Thursday, 23 April 2015

T: Don't worry, I'll puzzle it out

My letter T reason to be cheerful is probably also a reason for other people to be cheerful because it shuts me up for a while. It is The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword.

I realise some people might feel that should be under C for Crossword but it appears in The Times on a Saturday and so it's a T.

I love cryptic crosswords and it has taken me years to get anywhere near being reasonably good at them. The Times Jumbo Cryptic is far and away my favourite. It's on a 23x23 grid and it's tough enough to make me strive without being so difficult I lose interest.

Now that's what I call a jumbo crossword.

Cryptic crosswords have their own language and conventions and even when you know them a good clue can successfully sell you a dummy until suddenly the penny drops and you realise you've been looking at the clue in entirely the wrong way for the last half hour.

As I hinted earlier, sit me down with The Times Jumbo Cryptic and I'm happy as the proverbial sandboy and won't cause any trouble for ages. Sometimes I'll need to keep going back to a crossword over several days, other times - and this doesn't happen very often - I can complete the Jumbo in somewhere between one and two hours. I think on those occasions the setters have decided to make sure people like me don't get too discouraged and I am sure there are people out there who can do it much faster than that. Lest I get carried away by this, I should point out that the record for correctly completing the normal Times cryptic crossword is about five minutes.

One of the weird things I really like about crosswords is that sometimes you can face an apparently unsolvable clue which you put to one side for a while only to find that on coming back to it you can see exactly how to solve it. Is it presumptuous to think that my brain carries on working on the clue in the background while I go about my other everyday tasks?

There aren't that many songs about crossword puzzles but this one is as near perfect for my requirements as you can get. I think it's called the Crossword Puzzle Song and it's sung by Jennie McGuinness.

  • Question: Do you like crossword puzzles, particularly cryptic ones, or do you think "Why does that saddo waste his time doing that sad thing, what a loser?"

* Crossworld puzzle picture by Autopilot (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. I love normal crossword puzzles but I have to confess that I am not very good at cryptic crosswords by myself but whenever my dad would do one I'd try to help him out and if I was pointed in the right direction by him I could solve the clue. Of course the really tricky thing is deciphering what the clue actually means - I'm impressed with you doing The Times' one in one to two hours :) Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  2. Hi Mark - I'd love to be able to do crosswords .. but I've never been able to get to grips with them .. I can manage general knowledge ones .. also I don't do them ... so again on the rare occasions I get involved it's understandable I fade quickly .. fantastic to be able to switch off and just get involved deep in those puzzles .. cheers Hilary


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