Saturday, 12 February 2011

Cryptic Crosswords



Probably the greatest intellectual delight of my life. I began at fourteen, teaching myself the techniques to solve the clues, completed the Times Crossword in my first term at uni and have progressed through thousands of Telegraph, Times and Guardian puzzles since. I admit I'm an addict, needing the stimulus of cruciverbalism at least once a day. I used to be a boy racer, once completing the Telegraph crossword in under five minutes on the train and then regretting I couldn't read a broadsheet comfortably in self-loading-cargo class for the remainder of my commute to London. Since then I've slowed down, preferring to savour the inspirational/analytical process. What is especially satisfying is finding a tiny crib into an initially impenetrable puzzle and eventually filling in every white square. It's similar to cracking codes, so I've read, which was why crossword fiends were recruited to work at Bletchley Park. And for the half an hour or so that I'm putting pencil to paper, I imagine I'm in mental communion with the likes of Colin Dexter, Endeavour Morse and John Gielgud (who, I was told, would sometimes write anything in order to impress onlookers with his apparent rapid clue-solving ability - such vanity).
Next time you buy a newspaper, if you don't already do so automatically, turn to the crossword page and try a few clues. Don't worry if the answers don't come immediately, but be prepared for words to shoot forward from your unconscious mind. You'll be hooked!
In the meantime, try these classic clues: hijklmno (5), gsge (8,4) . Sheer brilliance by the setters.

14 comments:

Jim Baxter said...

I know what you mean about those sudden insights when the answer arrives like one of those embedded visual illusions that just appears when all you've done is stare blanly at it for a while.

I once had the peculiar experience of trying to do the Guardian cryptic crossword from scratch, in the boozer, in the company of the man who had set it. First time I ever completed it.

Brian said...

Substitute Rachel Weisz for "the man" and you have described the perfect dream for me. I shall eat cheese tonight in preparation. If Ms Weisz is busy, Kirsty Allsopp may help me with a mosaic.

Jim Baxter said...

A lady, any lady, would have been my preference. I'd have settled for a good looking man, to be honest.

Richard said...

I don't buy the Grauniad these days, but when I did, Rufus and Araucaria ("Setter foxes primates (9)") were my favourites. Oh, and Shed, who had just the right touch of the bizarre about him. I can usually rip through the Telegraph, do quite well with the Graun and Indy, and I complete the Times about 50% of the time. I'm sure I would be better with practice, but that's easier to fit in when the puzzle only takes 8 minutes.

Favourite clue of all time (apart from hijklmno, which was genius) is one (I think) from grand master Araucaria: Queen asphalted (9).

Brian said...

I shall be thinking about those clues until I've solved them. Sleep is overrated.

Jim Baxter said...

Cleopatra

Nope, didn't google it. It came to me an an Egyptian moment.

Richard said...

Well done that chap.

Brian said...

asp - halted. Doh!

Richard said...

Good, innit?

Brian said...

Those in favour are without fodder up front, so we hear (3)

Richard said...

Yes?

Ayes, without the 'a'. If so, the clue appears to lack a definition element. Or I am wrong. One of the two.

Brian said...

Yes. Yes. No. Yes. Just shows how fiendishly clever those setters are to create whole puzzles day after day. I doffs me cap and touches me forelock in awestruck amiration of them. That's not a clue btw.

Thud said...

I just get angry, I think I have a problem.

Brian said...

With the Family OTW and the nearly restored Thud Towers to think about, how can you be angry for long? It's only a daft crossword after all. Take out your frustration on that extension.