On Saturday I made a brief cameo appearance on the back page of The Herald. Every Saturday Myops, the resident cruciverbalist, uses a clue supplied by a reader. The prize – the Good Word Guide. I wasn’t really in it for the prize. Truth is, I have several Good Word Guides already. I just do it for the fun of it. I’ve always been fascinated by wordplay. In Scrabble, I once scored 176 points in a single shot by putting down MUDFLATS between two triple word scores. For a brief period I became known as Mudflats. “You don’t want to play Scrabble with old Mudflats.” (Scrabble, incidentally, like croquet, is a dirty game in a douce and genteel disguise.) Back to The Herald crossword – I’d better not tell you Saturday’s clue as for all I know there may be copyright issues, so I’ll tell you the last clue I sent in, as they didn’t use it – I can’t imagine why.
Actually it’s a “portmanteau” clue, two clues in one:
Apropos the Smiths’… (10)
…outburst, take note! (11,4)
There’s a crossword in my forthcoming book. It’s a “designer” crossword after the fashion of some of the Sunday broadsheets, with a theme obliquely alluded to in a rubric. (In case you find that a complete turn-off, let me say that you don’t need to solve the crossword in order to read the book. My main protagonist does the solving for us. There is however a piece of information so deeply embedded in the solution that I’m not even sure my publisher knows it’s there.)
I wonder if solving cryptic crosswords, like playing chess, is predominantly a male pursuit. I say that with the greatest respect. Most of the women I know have far too much emotional intelligence to waste their time on inanimate and schizoid activities. I’m aware myself that cruciverbalism is largely a sterile and self-referential activity. Never look at more than one crossword in a day and never give it more than half an hour.
Still, anagrams are great fun. Monday – dynamo; orchestra – carthorse… and who would not be delighted by Britney Spears – Presbyterian? The ultimate anagram is the “panagram” or anagram of the alphabet. When I was told there was only one panagram in the English language (Cwm fjord-bank glyphs vext quiz), I strove to find another. I came up with one last year following a report in The Herald about the littering of beaches in the Bahamas that seriously upset one of the residents – Sean Connery. (Incidentally I wish Sir Sean would come over and exercise his considerable charisma on the good burghers of Glasgow to get them to clean up Great Western Road. I love my home town but it resembles a professional man, down on his luck, who begins to descend the social scale, ceases to take an interest in his appearance, and loses all self-respect. I go out of my way to mention this here, in order to discharge a duty to a good friend of mine, resident of Great Western Road, who wishes to spread the pick-up-your-litter message and regards me as his surrogate blogger.)
To return to Nassau… It can’t be as bad as Glesgae. I mean, are there half-eaten kebabs? A panagram on unspecified Caribbean flotsam and jetsam: I imagined it as a text message the MI6 quartermaster sent to his boss:
M: Gulf wrack hext spy, viz, J. Bond. Q
The Herald didn’t publish that either.
I know; I really do need to get out more.