In 1983, my adherent and I larboard Cape Town to biking to London. I had fabricated the accommodation to leave South Africa a year previously, aback I accelerating from university and accustomed yet addition set of call-up affidavit to the army. In 1983 there was a faculty of things moving. The consecutive clampdown had not yet happened. The accompaniment of emergency had not been declared. Troops were not yet, by and large, application the townships. Aback the aloft prime abbot John Vorster died, we had a Vossie’s gevrek! (Vorster’s dead!) affair on Llandudno Beach alfresco Cape Town. Annihilation seemed possible.
It seemed altogether possible, for example, to abandon the activity I had and to hitchhike to England, to be addition else. I gave abroad aggregate I endemic except for my rucksack, sleeping bag, covering and stove, and a wad of travellers’ cheques. Ostensibly I was abrogation for “political” reasons, to abstain actuality affected into the ageism army. But the accuracy was that I capital to go – I had a faculty of a bigger apple out there. And so we did.
New Year’s Day 1990. My adherent and I accept taken the aboriginal accomplish arise creating a home in London by affairs allotment of a abode abreast Arsenal Football Club. She is attempting to advise me the basics of crosswords.
“Take ‘Pretty babe in blood-soaked rose’,” she says. “Eight letters. What does it mean?”
“It means,” she continues, “that we accept a appealing babe and she is cutting article red, or pink. She is cutting article that apparel her prettiness. Prettiness, girls, roses – they all go together.”
I nod. “Got it,” I say.
“It means,” says my girlfriend, “nothing of the sort.”
I nod afresh and smile encouragingly. I am befitting up.
“That,”she says, “is what they appetite you to anticipate it means. What it absolutely agency is either the aboriginal chat or the aftermost word. What it absolutely agency is ‘rose’.”
Outside in the street, Arsenal admirers are ambiguity by afterwards a game. It is already aphotic but I can acquaint from the suppressed hum of achievement that Arsenal won.
“So accord me addition chat for crimson.”
She writes bottomward R E – – – – – D on a allotment of paper. She looks at me expectantly.
“And appealing girl?”
“I’m not a girl.”
Outside the window a football army thins.
“Belle. Belle is addition chat for ‘pretty girl’. And afresh we put belle, which agency appealing girl, central red, which agency crimson, and we get R E B E L L E D, Rebelled. Et voilà.”
“Rebelled agency rose?”
In account a crossword clue it is sometimes all-important to booty a altered approach. I recently, for example, spent connected hours attractive at “Hormone red in Lana Turner (9)”. I alike went so far as to attending up some of the things that Lana Turner is declared to accept said, including, “A acknowledged man is one who makes added money than a wife can spend. A acknowledged woman is one who can acquisition such a man.”
“Yeah, right,” snorted my girlfriend, who was with me at the time, and is not a fan of the abstract musings of Hollywood stars from the 1940s and 1950s. It was alone aback I took addition access that I got it. The added access was to anticipate of “Turner” as the anagram indicator: the anagram was of “red in Lana”, and the acknowledgment was that acclaimed hormone, adrenalin.
At this time anagrams assume to me the poor cousins of the crossword world, although in actuality they charge not be. I am alpha to realise that the art of the anagram is not the action of award the “other words”, but the action of cogent the adventure that encapsulates the words. “Girlfriend”, for example, is an anagram of “direr fling”, or “fling rider”, or “rifling red”, or a accomplished host of added acutely alone words. The art of the setter is to booty those alone words and bind them with his wit.
My abutting assignment in crosswords takes abode in Chad in the summer of 1991. The actuality who teaches me added about crosswords actuality works for a British NGO. She has a archetype of the Guardian, and is cogent me that it is the crossword that defines the appearance of the newspaper. This is a new abstraction to me.
“The Guardian crossword is not,” she says, “like the Telegraph. This is not alone a amount of taste. It’s a catechism of appearance and of personality. It is a amount of attitude, and of how you accept the world.”
Many years afterwards a managing editor of the Times told me the old bi-weekly maxim: “They arise for the news; they break for the features.” And in accurate they break for the obituaries and the crossword.
I am not yet accessible to anatomy allegiances on the base of obituaries, but I am absorbed to apperceive added about crosswords. My acquaintance says, “It makes such a aberration if you apperceive who the setter is. If you apperceive that, you’re center there.”
The setter in this case is Rufus. Sitting in Chad it does not assume accessible to me to apperceive addition declared Rufus, but my abecedary seems to anticipate she does.
“He’s one of the easiest,” she says. “That’s why I like him. That’s not his absolute name,” she adds.
That night I attending afresh at Rufus. I am armed with two things: one is the ability that he is one of “the easiest”; the added is that, if you apperceive the setter, you are center there. A clue catches my eye. “Émigré baffled up by the authorities (6)”. By now I apperceive abundant to recognise an anagram. “Regime,” I say to myself, as I abatement asleep.
This is area I date my beginning.
In the bounce of 1994, South Africa captivated its aboriginal autonomous elections. Abounding years afterwards I abstruse that the Guardian setter, Araucaria, composed a addle to mark the occasion. It was addle cardinal 20014, and according to the conference it was, “A accolade on acclamation day to the fighters for democracy, abnormally martyrs such as 6, 16 and 3.” 6, 16, and 3 were Ruth First, Steve Biko and Chris Hani, all abundant leaders murdered in the advance of the attempt for civic liberation. Added heroes of this accurate attempt who activate their way into the addle were Alan Paton, and Helen Joseph and Joe Slovo (who, touchingly I thought, aggregate a clue). Afresh there was the leash who added than any others adapted the African Civic Congress from the articulation of beefing bellicism to the accumulation movement it became, and the affair of government it now is: Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and the backward Oliver Tambo. There was additionally amplitude for Cyril Ramaphosa, who led the negotiations that resulted in the new democracy.
The abstraction for the addle came to Araucaria late, and he had to blast John Perkin, the editor, and ask him, as it were, to ascendancy the aback folio for a “special”. Perkin remembered the moment vividly, and was able to acquaint me both the addle cardinal (20014) and that Araucaria had acclimated Guardian filigree cardinal 40. Afresh I asked Araucaria why he did it, and his acknowledgment was about direct. “These were bodies I anticipation Guardian readers should know,” he said.
He said this with backbone and conviction, with the moral force of his activity as a priest, and with a adumbration of anger, and it was alone afterwards that it occurred to me that “should” in this ambience can accept added than one meaning.
Crosswords acquaint stories. But who is cogent the story? Is it the solver, or is it the setter? A acceptable clue will accelerate the solver cutting off into a array of orbits, but he will consistently arise aback to the aforementioned point. In the end, all that is adapted is that he anticipate of a analogue for the definition. How adamantine can that be?
For some years I cool I ability move to the US, area the crossword and the aloft abstruseness were invented, but American crosswords didn’t do it for me. The New York Times addle lacks the anecdotal affection of British puzzles. Its clues are too literal, its meanings too obvious. They abridgement additionally a accepted vocabulary, the aberration amid cricket, perhaps, and baseball.
In January 1998, the New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz, accustomed a adolescent man to adduce to his adherent by putting a bulletin into the crossword. Shortz was a little apprehensive aback Bill Gottlieb declared him. “At first,” Shortz told me, “I anticipation I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t let the Times be acclimated for article so personal. But afresh I declared him up, and he seemed to me to be an ardent and aboveboard adolescent man, and absolutely in adulation with Emily. I agreed.”
“So anyway,” Gottlieb told me, “Emily’s accomplishing the addle and I’m account the blow of the cardboard and assuming not to apperceive anything, and watching as she becomes suspicious. She fills in her name, and afresh my name. And afresh one acknowledgment is ‘Will you ally me?’ and she gets that. And afresh we had ‘Yes’ as an answer. And the clue for ‘Yes’ was ‘Hoped for acknowledgment to “Will you ally me?” ‘
“And by then,” Gottlieb continued, “she knew article was up, and that’s aback I asked her, properly, to ally me.
“And I said ‘yes’,” said Emily.
As an art form, the cryptic addle has been appointed by the British; they accept accounting the rules in their own image. What appealed to me was not alone the accepted abstraction of British crosswords, but the accurate anatomy they booty in British broadsheets, the Guardian in particular.
I am not, for example, a Telegraph person. I do like, though, the adventure of how the adept editor of its crossword got into agitation for this clue: “Outcry at Tory assassination (4,6)”. The acknowledgment is BLUE MURDER. It is not, on the face of it, an abhorrent clue. But it appeared in the Telegraph on July 30 1990, the day that Ian Gow, a inferior abbot in Margaret Thatcher’s government, was absolute up in the driveway of his home by the Provisional IRA. Under the circumstances, it is not hasty that some bodies took offence, although the editor’s defence – that the clue had been able weeks before, and she had no acumen of it – is not unreasonable.
How abundant greater, one wonders, would accept been the offence, had the aforementioned clue been phrased as it appeared in the Guardian recently. “Clamour for Tory assassination (4, 6)” has a abundant added adverse edge, and leaves one in no agnosticism as to the political sympathies of the setter, and his accepted readership. (Actually that should be “their” readership. Gemini, the setter, is not one, but two people.)
Since it was crosswords that offered me a anchor on the acutely bare bluff face of Britain, I started teaching myself about them and the bodies who actualize and break them. I was analytical about how they worked, and I was analytical to ask the catechism that had been aggravation me aback Chad. Can a crossword accept a personality? Who are the setters? Who is Rufus?
I accommodated Rufus in a London pub. He comes complete with addendum and anecdotes, and is actual helpful. He was built-in in Wolverhampton in 1932, and larboard academy at 15 to accompany the navy. Aback he resigned, he became an ball officer, a redcoat at Butlin’s. For the accomplished 40-odd years he has been authoritative his active as a comedy-magician, which is, he says, “as acceptable a analogue of a crossword compiler as any”.
Rufus is acclaimed in the crossword apple for the arduous aggregate of his output. He has had added than 57,000 puzzles published, at an boilerplate achievement of 38 puzzles anniversary week. He has been cataloguing, aboriginal on cards and now on a computer, all his clues aback 1963. I ask him about “émigré” and he is able to attending it up and acquaint me aback and area it was arise (the Guardian, 1991). Similarly, I ask about “Pretty babe in blood-soaked rose (8)”, and he is able to acquaint me that it is not one of his. “But I did use ‘Pretty babe in red and rose (8)’ in the aboriginal 1980s,” he says, “and ‘Rose, a admirable babe in blood-soaked (8)’ in 1997. They are all appealing abundant the aforementioned thing.”
Like added setters, Rufus has several added pseudonyms: Hodge in the Independent and Dante in the FT. He shows me a letter (subtitled “my favourite!”) to the Guardian dating from March 1992. It reads: “For me, Araucaria is the Beethoven of setters – badly impressive, but laboured and abundant footed at times. Too abounding of his clues are anfractuous and meaningless. The incomparable Rufus, on the added hand, is Mozart — concise, elegant, witty, sparkling…”
Like all able entertainers, Rufus takes the business of self-promotion seriously. He gives me a account of favourites, some by himself, some by others, and afresh tells me one that is not on the list, which he credits to the author, Ian Polley.
“Wrinkled old retainer,” he says, “seven letters.”
I am some way off the mark.
“Scrotum,” says Rufus, with a chuckle.
I abiding to accommodated the Guardian setter, Pasquale, in a pub abreast Waterloo station. Pasquale is a friendly, affable man who works for Oxford University Press. Like Rufus he is accepted for his biggy output, and claims to “set a clue every three hours or so” (including sleeping hours). I am acquisitive to accommodated him because of his puzzles, but additionally because he is one of the few bodies to accept criticised Araucaria in print. Pasquale’s accurate criticism is that Araucaria beasts too far from the rules, and is sometimes accusable of grammatical unsoundness. He is, the allegation goes, decumbent to creating clues that could alone be clues, clues in which the apparent acceptation is too far removed from accustomed usage. That said, like anybody abroad he enjoys accomplishing Araucaria’s puzzles.
Pasquale is a setter on several civic papers, but he additionally edits the puzzles of the Church Times, for which Araucaria sets. “I don’t do it abundant any more,” Araucaria tells me. “He keeps alteration my clues, which I don’t abundant like. Of course,” he adds, “we accept had a abiding war over this.”
Pasquale and I eventually accommodated for supper in a pub south of the Thames. I ask him about his criticism of Araucaria, and his face lights up. “I’ve got the award-winning puzzle,” he says, “on Saturday. Accept a attending at it. It’s my animadversion on some of Araucaria’s clues.”
The award-winning addle in the Guardian is mostly set by Araucaria, but sometimes others get a look-in. Bunthorne may accept one a month. Enigmatist from time to time. Occasionally Paul. And now Pasquale.
“Do the puzzle,” he says. And then, as all setters do from time to time, he has a moment of agnosticism about the clue. “It’s a quotation,” he adds, “a bit obscure. But it is in the dictionary. I anticipate bodies will get it. I anticipate it will be all right.” (“All right” is an announcement setters use frequently, as a delicacy for “fair”.)
And so I get the cardboard and attending agilely for the clue, which is: “See cluer’s use of rare, asinine pseudo-lingo – cool nonsense from 4 (10, 5, 5, 5, 9)”. I can see the reprimand. Asinine pseudo-lingo and all that. But the quote? I accept a moment of doubt. If this is to be a acceptable clue, afresh both the band-aid and the apparent acceptation charge augment anniversary other. It will not do for the acknowledgment to accept annihilation to do with “cluers” and their (alleged) asinine pseudo-lingo. It charge somehow complete the story.
And aback I get it, of course, it does.
The acknowledgment to 4 bottomward in this addle is Chomsky. So we can put that into the clue: “See cluer’s use of rare, asinine pseudo-lingo – cool nonsense from Chomsky (10, 5, 5, 5, 9)”. Article Chomsky said, then, and an anagram adumbrated by “absurd”.
The acknowledgment is COLOURLESS GREEN IDEAS SLEEP FURIOUSLY, an anagram of “See cluer’s use of rare, asinine pseudo-lingo”. This, abounding Guardian solvers will know, is the book with which Noam Chomsky arise his accession as a force to be reckoned with in the acreage of linguistics, the archetype he chose to authenticate that book ability be grammatical afterwards actuality meaningful. The admonishment is complete. “Good grief,” says Araucaria aback I ask him. “Was that about me? I did break the addle – I don’t consistently – but it anesthetized me by completely.”
Araucaria is now an old man, but he continues his biggy achievement of 15 crosswords anniversary month, as he has for 45 years. He is a stylist, and his acceptability for awful complication is akin alone by his acceptability for fairness, which is to say he will not advisedly cut corners in a clue.
Araucaria wrote the clue that Nick Smith in a letter to the Guardian on January 21 2001 claimed to be “the best crossword clue ever”. Consider two pieces of advice that would accept been readily accessible to Guardian readers such as Nick at the time. The aboriginal is that in 2000, 13 years afterwards he told it, Jeffrey Archer’s lie about Monica Coghlan came aback to abode him. The additional is that, afore his consecutive balloon and conviction, Archer retired from the accessible eye and took ambush in the Old Vicarage, Grantchester.
And so to the clue: “Poetical arena has decidedly austere Lord Archer beginning (3, 3, 8, 12)”. The acknowledgment is The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, a “surprising” anagram of “chaste Lord Archer vegetating”, or as Nick Smith put it to me, “the best absolute clue, apparently the best ever”.
Why? Those who don’t do crosswords may anticipate this a baby point. But those who do will apperceive that accepted 26-letter anagrams are few and far between. They will apperceive that clues calling on such a ambit of ability for their band-aid arise forth alone now and then. They will accept accomplished the banality of simple anagrams. And they will apperceive that, about in this clue – and in the addle that amidst it, for the affair of the day was English ballad – a accurate affectionate of ability is at work.
I asked Araucaria to re-create for me the action of creating this clue. Although he has now acquired a computer and may on break use it, he prefers to do his anagrams with an old Scrabble set. He spills the pieces on to the table in the sitting allowance of his baby house, and spells out The Old Vicarage Grantchester afore abrading the blow of the pieces aback into their box. As he does so, I ascertain a change in him. From actuality a shy and quietly-spoken man, he takes on a crimson of authority. The set of his aperture changes. His fingers cuddle the Scrabble pieces and I apprehension that some of them are so beat that he has had to ink in the belletrist again.
“Lord Archer came first,” he told me with a twinkle, and he removes from the assortment of belletrist the ones that accomplish up the two words. “And he had been in the account a lot. I anticipate they alarm it a ability for publicity.” He pauses and moves the belletrist about on the rosewood coffee table. “And I anticipation it would be absorbing to do article with Lord Archer.”
But I can see that he is not absolutely cerebration about me, or about Archer. His apperception is artful added anagrams, his fingers dancing from one to addition like a applesauce pianist dark for a song.
“But it didn’t leave me much,” he says, a little affronted that he should be larboard with so few letters. Those that abide are T, H, E, V, I, C, A, G, E, G, A, N, T, E, S, T. “Not actual abundant at all.”
Again he casts his easily beyond them, bond times and keys, arena snatches from abandoned clues. “At aboriginal I got the chat ‘teach’ and I was aggravating to anticipate what to do with ‘teach’. And of advance I had ‘ing’. But ‘teach’ or ‘teaching’ didn’t advance anywhere. What accept they to do with Archer? So the clue alone came aback I formed out that I could accept ‘chaste’. And I knew anon that ‘chaste’ and ‘Lord Archer’ could accomplish article interesting. And so I took ‘chaste’ out” – which he does as he speaks -“and I was larboard with this lot.” And he looks bottomward at these belletrist and afresh I apprehension the blink in his eye: T, E, V, I, G, E, G, A, N, T. “And afresh I had it.”
Araucaria and I attending at anniversary other, and I see that the attending in his eye is not aloof a twinkle. There is article abroad there, a advancement of sterner stuff, and a ability that he is abnormality into area area alone the braver setters go. He is authoritative a political statement. He is carrying a admonishment to Archer and all his vain, backbiting ilk, and he is accomplishing it in the best delicate, best artistic address possible. And in accomplishing so he is giving rein to a angle of affair and of bellicism to which I do not accept Lord Archer can activate to aspire.
Some months later, afterwards Archer had been convicted, a Guardian clairvoyant in the Netherlands remembered the Araucaria clue and proposed a new clue.”Now that [Archer] has afflicted addresses” he wrote, “may I advance an update: Area annoyed Archer’s ‘I’m noble!’ palls (1,8,6,4)”. The answer, of course, is: A Belmarsh bastille cell.
In the aboriginal winter of 2001, I absitively that I capital a addle about me to arise in the Guardian for my 40th birthday, and I capital Araucaria to set it.
As a affair I chose “thrillers”. I gave Araucaria a account of words. He got best of them in, but there were some he larboard out. He didn’t acquisition a abode for “English”. Nor did he fit in “previously alien meanings”, although of advance the puzzle, like all crossword puzzles, is about aloof such meanings. But he did get in “hero” and “Sandy”, “thriller” and “autobiography”. I asked for Guardian filigree 40, but Araucaria was of the appearance that this is a awful filigree and did not action abundant array of chat length. Instead, he acclimated filigree 28.
When Araucaria sends me the puzzle, it arrives in a anatomy I accept not ahead seen. The clues are on the left-hand ancillary of the page. The solutions are on the right, calm with assorted forms of crossword comment to explain anniversary answer. “I achievement you anticipate it’s all right,” he says. “I anticipate it is. I anticipate it should be OK.” Forth with crosswords, Araucaria has connected aback baffled the art of the understatement.
My addle appears in the Guardian on February 16 2002, addle cardinal 22445. I acceleration aboriginal and bustle to the newsagent, area I buy up the absolute banal of Guardians. I booty them home and advance one out on the kitchen table. To apprehend a ambuscade agitation advance and to accomplish abiding there are no accounting errors, I bound ample in the grid. It all looks fine. I am a little nervous, though. Now that I see it in print, I am not abiding whether it will angle the analysis of bags of solvers. Will they atom some audacious absurdity that neither Araucaria, nor I, nor the Guardian editor accept seen?
I am still gazing at it, with a beam on my face and a assertive blue in my heart, aback the accouchement arise bottomward to accept their breakfast.
“Happy birthday, Daddy.”
“Look,” I say, “I’m in the paper.”
“Are you? Where?”
They array annular me, and I appearance them the grid, complete with my name.
They attending disappointed.
“That’s not you, Daddy,” says my adolescent daughter. “That’s a crossword puzzle.”
Children accept a way of seeing through things.
My adherent was added understanding.
“Nice one,” she said, and it was.
Nine canicule afterwards the addle appeared in the Guardian, a account of the winners appeared. I declared them all, to see what they thought. Three couldn’t bethink the puzzle. They accelerate in 10 or 15 entries a week, and a addle is abandoned as anon as it is finished. Two anticipation it was great, but both anon fabricated self-deprecating jokes.
“I anticipate that of aggregate by Araucaria,” said one. “He seems to be arch and amateur aloft the rest.”
“Isn’t he lovely?” asked the other. “Everything he does is so witty.”
The aloft is 22 and belief mathematics. The closing is 76, and has been accomplishing crosswords for added than bisected a century. It seemed to me absolutely adapted that this addle should accept brought amusement to bodies so altered in age.
Talking to these setters and solvers, however, I realise that I still accept some way to go afore my ambit of advertence credibility equals theirs. I attending advanced to the adventure
· This is an edited abstract from Appealing Babe In Blood-soaked Rose (8): A Memoir Of Love, Exile And Crosswords, by Sandy Balfour, arise by Atlantic Books on February 13 at £12.99. To adjustment a archetype for the appropriate amount of £10.99, additional UK p&p, alarm 0870 066 7979.
· Acknowledgment to crossword clue: Wit and wisdom
Blank Card Without A Message Crossword Clue – blank card without a message crossword clue
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