lalita larking

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

Location: Kolkata, India

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Everything is extraneous

Property of Electra's instruction to Orestes? (6)* Or why Missus Em loves Shed

"Everything is Eventual," says Stephen King. Well, everything is irrelevant now, I say.

It happens when I am in the zone. When I strike a purple patch in my career of solving cryptic crosswords (it happens once in a while), I solve the daily lot in no time at all. It happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, too. Then came the monthly Genius puzzle.

I downloaded it late last evening and I printed it out, since one does not hope to solve Genius or Prize crosswords by the 'read online, solve and fill in the solution' method. But then life and other loves intervened and I left the puzzle semi-solved, my head buzzing with possibilities as I went to bed. Some six clues left, I fretted.

This month's Genius crossword has a lovely twist. The special instructions said:

Each of the Across clues contains an extraneous word. The initial letters of these words should be arranged to form an appropriate phrase and entered at 3, 18 down.

So, sixteen clues, each with an extraneous word, and I'll have to figure out which that is, and then an anagram of the first letters of those words to form a phrase. My heart soared.

Today, I might have been physically present in my bank, standing in line, but mentally I was in the zone, thinking clues; I might have been whipping eggs for breakfast, or dicing potatoes to my absurd levels of perfection, but my mind was elsewhere. What I was doing was just going through motions, my mind always on the last few clues.

Standing in the queue (yes I know, again) I was reading the streaming (screaming too, in a way) packages and deals and schemes offered by my bank. Electronic Fund Transfer, I read.

E F T, eft, I mused. Immature newt. Amphibian. Frog. Frenchman. Rene. Descartes. Cogito; ergo sum. Really, free association takes more time to type than to think.

But Descartes' other quote, that except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power, is more apt.

Now I have to think harder. Brummie thought, and set the puzzle. Now I have to think and solve it. Mind against mind, wit against wit; you set a clue and I solve it and laugh, I mused. How godlike it must feel to compile a crossword.

I recalled a conversation I had with my baby son: Lali, what is god? Well, many people think the world, solar system, galaxies and all must have somebody who designed it and looks after it, that entity is called god. Do you think there is god, Lali? I am waiting for proof. Does Daddy think there is god? No. Does Tengu (our pariah princess dog) think there is god? Umm, she thinks Daddy is god.

Bhadralok is too slow, other lines are moving fast, muttered a man who kept poking me as if crowding me could get him to the counter any faster. I stifled an impulse to tell him to go stand in the lines he thought moved quicker. Each line takes about the same time to reach the counter and then it depends on the transaction, so if you want to be stupid, be stupid, I said to myself.

The clever trick to solving cryptic clues is that there is no trick. Crossword clues are precisely given instructions, more so when by masters. A series of instructions and a bit of verbal prestidigitation, yeah, but most clues are fair.

And Brummie is always elegantly concise. So. If there is an extraneous word it will stick out, to be idiomatic, like a sore thumb. But there is the thing about life happening, and such interventions. So I dealt with it.

Late lunch and more interruptions of the entertaining kind and I settled down to the crossword, solving the phrase and then fretting about the last down clue. Until I am satisfied with the reasoning and am sure, I can't hit the submit button, and there is the last down clue. Pesky thing, only five letters long and mocking me.

Everything is extraneous now. Gotta solve it or die, says Inner Mule. But there is always salvation, for the righteous and the humble and the meek.

The Resident Magician solved it for me as I ran my solutions past him to check if they sounded right logically.

Bah, he solved the last clue.

Missus Em will go to honourable seppuku as soon as she discharges the sloppy slobbering kisses and hugs and virtual love various toygirls and assorted admirers keep sending Mister Em. Oh, and Missus Em thinks she ought to submit her solution first too.




Blogger Revealed said...

Everything *is* extraneous!!! *is struck by the thought and goes away mumbling and muttering to herself*

1:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Domain' was superb, but I have yet (if ever)to develop the fiendishly clever brain that can deal with this stuff! This post ROCKS!!!

9:06 am  
Anonymous dipali said...

sorry, pressed anonymous by mistake!

9:07 am  
Blogger Rimi said...

Promise to self: after learning to swim, learn to solve cryptic crosswords...

...since Missus Em will clearly not post on saner topics, hmph!

No hugs and kisses for you this time, Lali. Not till there is a post on manners. Double hmph.

11:30 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Umm, she thinks Daddy is god. No wonder your son developed the sense of humour he did, if you talked to him like this when he was a toddler.

Lovely post, Lali. I liked your example of the free association. What a strange mind you have, though.

1:22 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Revealed- Hey, come back. You aren't extraneous! *grins*

Dipali- Lady, it requires what the younger generation calls a 'jobless' brain. But thanks, all the same.

Rimi- Hmph back atya, Princess. Very left-handed, I must say. :-)

Ash- Bah, I never knew how to do babytalk, no? And I laughed out loud at the extraneous definite article in your comment. So you cracked it?

2:13 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

Yeah yeah, whatever. And I second P completely: Jobless brain ! Tee heee

2:50 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Priya- Huh? Which P? Or did you mean Rimikins? But, jobless brain, I agree. So there.

2:56 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Toygirls? Changed tacks, have we, Auntie Lali? Nice post and congratulations to Mister Em. Got the better of you, didn't he? Ha!

10:07 pm  
Anonymous Hehhh said...

Well, you have a jobless brain. I have a brainless job :- (

==> Desiring this lady's art AND her scope.

1:19 pm  
Anonymous Hehhh said...

My variants on Descartes :-

Cogito, Ergo Tum : I think, therefore you are. ( OK, Hinglatin).

Cogito, Ergo Tum : I think, therefore I am fat.

Coito, Ergo Sum : Err...

I think I'll stop here.

1:27 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Rajesh- Yes, he got the better of me. Now pipe down.

Hehhh- Sheesh! :-)

4:28 pm  

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