Everybody makes mistakes, don’t they? The important thing is to learn from them, so that you don’t make the same mistake again. Except that I didn’t. And I did.
I don’t think I have told you but I belong to a most exclusive Cryptic Crossword Club. Every month, our CCC (Cryptic Crossword Compiler) provides our select group with his latest set of devilishly devious clues on a
single sheet of paper. Every month, we return the piece of paper, with our answers, keeping all our fingers and toes crossed that we have managed to read his mind accurately.
I’ve always avoided the Cryptic Crossword in the daily newspapers being convinced that, while I love the Common or Garden Variety Of Crossword, the Cryptic Genre is Not For Me. I take similar steps to avoid Sudoku. I rather suspect such tactics
of avoidance are mostly down to my not liking to be found wanting. This is, I concede, not an admirable character trait but as the author of the Daily Blog I am always prepared to face up to, and freely admit, my deficiencies on the grounds that Honesty Is
However when Delia (she of the monthly Cribbage Group and deliciously chocolately biscuits served at “half-time”) invited me to to participate
in the Club, I didn’t like to refuse. Before I knew it, I was well and truly hooked.
This is how I go about it. I sit for ages staring at the clues
and reminding myself that I am no good at Cryptic Crosswords. Then all of a sudden a word bubbles up in my mind - I check the clue, count the number of letters in my word, decide it makes sense and pencil in my answer triumphantly. I have started (to paraphrase
the presenter of Mastermind) and I will finish.
Sometimes I have to go to bed leaving an annoying clue unsolved. I’ve tried everything, reordering
letters, taking the initial letter of each word, worrying over possibilities like a dog with a well-chewed bone. In the morning I wake up, study the grid over my Oats So Simple and the answer just jumps out at me. I have grown accustomed to going with the
Cryptic Flow. I send back my completed crossword with a message, telling Jim, the Ace Compiler, how much I am enjoying myself slaving over his fiendish clues. I hope he takes it as the compliment it is meant.
Sometimes I find myself off on a complete tangent. Witness the clue about material found in Melton Mowbray once. Well, what does Melton Mowbray mean to you? Pie, wouldn’t you say? Of the pork variety. How long did I
spend ruminating over the ingredients for a pork pie - before I realised the answer was much nearer home. Right under my nose, indeed. I shall leave you to work it out for yourself...
In terms of the competition - for, yes, the Cryptic Crossword Club does have a competitive element - Delia told me after last month’s entry that I was placed a healthy second. I would have been joint first had I not slipped up
on one answer. I had deduced the solution to a particular clue was “repaid” when it should have been”reward.” Jim kindly explained the Error of my Ways, pointing out that “repaid”was a verb, while “reward”
was a noun. As I couldn’t exactly remember the clue, I couldn’t even try to deduce where I had gone wrong. In future, I decided, I would photocopy my answers so that I could check back on my triumphs and disasters.
Yesterday, I handed over to Delia my solution to Puzzle Number 16. Had I managed 100% correct answers, I queried. Delia shook her head sadly - I had at least one wrong, she said. Where I had put “repaid”
it should have been “reward.” My only (small) consolation was that April had come up with the same (wrong) answer. But I mean, leaving aside the sheer sneakiness of Jim in introducing the same word as in a previous puzzle, how could I possibly
have made the same mistake twice? Once was surely bad enough. Even my customary mantra (as in, why make one mistake, when you could make two?) has not totally comforted me.
I am only half way through this month’s puzzle but I am keeping a weather eye out for any clue, the answer of which has six letters beginning with “re” so that I don’t get caught out again. As far as I can tell, there is no such
clue in Puzzle Number 17.
Though I could, of course, be mistaken…