Dug Campbell


So I’ve started learning how to do crosswords. Not the ‘think of a word’ type. Well. No. Actually. It is the ‘think of a word’ type. I mean, what sort of weird-ass crossword would it be if it wasn’t? But I’m talking about the type where you have to actually work out how the answer’s hidden inside the words you’re given.

How come no-one ever told me that the answer to a cryptic crossword puzzle doesn’t come from reading what the clue says? As in, the surface meaning. That’s what they call it. The ‘surface meaning’. Hmmm. I smell a conspiracy. Perpetrated against the rest of the world (albeit one that doesn’t really, y’know, care, I guess).

After all, crosswords are seen as the comfort blanket of a certain type of person, aren’t they? The older gentleman. Cardigans and slippers. You know what I’m getting at.

Life’s always more fun when you discover you hold a bunch of bad assumptions. As often happens when you interrogate most stereotypes, strangely enough. And so it is, with crosswords. (I’m pretty certain it’s not just older guys that are hooked on that particular black-and-white drug for a start).

Plus, like many people, I think you get to the stage where you go – you know what? I’m really past caring what people think about the things I do anyway. Quite frankly, if I wanted to take up crocheting, smoking a pipe and morris dancing I’d crack on. (Well, ok, not the morris dancing – but everything else). Guess that’s the beauty of growing old(er).

Seems to me that learning how to do cryptic crosswords is much like many other things. It’s all about learning the rules; a lot of practice; and being consistent. Like learning a language.

Turns out British and American crosswords are pretty different as well. If you’re interested, here’s more about that. Basically we have a couple of different ones – quick and cryptic, and a wider-ranging structure. The US does things their own way.

Who knows if I’ll keep it going. Can’t see myself spending an hour each day getting my head round them unfortunately. But man, I love learning how things are done … if only to get myself to a place where I can then stand in proper awe at seeing others who can really nail them. Guess it takes learning to be only poor at something sometimes to be able to appreciate how good others are.