January 18th, 2010

Cryptics

I've been doing the Telegraph's Cryptic crossword for several months now. I've learned the ropes- the tricks of the trade- and now I can usually complete it in an hour or two. Yesterday I found a website devoted to it- which, among other things, reviews each puzzle and hosts discussions about the wit, poetic neatness and fairness of the clues. I was glad to find that a clue that defeated me in the puzzle I was doing yesterday was widely held to be badly-worded and a little unfair. I had thought that crosswords were an innocent, trivial pleasure; I hadn't realized there was a whole subculture out there waiting to suck me in.

One post contained a link to the Guardian cryptics which are- for those that know- the ultimate challenge. If the Telegraph cryptic is Mont Blanc, the Guardian cryptic is the Matterhorn. I downloaded one of them and gave it a whirl. It had a whole extra layer of deviousness built in. I struggled. I solved eight clues. Then I gave up and went to a dedicated site to have it explained to me. Ah, so that's what  was going on- the thing was themed to the life and works of W. E. Gladstone- greatest of all British prime ministers- and the GS repeatedly referred to in the clues was him. I'd thought it might be George Stubbs- the animal painter- which threw me right off track.

The Telegraph is getting to be too easy; I may have to cross over. "The fascination of what's difficult" and all that...