* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]

9 September 2002
Jamie makes the most of his wordy goods.

Ah, the delight of a back page unspoiled. The virginal white side by side with the angry black blocks, unyielding in their refusal to allow passage and bringing optimistic random insertions to a premature halt. The lines of text: unfathomable to the uninitiated; enthralling to the converted. And the tiny empty box by the side, with just about room for one anagram (if you've got small handwriting) inamongst the adverts. Yes, I am a cryptic crossword freak.

Some people say it's elitist; some say it's childish to be playing word games at my age. I tell them to sit a child in front of the Times One and see how the little bastard gets on. That usually shuts the fuckers up.

But what's the attraction of these things? Why does someone feel the need to spend their breakfast, their journey to work, their lunch break scribbling with a furrowed brow (or more usefully, a pen) on a scrap of mucky broadsheet? I can't speak for everyone. But I'll tell you about me.

My aunt always used to do the Telegraph crossword, every day. As a bright and inquisitive youngster, I was allowed to help. (The fact that it was the Telegraph was a fucking good thing, as the chances of me ever persisting with the Times at that age would have been negligible. The Telegraph is mainly anagrams, which any monkey with a set of Scrabble letters can solve these. Hence our discovery when drunk that Henry Bokenham is an anagram of 'Ah, broken hymen'.) Soon, I started to go it alone, culminating in the time when I beat her to the doormat before breakfast and polished off all but three of the clues myself. She wasn't best pleased, and I realised I could play second fiddle no more.

Soon, what started off as an occasional habit during my aunt's visits was a ritual, an addiction. Half an hour at breakfast tackling the anagrams with my fishfingers; another twenty minutes during my free period in the morning, just before my mid-am wank; writing down any clues that were puzzling me (or taking the whole damn thing, if particularly tricky) and getting through them in double German. Then making sure there was a fresh copy of the paper in the common room, before sitting down and apparently polishing off the whole thing in around twenty minutes.

You see, that's part of the reason. Self-aggrandisement: it's just not enough to know you can do it, it's so much better if lots of other people know as well. Just like reading Ulysses on the tube, or buying Le Figaro instead of an English paper, doing the crossword gives you an aura that lesser mortals can only admire (or mock, but that's their loss). Think of it as the equivalent of wearing a low-cut top and a Wonderbra, only for ugly clever people. Not sure if it gets you laid, but hey.

An example. A teacher at my school was renowned for his crosswording ability. It's said that he used to time when his egg was done in the morning by sitting down to do the Times crossword after putting it in the water: the time it took him to finish would invariably leave him with a firm albumen and a still-runny yolk. No one had any particular reason for believing this, and the source of the story was never identified; but, along with numerous other urban myths about his skills, it was never challenged. And while admire is too strong a word (let's face it, the guy was a fucking freak), there was a certain amount of acknowledgement of his talents.

So, regardless of the occasional scorn of others, I will keep poring over ridiculously convoluted clues while getting grubby fingers and funny looks on the train. Because I know, in my heart of hearts, that there are a lot of people who envy my ability, my patience, my vocabulary. And what they don't know is that I'm doing yesterday's puzzle and have already looked up the answers. Ignorant fools.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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