July 07, 2005

There's a tough word on your crossword

Another guest-blog stint today; thought some readers here might enjoy not mind my musing on crosswords and running.

Chatting with Dean Olsher about crosswords recently reminded me that yes, in fact, I do like solving crosswords, and why hadn't I been doing that lately? For the past few years the pattern has been that I'll do one here or there if a friend's constructed something nifty for the Times or the Sun, and then I'll binge-solve for a few weeks in advance of the Stamford tournament. This erratic solving means that I'm not actually very fast, but if I just keep filling in the grid I generally finish even quite difficult puzzles.

A couple of weeks ago when Francis and I ran a 5-mile race, I got to thinking about perfomance and competence, and how my self-perception varies greatly, depending on whether I compare myself to an average person on the street, or to a person who's chosen to train and compete.

When I tell my friends that I ran a 5-mile race, or that Tuesday I ran twice around Prospect Park (7 miles), they are astounded, and tell me that they can't even run a single mile. When I tell people I go to the crossword tournament, they often laugh nervously and admit that they get stuck on Monday and Tuesday puzzles. If I compare myself to these folks, I am an Olympian! A genius! I rule!

Then I go to the race, and I run my 12:19 miles and finish in 1:03, and I look at the race results, and I realize that of the 1680 people who ran the race, only a hundred of them were slower than I was. The last time I "competed" at Stamford? Only about thirty finished behind me. Out of the National Puzzler's League members who competed, I was, you guessed it, Dead Fucking Last.

I don't have an inspirational point to make about tortoises and hares, or a heartwarming anecdote about finding zen calm by taking longer to cover the distance around the park (or squares in a grid). It's more that I find it interesting to sit with both pieces of information; both things are true. I am competent. I am slow. With practice, at both things, I'll certainly get faster, but I will still be slow compared to those who are fast.


For more about running, you can visit me at Miles of Yarn, and I might even talk about crosswords from time to time, if I continue with my current "get into shape" program. If you're eager for crossword talk, go play in Dean's blog.

Posted by Rose at 07:34 PM

I often feel this way - like I'm good at something compared to people who don't do it seriously. I have 600 vinyl records, which impresses most people but is insignificant compared to real vinyl collectors, for instance.

Posted by: rikchik at July 8, 2005 09:57 AM

I feel this way about sewing ... compared to most folks, yeah, I r0x0r, right? Compared to people who do tailoring, historical costuming, or hard-core quilting? NSM.

Posted by: Erin at July 8, 2005 11:47 AM

It's nice to hear that others feel the same way. I'm totally over the imposter syndrome I once felt, as a stripling of twenty up at Yale, but I don't quite know what to call this new thing. I guess it's just a sort of slight cognitive dissonance.

Hey, Erin, I find it amusing that Francis's font is munging your l33t slang. Although I suppose I am easily amused.

Posted by: Rose at July 8, 2005 12:18 PM

Yep, me and piano, same thing. I'm great at sight-reading, and have certainly made progress at playing 'by ear', but won't ever be on the level of other folks I know.

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