I had a simple strategy, which sounds sort of pure and virtuous, but repeatedly throwing your body into a brick wall in hopes that it will fall down is also a simple strategy.
How much of our lives is based on “they say?” They say to floss daily, so do that. They say the lottery is a tax on poor math skills, so don't do that. They say to be careful what you wish for.
They say everything happens for a reason and everything works out in the end, and I cannot imagine two more fatuous or inane statements, but they say them anyway, and much of the world seems to hinge on this particular fantasy.
Some of the more useful they says originate when someone does a study and a newspaper or two picks up on it. Forget that old caffeine good/bad for you thing. Our minds are made up, and facts just confuse the issue. The coffee stays, and that's that.
But one of the more benign they says is they say you need to actively keep your brain moving and the daily crossword puzzle – with its word play and its test of your command of both knowledge and trivia – is just a dandy way to do that.
That was my strategy.
I like the daily crossword puzzle, and now you're telling me it's good for me. Sign me up.
It turns out that this approach has holes. One is that daily means daily. I like one of the more challenging puzzles out there, and it gets harder as the week progresses. On Mondays and Tuesdays I'm a genius, and I can maybe gut my way to a solid B effort on Wednesdays, but after that I'm done.
I have occasionally sat down with a recent backlog of puzzles and grabbed a Friday by mistake. Suddenly the world is spinning. Nothing makes sense. There's not even a decent clue about a state capital or a Oscar winner to at least get started.
So let's say I'm doing three days a week. That is not a 100 percent effort. That is a 42.8 percent effort. And sometimes one is busy. So basically this is taking a stroll through the park, oh, once a week and hoping to compete in the Olympics.
Then comes the worst part. On the radio – the land of they say – they said, you know, that whole crossword puzzle thing is only so helpful. Once you master puzzling's mechanics and conventions, the challenging and growing of the brain is kind of over. Go ahead and feel smart, but this is not really the ticket.
Fine. More disquieting facts. But the coffee and the crossword puzzle stay. I like them. I need daily sanity. Yes, I need a strategy, but for the moment these will do.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Jeff_Fox