Opinion Personal

Every Country Has One

How the most obvious answer eluded me, and what I'm doing to strengthen my memory.

I am a crossword puzzle geek. And, if you are a crossword puzzle geek, you know that the questions asked and words used are repetitious. Because of this repetition, the more puzzles you work, the better you get at solving them. And the better you get, the more you are able to graduate to harder puzzles. I have yet to graduate to the Sunday New York Times puzzle by the very interesting editor and table tennis (ping-pong) champion Will Shortz, but I am still aspiring.

I am also a puzzle purest. I want the tactile feeling of writing in a square on a piece of paper, preferably the newspaper, which I still buy every day, in spite of the fact that I can read a better, interactive version online. I only buy the paper for the puzzle page. For some reason, puzzle books don’t feel right.

The Clue: Every Country Has One

Like making your bed in the morning, this simple, daily ritual has easy-to-achieve gratification. With every puzzle, I want the whole enchilada (everything; no squares left empty). That is why I was dismayed, at the end of a recent, simple puzzle, to find a clue unanswered that should have been obvious to me.  The crossword puzzle clue was, “Every country has one.”

It wasn’t until I added the letter “F” that I knew what this 4-letter word was.

Memory Tips

I hear tell that puzzle solving is good for your brain, but I see no evidence of that in mine. I am becoming increasingly forgetful (not that I was ever very present), and my recall of people’s names, places, and other nouns … well, let’s not talk about that.

I’ve also heard that increasing the circulation to your brain by running or standing on your head can help with cognitive thinking. Of course, I’m trying a little of both; no stone left unturned.  But again, I see no evidence of this helping my memory either.

If you want to give puzzle solving a try, start with Monday’s puzzle because they get harder as the week goes on. And, though you may feel it is, using Google is not cheating. In truth, every time you search and find an answer, you are learning new words and the methodology of puzzle solving.

If you want to try standing on your head, though fun, know that it is harder than it looks and, when you first start, it may hurt your cranium (oh, good puzzle word). So, if you’re going to give it a go, make sure you have a soft carpet or pillow to put your head on. I put an old church kneeler that’s laying around the house against the wall and then kick up into the air and against a wall. Sometimes, I make a tripod headstand and slowly rise up from there. Either way, the first time you do a head stand you won’t be able to hold the pose long. I am talking one or two minutes, max. But no worries; like running, you quickly build up stamina.

The Answer: Starts with F

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The Answer to “Every Country Has One” crossword puzzle clue: “FLAG”