Thursday, 4 July 2013


I haven’t delighted you enough recently on this subject, have I?  Tick the appropriate box:



 Oh, all right.  I decided recently (yesterday evening in fact, at about 9.45) that I needed a new hobby.  Or any hobby.  Collecting things is Out Of The Question.  (Yet more stuff?  I think not.)  Researching things requires long-range effort and concentration.  Also OOTQ.  (Checking the gin bottle and the tonic stock is as far as I care to go down that road.)  Then I remembered that, in my twenties, I occasionally used to compile crosswords.

I’d design my own grids (it took me a while to accept that they had to be symmetrical), fill them in somehow (which got easier when I was given a dictionary for my birthday), and then, the really fun bit, make up the clues.  My masterpiece, I vaguely remember, was defined as ‘Workers’ playtime?’, and involved Volkswagens, South African currency and comedy take-offs.  (‘BEER AND SKITTLES’, since you ask.)

Nobody ever actually solved these things, of course – that wasn’t the point.  (I offered one to a fellow-enthusiast at work once; he didn’t get a single answer.)  Nor, I accepted last night, would anyone have a punt at my new ones: apart from anything else, I don’t think I know anybody else who does cryptic crosswords on any regular basis.  (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

So, I spent the next two hours researching crossword compilation applications.  There are a few out there, but they don’t meet my exacting needs.  Actually, all I want is a set of ready-made grids which I can fill in on the computer.  If these happen to be standard Guardian grids, so much the better.  Ziltch.

So I emailed the Guardian’s crossword editor.  (Regular readers may have noticed that I can be a bit obsessive once I’ve snatched at a hook.)  To his eternal credit, Hugh replied by return – but the news wasn’t good.   Digital versions of their grids aren’t available to the general public.  My best plan, he suggested, was to photocopy or download the day’s puzzle from the paper and then use a pencil and a rubber.  Fair enough.  But I reckon I can do better than that.  I feel a highly customised Excel spreadsheet coming on.

Don’t watch this space (or 'light', as we setters call it) though.


Oh, all right – here’s another clue for you all: ‘Harry Potter? (7)’  (Need help?  The 5th letter is K.)



  1. Oh bugger, I'm not gonna be so helpful next time, Roger! Though I do recall you helping me out with one a while ago, so we're quits.

    But the thing about cryptics is that you have to be able to explain your reasoning. Hmm?

  2. Beetles Rand Skits? I thought it was to "Harry" your potting opponent by setting up snookers but you could be more devious with JKRowling characters which in my case are unknowns!

  3. I used to devise a few crossword puzzles in my teens. I was a cryptic crossword enthusiast in those days, now so out of practice that it takes a week of staring at The Times and filling in a few clues before I get the hang of it again, by which time I'm too busy and don't look at it again for weeks.

    They don't have to be symmetrical, though. You're the compiler, you make the rules - though the clues have to be fair. I used to enjoy skeleton crosswords, but the non-symmetrical ones were fiendish.

  4. I didn't understand the answer or the explanation to the answer ...

    I do understand a well made G&T tho.

    (I have a 90 year old Aunt that does the Telegraph cryptic everyday, she'd be pleased for some more exacting fodder)

    ps I bet you can play bridge too can't you?

    1. I'm with you on G&T, Zig, because I understood nothing at all.

  5. Rog got the one about harrying your opponent, who wants to be a potter of the ball, by snookering them. Geddit now?
    The other one is far too obscure, not to say contrived, to explain (besides, I didn't actually give you the clue!). Again, Rog is on the right track.
    And yes, Zig, I can (or could once) play bridge, but haven't for about 40 years.

  6. "... that does ..." ? Why do I only notice these things days later. Remarkably I have 2 O levels in English.