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Cryptic crosswords

August 10, 2013


A year or two back, my younger daughter gave me a present, 'Dear Dad, from you to me' , one of those gift shop gifts which are very well intentionedy, but, alas, time is so short that they can often gather dust and never be completed. I decided a while ago that I wouldn't let this happen, and would aim to complete it for Sophie, Alice and Tom, so whenever they want to, they could find out a bit more about their Dad. So, I have set up a private blog, to which only family have access, and have been posting to it during our summer 2013 holidays. Many of these postings are personal, and best kept private for the family only, but those which are less private will also be posted on my main blog.

Thirty six years ago (ouch) I got interested in cryptic crosswords. In sixth form at Bolton School we had 'free periods' where I think you were meant to do your own studying, but often I would spend time reading the newspapers, and there I got the crossword solving bug.

Typically for me, once I was able to regularly solve them, I introduced a competitive element or two: try to solve in ten minutes or less; in five minutes or less; do each clue consecutively; don't write any of the answers until you can write them all…all stupid, self imposed constraints which took the pleasure out of the activity, and by the time I left school, I had lost interest in cryptics.

I had a gap of twenty five years without doing cryptics. Then, when we moved from Leeds to Manchester, we became friends (now, more than ten years on, they are amongst our very closest friends) with a couple, John and Fiona, whose routine in those days involved doing the Daily Telegraph cryptic each night, and on occasion I started to try the crossword: practise makes perfect applies to crosswords, and just like as a sixteen year old, it took me a while to relearn the art, but eventually I got back to a broadly similar level of skill that I had before…except that I am always slower, and, some of the pleasure has gone. Partly this is because I only do the crossword on occasional Saturdays, and partly because with time being precious, I realise that cryptics are a pretty pointless activity (unlike chess for instance, which is never a waste of time).

I am writing this blog from our holiday villa in Turkey, from where with the magic of the Internet, I could download the Saturday Telegraph and do the crossword before anyone else was up.

I no longer race *, but try to do the puzzle in no more than twenty minutes, so today was a slight failure. Nowadays I am more interested in why the clues are what they are, not just getting the answer, and I struggled firstly on 16A, until I guessed that a 'sen' would be an Asian currency (it is, in several countries), but the one which stumped me most was 8D, which I could tell was 'drawing room' but couldn't see why: first I twigged its component 'groom', but it took me a good while before I saw that 'contract' meant 'draw in'.

A bit of a smile, and twenty something minutes of the holiday passed by.


Fiona's late father was very keen on cryptics, and he and I had several lengthy chats about puzzles and clues, and on a couple of occasions sat together and worked through that day's puzzle: we saw clues in different ways: neither better, just different. As a result, I started to prepare a Word document with both nice clues and clues that I couldn't get, and whenever he came over to Bramhall I would show him the list. I have continued to add to it since Roy has died, and will include the list on a future blog posting.

None of my children have as yet shown an interest in cryptics. Some years back, Tom showed a bit of interest, and I wrote down the first clue that he solved.

Tom’s first ever clue solved

DT24,571, 8 January 2005, sitting with me doing the prize crossword. He got:

Account for someone’s life (9) Biography

* for a few years, there was a Sudoku craze in the UK, and after resisting it, I got drawn in, and became hooked and ultra-competitive (ultra self competitive) on it. 'My name is Allan Beardsworth and I am reformed sudoku addict' is what I would now say at Sudoku Addict's Anonymous.


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