Tuesday, February 01, 2005

75 years of agony

The Times Crossword is 75 years old today.

I’ve managed to complete it within a lunch hour, with no form of cheating/thesaurus/internet anagram site usage, precisely three times. Which out of many hundreds of attempts, isn’t that impressive.

Cryptic crosswords are all about getting inside the mind of the compiler. So some days you fly though it with the greatest of ease, while other times you struggle, with rising rage, to answer a single clue.

Martin Amis, in his autobiography Experience, gives an account of his father Kingsley’s daily battle with the crossword. Every time he gets an answer, he groans in agony: “Oh you swine! You absolute devil!”

An ear for terrible puns does help. But sometimes you come across a clue which can’t help but make you laugh. Here’s one I came across a few weeks ago:

“Do rey me fah so la do, do rey me fah so la do” (5)


The best clues are the ones which make sense as self-contained phrases, but point to a surprising answer

In the Times today, compiler Richard Browne gives some of his favourite clues. If nobody gets them all, answers will be posted in the comments section at a later date.

1. She takes a lot of trouble to compose her features (5,4)
2. Power to capture both rooks, giving brilliant mate (2,5)
3. When depressed, one gives no impression of character (5,3)
4. Pot of ale (4,5)
5. Glance at the fixtures: not much on (8)
6. Very fine clues sold for a pound (9)
7. Fit in girl’s pockets (15)