For years I've read the Everyday section of the newspaper with breakfast. The section has four pages: the two outside ones are comics, and one of the inside pages contains advice columns and the daily horoscope. I've always ignored the fourth page, which is filled with puzzles and word games.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I realized that stuff I’d been ignoring could come in handy. Since malls are traditionally slow in February, it's no surprise that the Customer Service desk where I work is too. Half of the time I'm scheduled by myself, and time can pass pretty slowly. To solve the problem, I've started taking that page of puzzles with me to do when I'm not assisting customers
After I've finished my breakfast reading, I put the newspaper section next to my purse, then tuck it into my lunch bag as I'm heading out the door. I never remember to bring a pencil, so before I start working I grab a pen from the drawer, then fold the page into eighths, turning the paper into an unobtrusive rectangle. I set my things up at the far end of the desk so I can keep one eye out for anyone who needs help.
I always start with the most mindless puzzle, Wonderword, a word search. Each 15 x 15 grid has a theme, and all the words you're looking for have some relation to the theme. Once you find and circle all the words, the leftover letters spell out another word that goes along with the theme.
After the Wonderword I refold the paper to a new section, then do the Wordy Gurdy (a rhyming pair of words that fit into empty letter squares) and the Jumble (a word puzzle with a clue, a drawing illustrating the clue, and a set of scrambled words). Sometimes the answers jump out at me and sometimes they don’t. I don’t get too worked up over finishing these, but do as many as I can.
There are two crossword puzzles each day. One is “unbranded”, and the other is the New York Times. After more paper refolding I spend time with both. On rare occasions I can complete one, but usually I work until I’ve filled in as many answers as I know or I get something incorrect (Remember, I’m using ink so I can't erase.)
Doing these puzzles takes somewhere between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours, depending on how many times I answer the phone, how many people I help, and how quickly I give up on a given puzzle. By this time I’m tired of straining to read the tiny newspaper font, so I pass on the Cryptoquip, Word Scrimmage, and Word Game. Besides, by this point traffic in the mall is picking up. I get paid to help customers, not read the paper!