I met Dorothy Thompson at an event I covered last week. The 85-year-old Mayfield resident, who goes by Dot, is just over 5 feet tall and so full of life that she is impossible to ignore.
Midway through a story about how Mayfield’s biggest factory employed half of the town when she was growing up, Thompson brought up that she is a long-time Paducah Sun subscriber.
“I read it every day but Thursdays are my favorite,” she said. “That’s when Current is in there.”
My mind starts racing. This woman likes my writing. She follows entertainment news of western Kentucky with a passion. She knows my face, primarily because it is featured in every issue of Current. Then she looked up at me and gently put her hand on my arm.
Then she asked me who I was.
My heart sank. I wasn’t famous. Nope. This woman just read it arbitrarily. She liked the stories, but didn’t name a reporter. I asked her what drew her to the paper, and she just smiled.
“Oh,” Thompson said. “I do the crossword puzzle every week. I never miss one.”
There it was. I write columns every week, spilling my secrets and my thoughts onto the page, and Dot only checks out the crossword puzzle.
After telling this story to close to 10 other Sun employees and family members, everyone else said the same thing: The crossword puzzle is a newspaper staple.
People rely on that puzzle. Whether they do it in the morning or before bed, it keeps them sharp and it matters. There are never more calls or complaints to any paper in the United States than on a day where the crossword puzzle has a mistake in it. Solving one is becoming a lost art.
Dot told me that she sits with more than one dictionary and thesaurus to solve hers. When she doesn’t get her delivery, she feels lost. She offered to help me learn to solve the mysterious block puzzle one day.
Then, she gave me the best advice I have ever received, although I am pretty sure she meant it literally and in a crossword puzzle kind of way.
“You can’t be afraid to cross things out and start over again until they are right,” she said.
So hello to the many people, I am sure, who skip right to page two and start filling in boxes. Your dedication rivals mine. While I get frustrated and push my half-finished puzzle to the side, you work all morning or night to finish it correctly.
And hello to Dot, my 85-year-old friend from Mayfield who lives for the five-by-six inch word puzzle below my column every week. We can learn something from each other. And I promise this week I won’t be afraid to cross anything out.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.