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Thursday, May 28, 2020


Wonderful downtown Longyearbyen. That’s the Radisson Blue Polar Hotel on the left. Despite being 800 miles from the North Pole, the climate at this Norway island province hits a balmy 43 degrees F in July thanks to the Gulf Stream (same as Nome, Alaska). So what?  Reason we’re reading this is that a crossword puzzle (main topic of this blog) asked to name a city in Svalbard. It got us curious.

Even before our national stay at home edicts, which we must obey for obvious reasons, I had a fondness for jig saw puzzles and newspaper crosswords.  On a good week, I would manage to complete half a dozen (in pencil with a good eraser) available from crossword puzzles published in the local newspaper.  I eschew the New York Times’ crosswords as being too esoteric, snobby and very “other side” of the country. And, I refuse to buy magazines especially devoted to crossword puzzles.  Why? Beats me.  But, one reason is I tend to save magazines as if they were valued between a Faberge egg collection and the crown jewels in the Tower of London.  But, when you complete a newspaper puzzle I have no problem tossing it in the recycle bin.  Neatness is important when you’re under house arrest.

But, each crossword puzzler maker for better or worse falls into the habit of repeating words.  Finding the ex-Boston Bruin hockey great Bobby Orr pop up every other puzzle is not creative.  Yes, it is convenient but repetition is not challenging.

Each crossword author has a jargon and once you figure that out i.e. loves Broadway musicals or old baseball players, and bad puns then solving them becomes easier with each puzzle.  One puzzle master uses puns so often her or she deserves membership in the Burma Shave highway sign Hall of Fame.

“The blackened forest
smoldered yet
because he flipped
A cigarette.

As far as jigsaw puzzles go, the 1000 piece puzzles offer a better challenge. Patience wins the day.  The most important factor in solving jig saw puzzles is having an understanding spouse.  One who will tolerate small bowls and trays filled with puzzle bits spread from the dining room to the family room.

For example, jig saw puzzling has solved the household dilemma of two spouses hating each other’s movie or TV series of the night selection.
The jig saw puzzle mate will acquiesce to almost any flick if the jig saw table is near by.  Also a jigsaw will give the puzzler a more aristocratic aura if one does the puzzle while keeping an eye on the MLB Network games.  Couch potato?   Not me, I do crosswords and jigsaws.  Multi-tasker is a much better epithet.

Personally, I enjoy trivia but not to the point I want to inflict that disease upon another human being.  I finding out what Cole Porter means when he begins his beguine* is inspirational.  Who knew the capital city of Svalbard (yes it exists but it is colder than a coal miner’s ass in winter) is Longyearbyen.  That name came about when an early explorer once uttered into a bad phone connection, “Don’t forget your long johns, Swen.”  Actually, there’s absolutely no truth to what I just said but for more on Longyearbyen (Longyear City) go to the end of this blog.

I digress but now I have your attention on Svalbard.  That’s exactly the fascination I have with crossword puzzles: one minute I’m sitting in my den and the next I’m off to the computer trekking across the Internet to Longyearbyen.  You’ll note for your convenience I’ve attached a photo (above).

Staying on topic, I’ve discovered finding a good selection of jigsaws is another matter.  For readers of this blog, who enjoy puzzles by artists like Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimpt or Van Gogh I go to my puzzle source: Strand Magazine’s online source.  Click here.  I must dash I’m working on Gustav Klimpt’s “The Kiss” and I’m getting to the good part.  –By Thomas Shess, editor,

Sir Arthur Wynne, British inventor 
of the crossword puzzle (1913).

The beguine is a type of dance. “When they begin the beguine” is a song by Cole Porter, in which the singer recounts how when he hears the music for that dance, it brings back memories. So sometimes the phrase is used as a reference to the song.
History of jigsaw puzzles.  Click here.

History of crossword puzzles.  Click here.

For more on Longyearbyen.  Click here.

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