On Monday the 9 and 5 year olds I usually pick up from school had the day off for Rosh Hashanah, so I spent the day with them. We packed a lunch, bikes, soccer balls, and books and headed to Larz Anderson Park, one of my favorite places in Boston.
After a while we ended up under a magnificent tree whose branches hung down to create a shaded club house. The boys found sticks and sharpened them into spears — cave men from the nearby tribe were attacking and they needed to be ready. I sat down on the picnic blanket and took out my book of crossword puzzles.
I’m pretty bad at crosswords. This book is supposed to be “fun and easy” puzzles, but they still take me forever. I fill in about half of the clues pretty quickly, but then get stuck on the rest. Still, I enjoy it. So, as the cave men battle preparations went on behind me, I went painstakingly through the clues, filling in a new one here and there, hoping for a breakthrough. But there were a handful that I just couldn’t get.
Then, from across the water, I heard a woman singing a haunting melody. I looked up from my book and saw a procession of men and women descending toward the pond, singing and dancing. The leader wore a striped shawl, and the men wore yarmulkas. They came to the edge of the water, gathered stones, and formed a circle.
There was something strangely familiar about the sight. I looked down at the puzzle. There it was, 19 down: “Jewish circle dances” __R_S. I looked up again at the circle of Jews across the pond. And suddenly I realized: They were acting out the clue for me! This was a magic crossword puzzle, and a magic park! What fun!
But then I started to look at the other clues I was stuck on, and wonder what they would look like acted out. 29 down: “Sacred choral work” _OT_T. Well that would be lovely. 17 across: “Regis Philbin and others” ABCD___I_E_O_TS. Hm, doesn’t quite go with the peaceful setting, but it could be entertaining. 53 down: “Zeus’ wife” _E_A. Well. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted the gods to start showing up. If I remember my mythology, things tended to get dicey with them, especially when wives were involved.
And then I saw 37 down: “Reason for an R rating” __R_.*
“Kids,” I said, “Get your things. We have to get out of here.”
*For those who are wondering, the answers were HORAS, MOTET, ABCDAYTIMEHOSTS, HERA, and GORE. I finished the puzzle later in the safety of my own home.