What’s A Six-Letter Word For Puzzle?

I‘m a crossword puzzle nerd (and so are Ken Burns, Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart and Carol Burnett).

I usually do them first thing in the morning. I feel like it gets my brain working and I tend to get my most creative ideas when I’m focusing on something else – it’s just how my mind works I guess.

Every puzzle is different so you can’t always know whether it's best to start in the top-right corner, the bottom-left, work across, work down, etc. But you need to have a strategy that allows you to take what they give you and work off that. If 100-across is an easy one like “Beatles ____ Road,” you fill in “ABBEY” and 100-down’s “starting bet” effortlessly becomes “ANTE.”

Make the easy decisions first and build off that. Think ahead and look at it from as many different angles as you can.

I have strict rules for crosswords. Asking someone in the room (and they MUST be in the room) if they know the name of the wife in “Ethan Frome” is allowable but there is absolutely NO googling.

I ALWAYS do them in ink which means erasing is not an option so I have to think ahead. Therefore, if the clue for 4-down is “Breed of terrier” and it’s 6 letters and you know it begins with “B”, you’d better figure out if the last letter - which is also the first letter of 37-across, is an “R” or an “N” because the terrier could be either a “BORDER” or “BOSTON.” Get it?

My point - and I’m going to assume I do have one - is that things don’t work in a vacuum (which is a useful and rare word with two u’s conjoined in the middle). So if you write “BOSTON” for 4-down, it’s because you know that 37-across is “NEBRASKA” (“8-Time Orange Bowl champs”). If you wrote “BORDER” without thinking, you’re sunk.

I’ve had clients who CLEARLY don’t get this.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen business owners do things that just leave me baffled. They do things like acquiring a competitor without having thought about how the new company will look, work, act, and oh-by-the-way…MAKE MONEY. They switch suppliers just to save a nickel on a ton of…well...nickel and then endanger a major customer relationship because the end product was different from what the customer was used to (file this one under “you get what you pay for”). Combining two companies with sales forces that worked under completely different compensation schemes is a recipe for heartburn.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that you can change pretty much anything about a deal except the price you paid.

For me a good situation is when a client comes to me and says “I’m thinking about doing this” and we work together to figure out if it is something that will increase corporate value and how to price and structure it. A bad situation is when a client comes to me and says “I already did something. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I need you to fix it.

There are ramifications that live with your actions and you’d better have a plan for how the letters will fit together because you’re doing this in ink.

And now here are some words of wisdom from people who aren’t me:


  • Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either. – Aesop
  • “Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it's about deliberately choosing to be different” - Michael Porter
  • “The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution.” - Stephen Sondheim

Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback.

Be good and be well.

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