Sergei gave me five questions, and has been nagging me for my answers. Here they are:
1. What is it about crossword puzzles that you find so engaging?
It’s a workout for a nimble, verbally oriented brain. The puzzles I like best require me to think flexibly, not just literally, to interpret the clue and suss out the answer. And all sorts of trivia that’s stashed away in my brain gets to come out—if it weren’t for the crosswords, it would just be clogging up the memory banks for no reason, but with crosswords, hey, there’s a purpose for all those factoids.
Two winters ago, I discovered the world of competitive crossword solving—racing against the clock and everyone on the Internet to do the New York Times puzzle every day. Instead of merely racing against the clock in the privacy of my own living room, now I can kick some ass. Then I went to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and soaked up the joy that is walking out of a ballroom while 400+ other people are still working the puzzle I just finished. I did quite well and came home with three trophies, some prize money, and some unexpected glory. (I’m a Leo, so glory is always a good thing.)
I’ve always enjoyed crosswords and similar puzzles—I’ve had a subscription to Games magazine for about 25 years—but it’s the competition aspect that engages me most now.
2. If you were asked to take your pick of the President’s cabinet positions, and given free rein to do whatever you wanted with it, which would you pick and what would you do first?
Although I’m tempted to choose Health and Human Services and implement a wide range of initiatives (involving, for starters, the FDA, CDC, NIH, and Planned Parenthood), I’ll have to go with the Department of Defense. Step one: Extricate the U.S. from Iraq. (Step two: Indict Rumsfeld.)
3. If you could have dinner with any three historical figures (they have to be dead as of today), who would they be and why?
If I could sit down with Hitler before he got rolling and smack some sense into him, I’d have one peaceable historical figure (maybe Jesus or Gandhi) there to talk reason, and one violent one (the Marquis de Sade? Someone from the Spanish Inquisition? Pol Pot? Uday or Qusay Hussein?) to totally bitch-slap him if he resisted.
4. What do like best about living in Chicago? What do you like least about it?
Best: I like having so many great amenities so close by. Restaurants with cuisines from around the world. People from around the world. Museums. The Gap and a good independent bookstore within walking distance. Lake Michigan, Wrigley Field, public transportation. People out on the main drags at any time of day or night. The city is vibrant.
Least: There’s not much I don’t like about the city—that’s why I live here. Let’s go with inflated real-estate prices (A nice 3 BR, 2BA condo with a shared yard? That’ll run you about $400,000.) and tight parking (that $400,000 usually doesn’t include parking). Though Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker recently, said that the only cities worth living in are the ones where it’s hard to find parking. He’s right.
5. A genie appears and says he can change one thing about you—physical, mental, whatever—in any way you like, pain free and permanently. What do you choose?
While having a kid has definitely forced me to find untold reserves of patience, those reserves are often damn near tapped out. I want the genie to grant me an infinite amount of patience. (If the genie rewards my patience by granting another wish, then let me be shallow: eliminate the flab, elevate all that droops. Is that one thing or two?)
The rules of this Five Questions thing are that I have to write questions for five other people, whose answers can be posted here or on their own blogs. Any takers? C'mon. Don't make me wheedle.