They say stepping up from crosswords to cryptic crosswords (CCs) is like moving from blues to jazz.
A higher state of learning, possibly proving that despite Gonski 2.0, education is wasted on the dim. Dim is certainly how I feel every time I have a crack.
When it comes to CCs, I know the answer is in the question, but deep down I know the answer is really in the answers … if I just take a quick peep.
But you’re only cheating yourself if you cheat. So no harm done.
Except to your pride, which is what I suspect word puzzles, cryptic or otherwise, are designed to do.
Take the 'straight' or 'quick' crossword.
The clues are normally simple definitions, which doesn’t make them any easier, but you live in hope.
For example: “Fictional detective (6)”.
I’ll get back to you on that one, once I Google the answer.
A cryptic clue, on the other hand, normally consists of two parts.
A definition: often in the form of an annoying question from my partner, who recently discovered online CCs with such a passion she’s ditched the Sudoku.
And an additional cryptic indication of the solution: usually from me, along the lines of “pass the remote, my brain hurts”.
Why wouldn’t it hurt when said partner is eagerly repeating to me: “Companies combining Mr Green off”?
The answer if, you’re not a cryptic nerd, is not “be quiet, I can’t hear the TV”.
It’s actually “merger”, as the partner falls off the couch in spasms of self-congratulatory delight.
And no, I don’t want to see how she got it, but she’s going to show me anyhow, right?
“Companies combining” is the definition, which you only realise once you’ve given yourself a migraine saying it over and over again in a transparent attempt to look like you’re paying attention whilst trying to watch the sports report on TV.
“Mr Green off” is the cryptic indicator. What I like to call “the jibber jabber”.
What you discover, when you get roped into these CCs, is that there are countless cryptic conventions that enable a random and possibly implausible connection between the cryptic indicator and the definition.
In this case, once you drop the “off” off, you are left to unscramble (guess) “merger” from “Mr Green”; and lo and behold it had a connection to “companies combining”.
You know this for sure, because you cheat and look at the answer. One of the truly great features of online CCs.
In the process you totally miss the sports report, but nothing succeeds like success, and the older you get, nothing recedes like word power, I mean recess. Which is where my brain resides when it comes to word puzzles. Hence the avoidance behaviour most of my life.
And by the way, the answer to “Fictional detective (6)” is not “um”. But it is a noise I routinely make when trying to give the impression I’m thinking.
It’s actually “Holmes”. Which may seem elementary if you have a brain that works, but if Dr Google hadn’t delivered, I’d still be contemplating the tumbleweeds blowing across my empty mind. Chirp chirp.
Puzzle-heads allege doing crosswords keeps the mind young and holds back diseases like Alzheimer's.
But experts disagree saying … sorry, what was I saying? Ah yes, that thinking is such a tiring business at times, but puzzling how addictive it can be if you fluke an answer.