I suddenly developed a sweet tooth tonight, so procured some tinned stewed rhubarb from Sainsbury’s and sugar from MacDonald’s. I heated it up on the makeshift stove at Gilbert Arse and it was rather agreeable.
As well as writing this and the novel, and besides all of the reading I’m doing of newspapers, books and magazines; the crosswords and Sudoku puzzles (and generally sorting things out), I’ve been exercising another old pursuit: that of compiling crosswords.
There are a few conventions to observe if you’re a compiler and being aware of these, some puzzles that I see in cheaper publications are very bad.
- Cryptic crosswords are typically 15 x 15 grids; concise puzzles 13 x 13 in size.
- The grid should be rotationally symetrical along at least one diagonal axis, preferably both.
- It’s considered bad form to have too many unconnected “lights”: a light is a white square – to be filled in – and more than two consecutive lights not connected to others is generally thought unfair to the solver.
- Often puzzles have an additional feature or aim, achievable upon completion of the puzzle.
My speciality was always cryptic puzzles and I’d incorporate a little “Easter egg” in the form of a pun or play on words in the initial two, three or four clues accross. The title of the puzzle would furthermore hold a cryptic clue to the keywords / theme.
Once a grid is filled with words (the solution), the most fun for the compiler is to be had in compiling the clues. Some of my all time favourites (answers to follow):
- MIX (5,8)
- GSGE (9,4)
- Powered flight (9)
So in the absence of the tools I once had to compile crosswords, either manually or on a computer, I’ve been asking friends to give me words. The way the game works is thus: someone gives me a word and I come up with a cryptic clue for it; the next person in the game then gets to solve that clue and if they’re correct, they get to suggest a word; and so on. Honestly, I’ve had people coming back to me for extra goes at this and there are no prizes; just mind expansion and the participants gain the greatest pleasure it seems from my creativity in compiling clues for their words.
So here’s where we’re at (and any solver of cryptic crosswords will know the conventions, so the compiling rationale doesn’t require explanation):
- A man about, we hear: strange (7)
- Game insect? (7)
- Old building stars the French (6)
- Heavy weight spanner in Kent (9)
- Performance venue: rehearsing threat (7)
- Reserved around gentleman holding place (10)
- Liquid from a straw at Ernie’s (5)
- Honest man? (5)
- Winning man? (6)
- Record of Jo at the urinal without me (7)
(There’s at least one anagram in there. Did you know that an anagram of Steve Laker is Elk arse vet? You do now).
- Roman numerals
- Scrambled eggs
- Have not got a clue