I’ve written before about how a big part of my personal and professional style is being a problem solver. I could almost describe the job I do as being a professional problem solver, as it generally involves finding elegant solutions for often tricky problems. And in my personal interactions, I tend to slip very quickly and easily into problem-solving mode. If anyone suggests any kind of issue they might be facing, my brain tends to jump ahead, attempting to find an answer to the problem (often to the detriment of the remainder of the social interaction.
My choice of leisure activities reflects this need to solve problems. I’ve also written previously about how I tend to apply a problem-solving approach to the stories I write. And when I decide to give myself a break from writing, I immediately gravitate to puzzles. I like lots of different sorts of puzzles – anything that keeps my mind active and allows me to put my problem-solving skills into action. I’ll do sudokus and number puzzles and different types of crosswords or word games. But the one puzzle above all that gets me every time is the cryptic crossword.
I love cryptic crosswords. I love the challenge and the wordplay. When I’m stressed, I find them oddly relaxing. They’ve got to be one of the purest applications of problem solving you could find.
I love to see the grid slowly fill up as I gradually nut out the clues. I love the feeling of triumph when I manage to solve a particular tricky piece of wordplay. I love the groan that escapes my lips if the humour underlying the clue is particularly low.
Each clue is like a little riddle. Some figure themselves quite easily. Others can take hours of extended thinking. Often, I wake up in the middle of the night, having just decoded a clue that had me stumped over the whole of the previous day.
It took me a long time to realise I could be a successful cryptic crossword solver. I used to look at the clues and marvel that anyone could make any sense out of those strange and garbled sentences. It was my genius wife who provide the crucial answer. Each cryptic clue is actually two clues. The trick to solving it is to figure out where the first clue stops and the second clue starts. After that, it’s…well I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s way more manageable.
Sometimes, I think that if I wasn’t so determined to be a writer, I could be a cryptic crossword setter instead. Occasionally, I find myself randomly thinking up potential clues for words that are on my mind.
So I’m going to finish this post off with a little cryptic clue I made up. See if you can work it out.
Beginning well, then tire unusually is what I do.
If you’re stumped, I’ll post the answer next week.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as