All is fair in life and crosswords

All is fair in life and crosswords

I don’t do a lot of crossword puzzles, but every now and then, I like to challenge myself, especially if, right off the bat, I know some of the answers.

So recently that happened. I had a pen handy, but no one in their right mind does crossword puzzles in ink. I rooted through my old planter full of writing utensils and found a mechanical pencil.

There was a photo of a famous person with this puzzle, and I knew who they were. Yay, off to a good start. And I knew the answer to the first clue of No. 1 across. Then, oh, who was that singer? Who played in that movie? I could picture him in my mind, but I couldn’t remember his name.

Who was the emperor when Rome burned? History learned long ago gets a little — who are we kidding? — it gets a lot fuzzy at my age.

I thought back to my former job where we took some yearly training on problem-solving, getting along with people and how to keep drama from escalating. The trainers gave tests at the end of each section. This made some of us nervous, but they were very lenient.

In fact, they promoted that in real life and in their special training, people could actually “use all available resources” to solve their problems. This is something that has stuck with me. And it was the answer to my crossword dilemma.

With only four spaces to fill, I thought the emperor was Nero, so I asked my phone to be sure.

I’m talking out loud to myself, so my husband Joe is noticing what I am doing.

“Quit cheating,” he said.

“I’m not cheating. I’m just using all available resources,” I replied. “We learned it at work.”

Imagine where us old folks would be if we could have consulted a smartphone for our entire lives.

A friend was filling out a job application one time — on paper — before the rise of smartphones. My friend did not yet have a smartphone, but another applicant did. The application wanted you to write down some general knowledge you had of that particular job and its importance. The other applicant was looking up the answers on her smartphone. My friend was definitely at a disadvantage.

Anyway, yes, the answer is Nero, and he wasn’t a nice guy. In fact, my phone said he was one of the most despised figures from history and treated Christians cruelly. And there is a legend that says he played the fiddle while Rome burned.

This is why I don’t get a lot done some days, because now I have to do some more research and find out all the gory details. And if Nero really played the fiddle, when did the fiddle come into existence and where?

OK, so my phone said Andrea Amati was one of the first fiddle makers in Italy in the year 1500.

This is a tip-off that Nero wouldn’t have used a fiddle because Rome burned in 65 A.D. The fire lasted six days and burned 70% of the city.

And Nero was actually not in Rome when it burned. Turns out he was 35 miles away at his villa in another town. But if he could have played an instrument for the fire, it would have been a cithara, which is described as a heavy wooden instrument with four to seven strings.

Can you imagine not being able to call 9-1-1 and have one or more fire departments show up when you need them most? And how did they fight fires in ancient Rome?

Wow. The first fire brigade was organized in Rome in 6 A.D., but they earned the nickname “little bucket fellows,” so I’m just guessing they weren’t as effective as what we have today.

Finally, onto the next clue: without “rocks” in a bar. And I don’t drink, so I have no idea. Has anyone seen my phone?

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