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Doctor Curmudgeon® A Tail That Made Me Think

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

I begin this column with a big sigh.

I sigh because you haven’t really lived until you have had a tail race across your avocado toast.

Renpet (the supposedly retired CIA officer) is one of my feline cousins. She has two lovely nieces who often spend time with us when their parents are away.

We dearly love those kittens…but there are times when we sigh with resignation at their youthful hijinks.

This morning was a time for mild hijinks. The adults were enjoying a quiet breakfast, with coffee, avocado toast and real crinkly newspapers.

As I raised my coffee cup, a black tail quickly leaped across my toast, leaving a trail of avocado in her wake and then zoomed away.

As I removed a few hairs, another tail followed suit, giggling and squealing with delight as she chased her sister.

My little kitten cousins… lively, smart and so rambunctious. I could never be mad at them, just a sigh, and then an indulgent grin.

But their antics made me think about crossword puzzles. It may be a strange leap of thought. But I had planned to start a puzzle after my coffee. And these little pranksters had left a streak of avocado over a few of the clues. Should make that puzzle even more interesting…

Cleaning off the avocado, I began to wonder where these puzzles had their start. There had to be a first one somewhere on this planet.

It seems that in the 1890’s, a British journalist, Arthur Wynne, had emigrated from Liverpool to the United States. He became an editor at the New York World where he created the first known crossword puzzle.

That newspaper had a “FUN” page with jokes and puzzles and Wynne was in charge of this supplement. It was Christmas and he was looking for something different, something unique.

He started with a blank grid that had no black spaces. It did have an empty space in the center, and the puzzle was numbered and shaped like a diamond.

Wynne called his creation “FUN’s Word-Cross Puzzle. However, when the puzzle was printed, a typographical error changed the title to “Cross-Word.:”

It was on the eve of World War I, and such a chaotic and difficult time that the puzzle became very popular. It was a refuge for many readers, a time to focus on something else other than the dire news.

And as the news became more disastrous, the puzzle became so popular that the newspaper placed banners on the front page leading readers directly to the puzzle, past the grim news.

These were uncertain times, but the crossword puzzle of Arthur Wynne’s was there, providing a few moments of peace.

As Will Shortz, the New York Times Crossword Puzzle editor has said:

“We’re faced with problems every day in life, and most of them don’t have clear-cut solutions, so we just muddle through the best we can and move on to the next thing. But with a crossword, we’re challenging ourselves to create order out of chaos. Although you might think, ‘Boy, this is hard and I don’t really have time for it,’ it gives you a rush to fill in those last letters, and immediately . . . you want to do it again.”

And so I wipe off the avocado and beloved kitten hairs from my newspaper, pick up my pen, sigh with contentment and begin to look at the clues.

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.
Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.

SERMO www.sermo.com “talk real world medicine”

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