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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

A Puzzling Fixation

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

This is one of my oldest pieces of comedic writing from 2000, when I was applying for college.


Little did I know my "addiction" would be my salvation in terms of getting me through my stay at the psych ward last week. Plus, I love seeing Bo Burnham and other comedy references in the NYT crossword!


The closest thing to a Bo clue from January 3, 2022


Anyway, please enjoy this rumination on puzzles that I wrote when I was 18.


A Puzzling Fixation by Jessica Lasak


Each morning, no matter what kind of mood I am in or what is happening in my life, I sit down with a cup of tea and the puzzle section of the newspaper. When I am working out a crossword or unscrambling a Jumble in my head, the worries of homework and high school dissolve among the black and white crisscrossing lines. The smooth dark writing of the ballpoint pen and the image of black ink etching letters on the stark grayish white grids open my mind and soothe my soul.


My fervor for puzzles blossomed because of my grandfather. When I was very young, he nicknamed me "Puzzle Girl" because of my love of finding solutions to problems and, of course, puzzles. Every time we would visit him, there was a stack of puzzles, bound by a single rubber band, lying on the breakfast table. When we returned home after each trip, I would lie down on the thick shag carpet in the study and spread the puzzles out in chronological order so as to complete each one in its correct sequence. These puzzles were simple rebuses or crosswords in the Scranton newspaper, but I savored finishing every one before dinner. One day, when I had completed the entire cluster, ennui set in. On the back of the first one I had finished, there was another puzzle called a Jumble. Seeing this title, I recalled my father's showing me one of these new puzzles in our newspaper. When he explained to me how to solve the puzzle, I felt that the entire procedure was overwhelming; in frustration, I ran to my bedroom. Eventually, I decided I was mature enough to solve a Jumble. To my surprise, I found the first two scrambled words to be incredibly easy to decipher, but the others were more complex. In five minutes, I had solved the entire puzzle and knew I was hooked. From Jumbles, my puzzle appetite grew to consume crosswords and, my new favorite, Cryptograms. Because my addiction became insatiable, I began to subscribe to GAMES magazine in my early adolescent years and, needless to say, I still need my daily fix each morning.


As I grew older, I would also meander my way through the newspaper, taking in an article or two, before tackling the puzzle section. For International Studies class, my teacher, Mr. Sklar, required the entire class to read the newspaper each day. His persistent urgings exposed me to world affairs and national news. Reading the newspaper enabled me to become a better reader and writer, not to mention a more successful pseudo-contestant on "Jeopardy!" when I participate at home. From this exposure to newspapers, journalism began to entice me.


Now, the crisp scent of fresh newsprint and the excitement of flipping to see my name printed above a news article evokes a strong sense of accomplishment. Puzzles became my diving board: a way for me to plunge into the thrilling pool of writing and journalism.

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