The “Aha!” Moment

When you’ve been staring at a clue like “First of cubs housed in lion building’s storage bin (8)” on and off for a couple mornings…

…let’s see, ‘first of cubs’ is probably the letter C, and that goes inside a word that means ‘lion building’ … what the hell is a lion’s building? a den? a pride something? do they mean like at the zoo? Okay, forget that, let’s look at the definition part… the 8-letter answer is ‘storage bin,’ like what? a garbage can? bother…

and then, suddenly, you realize the answer in a flash.  Aha!  Got it, you bastard cruciverbalist who constructed this cryptic crossword.

Cryptic clues can be confounding to look at at first, and may take a little bit of instruction and a lot of practice before you can solve them regularly, but they are so rewarding to your brain every time you get one right.  The lateral thinking required can mentally tie you up in knots trying to bend, twist, and mangle the words in front of you until you shape it into an answer that you immediately know is correct.  There’s no catchall approach that solves each clue; you have to keep plugging away, trying to keep the definition separate from the wordplay, until suddenly everything clicks.  The dopamine rush when that happens can be anything from a half-smile to a fist pumping YEAH! when the answer comes to you. It’s one of many reasons I crave doing a good cryptic crossword, preferably with a tall mug of foamy tea by my side and nowhere to be.

This is part of the resurgence of interest in Escape the Room style franchises. Everyone loves to feel that rush when you solve a puzzle and feel smart. “Aha! We did it!”

(Oh, you didn’t get the answer to that cryptic?  Well, it’s one of the words in this post, if that helps.)

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