Sometimes I wish this blog would be like Facebook and offer me memories from this day last year or ten years ago or whatever it is: it’s interesting to look back and see what was happening on the 21st November in previous annual cycles of my life. It would also be helpful if it told me when I’d already used a title for a blog post – I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d used ‘Never a Crossword’ before and lo! I was right; in January I posted about this very topic:
I have now changed today’s title to ‘Always a Crossword’, making it a companion piece rather than a repeat.
But instead of offering me all these useful things WordPress keeps threatening me: every time I log on and try to make a new post it says, ‘A new editor is coming to level up your layout.’ I have no idea what levelling up my layout means but it certainly feels like something I should worry about. Interestingly that sentence could easily be a cryptic crossword clue: ‘A new’ would give the letters ‘an’, ‘your’ could be ‘yr’, giving us ‘anyr’. Not very promising. ‘Level up’ could be an anagram indicator; anything that suggests rearrangement often suggests that, so let’s see; what can we do with ‘level up’? Pull Eve? Possibly. So far we’ve got:
Can we make anything of these? Oh but wait, I forgot ‘editor’. This is usually abbreviated to ‘ed’ which gives us quite a long word:
anyredpulleve – or if you prefer, any red pull Eve.
Is pudrevellany a word?
And in all this parsing (as they call it) I’ve forgotten the def. or definition.
The def. comes either at the beginning or the end, which would make it ‘a new’ or ‘layout.’ The latter is more probable, though you can never assume, so if ‘layout’ is what we’re looking for that gives us two ways to come at the answer, both of which can be cross-checked with each other. Does the word mean ‘layout’? And does it parse with the other elements? If so, you’re in.
Once you’ve begun solving these cryptics you can, if you wish, enter the weird and wonderful world of commenting. This has its own language which is as cryptic as the puzzles themselves; comments on today’s Guardian include the following:
Every frame a Rembrandt! Great drop of the shoulder on 23 had me scampering after the ball.
the East went in quickly but the North-West took a long time
I thought some of the defs were waving too exuberantly today
Jazzy surfaces as ever
In addition to this colourful language there are terms to be learned: in addition to ‘parsing’ = figuring out those bits of the clue which are not the def, there is LOI = last one in, ie the last clue you solved; a ‘tea-tray’ moment, which I describe as a ‘duh!’ moment when you finally get it (and it was a lot easier than you thought) and ‘surfaces’. This last refers to the idea that the clue should read like an English sentence and not like some cobbling-together of elements. The best compilers make their clues sound completely coherent, all of which adds to the Zen-like complexity of the experience.
Here’s a few from today’s Guardian. Answers below:
Bony, itinerant elks departed northward (8)
Old prison of Great Wen put up, then demolished (7)
Domestic kitchen full of jam (5)
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I solved these
4 thoughts on “Always a Crossword”
I begin to see how you did them now, but without the answers I’d have no idea. How do you know the R isn’t used in the Newgate answer? It has always seemed esoteric to me.
It’s just a matter of practice; I’ve been doing these for a few years now. The r isn’t used because there’s no r in Newgate
But if you’re trying to find a prison anagram for Great Wen then it should include the R unless there’s something else in the clue that tells you not to. I get really really irritated with these things (basically because I’m no good at them).
Yes, you’re quite right, which is why I couldn’t totally parse that clue