lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why Crosswords?

Why does one do crosswords?

As I religiously finish my daily quota of crosswords, both cryptic and concise, I wonder.

Is it just an addiction to word games, a compulsive puzzle-solving? But I don't do sudoku, or jumbles. I dislike the 'find six things different between two seemingly identical pictures' kinda games. But a good crossword clue can light up my day, and leave me smiling every time I recall it.

What prompts a setter to compile a crossword? More pertinently, what makes thousands of us match wits and vocabulary with the compilers?

When I come across a clue so simple, elegant and to the point like: Potty train? (4), I feel I have the answer. This is a game, after all. Think of a word. Any word. Now I will tell you exactly what I meant. :-)

That is the challenge of the crossword. To arrive at the exact word or phrase the compiler had in mind when he/she was being abstruse on purpose. A good cryptic crossword is always fair, at least with the definition. The obfuscation, the misleading, the suggestions of tangents all turn out to be fair, if you only knew what the definition was. :-) That's part of the challenge.

I have had a couple of decades' worth of solving cryptic clues, learning the crossword shorthand, figuring out the mind-set of particular compilers; and still, I come up short once in a while, and goggle at the cleverness of the compiler.

St Francis' confession of folly?(6)

That one had me laughing the whole evening.

I did make an ass of myself once I solved it. I called up friends, I gloated at pals. :-)

What inspires such determination to pick up the gauntlet any compiler casts?
What is it about cryptic crosswords then, that is so fascinating?

The wit and humour of the compiler, certainly. The clever misdirection, while being fair. Fairness in crosswords is always dubious though, until one solves the clue.

I got hooked when I learnt that pink means carnation, but a vehicle and a race have to be in your thoughts to arrive there. Vehicle=car, race= nation.

Of course, I discovered that knowing synonyms is not enough. To be able to sort anagrams out is a good and useful trait. To figure out when to read backwards, when to resort to crossword shorthand of Roman numerals, Greek alphabet, musical notation, radio signs; all these become inculcated in the soul of an avid cryptic crossword enthusiast.

And when I figured out that HIJKLMNO (5) ,would lead to the solution: Water, I became a convert and a zealot. :-)

But the most beguiling thing about cryptic crosswords is never knowing what particular path your compiler is leading you up to. I'd spent a whole day researching Dickens, when I should have been thinking Jane Austen, but it was also an informative day and Araucaria just enriched my GK. If I managed to finish the puzzle it is a plus, but if he got the better of me, well. No skin off my nose. :-) You win, Father Graham.

I will get back with more on the mindsets of crosswords puzzle enthusiasts.

For those of you that didn't get it, the answers are:

Potty train? Loco: Potty, as in crazy, train as for locomotives.

St Francis' confession of folly? Assisi: Self explanatory, I'd have thought, but I had to explain it to my husband. So, here goes. I am an ass.



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