I Confess My Obsession

April 11th, 2008

The past few weeks, I’ve been falling asleep to crossword puzzles. What can I say? Like any good addiction, I need my daily hit. This borderline obsession got me thinking—why do I need my crossword? And what is it about crosswords that is so addictive?

Now, before I answer, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m not abnormal. Well, I might be, but the crossword-craze has nothing to do with it. So I’m not crazy and I’m also not alone. According to “Wordplay,” 60 million people do it (fill out a crossword) every week. “Wordplay,” in case you missed it, was the movie about the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and includes commentary from such famous solvers as Bill Clinton, Mike Mussina and Jon Stewart.

Back to the question at hand: The answer is the answer. Huh? Meaning: the reason we crave crosswords is they present a challenge, one which we can concretely solve. The challenge of the situation is the question and when we know or can determine the solution, we have won. It’s that simple.

But why do we have this yearning to answer things? Roll back the tape to your childhood. Remember the know-it-all kid from class? All of us have a burning to be a know-it-all. Perhaps not in public; nor in front of our friends. But somewhere, deep down, we want to feel smart.

So how can we use this information—the knowledge that we like problems we can solve? The application will vary depending on the communication tool; however, the principle remains the same: Present challenges that can be solved. Speak directly and precisely. Ask questions and give clear solutions (or at least a path to the solution). And remember, some people prefer easy crosswords and others are masters. But, all of us like to find the answers.

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