kept listening, unaware of how meaningful such lessons would prove to be.
When I was 20, I fell in love for the first time. His name was Albert.
He took me to Chelsea to meet his mother, a charming writer whom I was determined to charm. When the conversation turned to the New York Times Crossword, I knew I was in. She introduced me to Boggle, and we played until the weekend ended. As Albert and I headed for the door, she tore down the hallway, a piece of blue plastic bobbing in her hand. It was a pen with a tiny Boggle board on the back. She put it in my hand and folded my fingers over it. Albert and I didn’t last long. I still have the pen.
At 23, I met the man I would marry, a quiet man named Jared. Soon after our first date, he cooked me dinner, and we played Scrabble. He unspooled himself at the pace of the game, telling me about his passions and dreaming aloud about our future. His eyes intensified as he rearranged his tiles, and I saw something familiar in his look.
A few months later, he flew to California to meet my family. I tried, but could not prepare them for the magnitude of his quietness. When he arrived for Christmas, he said little other than that he loved me. There was nothing else he felt he needed to say.
My parents weren’t sure what to make of this nearly silent stranger who wanted to marry their daughter. They reached out in the way they knew best. We set up a round-robin Scrabble tournament, with three boards spread across the dining room table. And on Sunday morning, we solved the Times crossword together. Conversations sprang up around the clues. Jared could chat about 22-Down without the normal pressures of small talk. In these micro-conversations, my parents saw glimpses of him.
While we were engaged, Jared did the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, and the second largest. He developed a system to sort the pieces and built a platform for the dining table out of 2-by-4s to hold larger sections. Our table still bears the scars. The puzzles are too large to be assembled anywhere but the driveway.
In the years that we car-pooled to work, he’d save up episodes of NPR’s Weekend Edition with Will Shortz for the ride. We worked through a book of crosswords together. By the end, the book was ink-stained with corrections, but not a single puzzle was solved in pencil.
These days, I take our toddler son to the library and watch him nestle airplanes and school buses into their puzzle homes. When we arrive before the library opens, he yells at the glass doors, “I go to library! Do puzzles!” When he began coveting Jared’s Rubik’s cube collection, Jared bought him a cube of his own.
We live in Georgia now, and Mom is still in California. When we visit, she and I sit at the kitchen table, pour two cups of black coffee and attack the New York Times Crossword. Mondays are the worst for us; the puzzles are gone too soon. We relish Thursdays, waiting for the secret to reveal itself. Jared is nearby, reading or listening to a podcast. He and Mom sit in each other’s orbits without interacting.
During a visit last year, after Mom and I finished the crossword, I found her and Jared huddled over a crypto-quote. Her pen bounced over the alphanumeric code as she explained her method. He nodded. She nodded back. Pastor and parishioner, at peace in a shared understanding.
Kate Allen Fox is a children’s book writer and California native.
Illustration by Noa Snir.
六月情缘报码聊天室“【那】【你】【是】【夜】【倾】【城】，【我】【是】【谁】！？” 【一】【个】【清】【冷】【的】【声】【音】，【却】【让】【宴】【会】【炸】【开】【了】【锅】。 【所】【有】【人】【都】【看】【向】【门】【外】【的】【身】【影】，【眼】【里】【满】【是】【惊】【讶】！ “【倾】【城】！” “【倾】【城】！” 【夜】【战】【和】【南】【元】【几】【乎】【毫】【不】【犹】【豫】【的】【脱】【口】【而】【出】。 【夜】【倾】【城】【换】【了】【一】【身】【黛】【情】【色】【的】【衣】【裳】，【清】【秀】【的】【脸】，【带】【着】【冷】【冽】【的】【气】【质】，【让】【整】【个】【人】【都】【看】【上】【去】【十】【分】【不】【凡】。【和】【跪】【着】【的】【这】【个】【木】【头】
【殷】【怜】【蓉】【看】【看】【左】【右】，【发】【现】【两】【个】【丫】【头】【都】【在】【外】【屋】，【两】【个】【嬷】【嬷】【在】【外】【面】【的】【廊】【檐】【下】【对】【小】【丫】【头】【低】【声】【地】【吩】【咐】【着】【什】【么】，【卧】【房】【里】，【除】【了】【一】【个】【昏】【睡】【的】【管】【平】【南】，【就】【只】【有】【她】【了】。 【她】【按】【了】【按】【心】【口】，【大】【口】【吸】【了】【一】【口】【气】，【让】【自】【已】【不】【要】【太】【紧】【张】，【轻】【轻】【在】【床】【沿】【边】【坐】【了】【下】【来】，【探】【过】【身】【去】，【仔】【细】【打】【量】【起】【管】【平】【南】【来】。 【管】【平】【南】【消】【了】【肿】【的】【脸】，【微】【微】【苍】【白】，【但】【不】【失】【清】【朗】
【说】【起】【颜】【值】【高】【的】【明】【星】【夫】【妻】，【小】【编】【觉】【得】，【戚】【薇】【和】【李】【承】【铉】【必】【然】【会】【榜】【上】【有】【名】。【并】【且】，【在】【近】【两】【年】，【随】【着】【两】【人】【参】【加】【综】【艺】【节】【目】【的】【次】【数】【越】【来】【越】【多】，【所】【以】，【关】【于】【他】【们】【的】【热】【点】【也】【是】【越】【来】【越】【多】，【特】【别】【在】【日】【常】【生】【活】【当】【中】，【两】【人】【经】【常】【同】【框】【出】【现】、【经】【常】【穿】【着】【情】【侣】【装】，【每】【一】【次】【都】【是】【亮】【点】【十】【足】。六月情缘报码聊天室【何】【东】【行】【有】【些】【诧】【异】，【看】【到】【卫】【宫】【切】【嗣】，【看】【到】【安】【倍】【晴】【明】，【看】【到】【小】【次】【郎】，【看】【到】【更】【识】【楯】【无】，【都】【没】【有】【这】【么】【诧】【异】。 【他】【怎】【么】【会】【出】【现】【在】【这】【里】？ “【他】”【当】【然】【指】【的】【是】【天】【草】【四】【郎】。 【何】【东】【行】【知】【道】，【天】【草】【身】【为】【英】【灵】，【理】【论】【上】【来】【说】【是】【可】【以】【被】【圣】【杯】【召】【唤】【过】【来】【的】。 【但】【是】，【此】【时】【的】【天】【草】【可】【不】【是】【英】【灵】，【而】【是】【一】【个】【寄】【住】【在】【言】【峰】【家】【的】——【人】！ 【如】【果】
【叶】【天】【确】【实】【挺】【郁】【闷】【的】，【但】【队】【长】【强】【调】【了】，【特】【种】【兵】【就】【高】【要】【求】【自】【己】，【当】【一】【下】【女】【人】【没】【什】【么】，【利】【用】【女】【性】【的】【特】【点】，【这】【样】【更】【能】【隐】【瞒】【叶】【天】【的】【能】【力】。 【叶】【天】【的】【原】【则】【是】【不】【吃】【亏】，【不】【装】【女】【人】，【所】【以】，【打】【扮】【得】【比】【较】【中】【性】，【只】【是】，【经】【过】【多】【次】【万】【物】【精】【华】【改】【造】【后】，【给】【高】【胜】【寒】【等】【人】【的】【印】【象】【就】【是】，【震】【撼】！ “【菜】【鸟】，【你】【现】【在】【是】【我】【们】【火】【凤】【凰】【的】【金】【字】【招】【牌】。【不】【愧】【是】