Don’t just read Down and Across…Experience it!
I read Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi when OverDrive, the library app I use to check out ebooks, suggested it to me. I have endless lists of books waiting to be read, but sometimes I’m just looking for something different. One thing I do when that happens is look for a book on OverDrive that I know is unavailable just so it will recommend something different. I can’t remember what I searched for to get to Down and Across, but whatever it was, I’m glad I did.
Here we go, no spoilers. Scott wants to prove to his parents that he has real grit. So when his parents go out of the country for a family health emergency, he takes it upon himself to head to DC and confront the researcher who has his dad throwing around the word grit to begin with. But it turns out his task isn’t so easy. However, for the first time, Scott thinks he might keep at it anyway. Does that mean he has grit? Or is it just because he meets an intriguing girl who helps him experience what life outside his hometown could be like? You should probably read to find out!
In Down and Across, the intriguing girl that Scott meets, Fiora, has a unique hobby. She is obsessed with crossword puzzles. Sure, she likes to solve them, but she also likes to make them. I had no idea there was a specific name for a person who is talented in creating and solving crosswords: cruciverbalist. Obviously, Scott jumps at the chance to learn the trade from her, and she is more than willing to share her expertise.
I’ve made crosswords on a few occasions, mostly using online generators where I input the words and clues into a website and the computer did the rest of the work for me. That was usually for my class when I was teaching. You’re welcome fifth graders!
However, there was one particularly slow night, during my high school job at a hardware store, when I unfolded a few paper bags, attached them together using tape, and created a crossword puzzle from scratch with my fellow cashier, showing off our hardware knowledge. Hey world, look who’s intriguing now. I’m sure you’re dying to know things like: Did they include information from all eight, count them, eight departments? Did they convey knowledge of, not only products, but also brand names and prices. Did they write clues that incorporated inside employee jokes?
I’m sorry to say I can’t remember all of those things in detail; it was a long time ago. What I do remember is that it led to a rather heated discussion, which I was on the wrong side of, about the correct spelling of the word vacuum. To this day, I second guess myself anytime I write the word. Luckily, it doesn’t come up in my stories frequently.
Once we completed our masterpiece, we challenged the floor workers to combine brain power to solve it. I can’t remember their level of success, but I do remember that we laughed a lot that night. One of the best things about a part time job in high school is the random things you do with your coworkers to pass the time. There’s no way my crossword puzzle was anywhere as good as the ones encountered in Down and Across, but it was fun to be reminded of it while I read Ahmadi’s book.
There you have it. As you read Down and Across, think about how you could make a crossword puzzle to show off your unique skills and knowledge. Consider who you can challenge to solve it for you. Why not make a night of it? It’s something different to do to pass the time. Scott enjoyed it, maybe you can, too.
If you haven’t already read Down and Across, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do–don’t just read it, experience it!