I had an idea the other day which could either be a separate blog (a chance to revisit WordPress.com or Blogger) or a regular post on here which would be dull enough to drive away half of the few remaining readers I have. It was one of those things that I would find useful myself, and might be of interest to one or two other people even if a turn-off for everybody else: cryptic crossword tips. Unfortunately things haven’t worked out quite right.When I do the Times crossword (taken from the copy in our reception at work – I’m loath to let Murdoch have a quid – hence only a weekday pastime) I often find myself stuck on a couple. Sometimes I am frustratingly stuck on just the one answer. When I finally give up I go to the Times for the Times blog to see the answers and explanations.
More often than not I find myself having a real brow-slapping moment when I realise that I really should have got it if I had remembered that ‘ground’ usually indicates an anagram, or that “scorer” often indicates a composer’s name, or remembered to check for hidden words or something like that. I could really do with a checklist of things to look out for and thought perhaps I could do one myself, in daily doses. One post per topic. Before giving up I could run through the checklist.
Sometimes the answer depends on some arcane knowledge, like the names of 17th-Century Persian civil servants or something like that and I wouldn’t stand a chance, but a lot of the time just not forgetting a few common devices would do the trick for me.
I have always believed that the best way to learn something is to have the lesson at the point it is needed. Sit through a presentation of 58 keyboard shortcuts in Windows applications and you would forget most of them. Sod’s law means that you would only remember the stupid ones that nobody in their right minds would want. However, if somebody notices you doing control-alt-delete and choosing to lock the screen every time you leave your desk and points out that Windows+L would do it more efficiently, that will stick on your mind.
So on that basis I thought I would choose one of the answers I didn’t get, and write a little bit about it and try to do it in such a way it would remind me to keep that possibility in mind in the future.
Having made this decision I then went on an unprecedented run of 9 days of completing the thing, by which time the appeal of the idea wore off a little bit. The regret has been more than compensated by the feeling of utter smugness at not only completing it but understanding the answers 99% of the time.
Any smugness is usually dispelled by looking that that blog. Having all my smoking breaks, lunch and time when I get home working on the crossword I read the discussions where someone will say “It was a tough one today – took me nearly 15 minutes to complete it”. It makes me feel like one of those marathon runners who finally cross the line after 12 hours.
Let’s see how I feel tomorrow. The aforementioned law of Sod and the forces of hubris combined with the fact that the Friday crossword is often a real bastard mean that I will probably end up failing miserably tomorrow and then I’ll have my chance to embark on this project of inflicting boredom on the world.