lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, January 30, 2006

Descent into Addiction

It is amazing how much the way I do crosswords has changed over the years.

When I first tried to make sense of cryptic clues, it used to take me a whole evening of wrestling with synonyms, looking up words in my Webster or the encyclopedia. If I solved about half the grid, it used to be a cause for minor celebration.

Over the years, I acquired a Roget's and crossword companions. The thesaurus is a particularly useful thing to have in the early stages of a puzzling career. It is not cheating, as you still have to figure out what words to look up, and which synonym might work. :-)

I used to fill up the white space around the crossword grid with anagram tries. A pencil, eraser and an enormous amount of determination are absolute essentials when it comes to a complicated anagram. :D

After a while, say a decade of dedicated puzzling, anagrams jump out at you, and it becomes easier to figure out the definition, sort out the elements of the clue, and you learn the indicators.

For instance, C can be carbon, Celsius, Centigrade, century, Cuba, key, note or 100!

Your crossword GK quotient increases, and you find you are solving some clues very easily. I found that idiomatic expressions are the easiest for me. For example: Fat girl lit up? (5,2,3,4)

But things changed when The Telegraph in Calcutta discontinued carrying Guardian crosswords. The Statesman still carried The Times crosswords though, and I liked them well enough, but I found all crosswords are not equal. Some are more equal than others! I needed my daily fix of Guardian crosswords.

So I started doing them online. This changed my solving methods quite drastically. I abandoned my Webster and encyclopedia mostly, depending on my desktop dictionary to do word searches.

Ah, the tale becomes sordid now. Guardian crosswords became a subscription service. I paid up.

Then Statesman stopped carrying The Times crossword and I realised I missed them too! No help for it but do them online. They are a subscription service, too? No problem. Been there, done that. I paid up.

Guardian crosswords have a nifty little thingie that is a great help for anagrams. The Times doesn't have one, but seeing the clues on the monitor somehow makes it easier to do anagrams mentally, without resorting to the paper and pencil route.

At first it used to be that I'd read the news, articles and letters to the editor before I turned to the crosswords with a sense of anticipation. Nowadays I barely glance at the headlines before I fold the paper to the crossword and go to it. News can wait. :-)

When I started printing out puzzles to keep me supplied during necessary stays in nursing homes, or visits to my son's school, I realised I was an addict.

But this is one addiction that is not harmful to health. Actually, according to some studies, solving crosswords can actually stave off Alzheimer's disease. So I can claim I am taking care of my health as I reach for my Araucaria's anthology in the afternoons. :D

The solution to the clue to those who didn't get it: Broad in the beam. Fat girl lit up. :D



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