Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.


February 23, 2010

23-2-10 Another 1 Down

‘Sounds like you’ll be XH (11)’ – without a doubt my top crossword clue, and I was.

There are crossword superstitions such as that compilers use Across for their doozies and Down for fillers. Happily there were enough Down clues for me to get that one without waiting for the answers the next day; one of those occasions when enough letters stack up for you to start raking your brain for anything that will fit and then the clue lights up.

There are crossword clue conventions to daunt or infuriate the novice – indicators that the answer ‘sounds like’ something described, or that the answer is there in front of you, distributed between the end and the beginning of two words in the clue – for which there are primers elsewhere.

I perfectly understand the impatience of habitually convergent thinkers who feel that this is a lot of effort invested to achieve the most trivial of results. I can see why they might be, in the solution to the opening example…

X aspirated.

Personality manifests in the most incidental of details. There have always been shorthand dividers of sheep from goats like: are you a cat person or a dog person? Stones/Beatles; Hancock/Goons; Lord Of The Rings/ Gormenghast; Bach/ Vivaldi?

Now we have a crossword/ sudoku – divergent/ convergent – divide. I’ve not cracked the satisfaction of the number game although I have a couple of arithmetic workbooks and will occasionally spend an hour doing exercises to remind myself of percentages, decimals and fractions procedures.

Crosswords send my brain crashing about in the undergrowth, nosing around in the leaf-mould of half-forgotten facts and vocabulary for answers or bits of answers. Language habits are thrown into disarray, dismantled and inverted; definition and allusion are interchangeably valid. Idly accumulated scraps and fragments of general knowledge find their use, like salvaged spare components stored in the shed.

Psychology has the term TOTs – tip of the tongue syndrome – for that sense of knowing/not knowing something, knowing you know it, ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ it but not being able to flush ‘it’ out. We talk about storing information in the brain, as if a bit of memory has a location like a file-card in a drawer or an arc on a hard-disk but we know that information in the brain involves a particular combination of electrical charges between constellations of cells firing a factoid into the arena of consciousness. The factoid in fact isn’t ‘there’, it ‘happens’.

I think it was Socrates who railed against the spread of general literacy eroding the need and thus capacity to learn and remember. Fortunately someone recorded that thought. I’d have forgotten this, written five years ago I notice:-

Usher Author Touches Down(6)

To prey covertly. (6)

Sentence the dictionary? Penny admission!(6)

Doggerel paté? Yep, Rot! (6)

Smashed chinaware almost to a T. (6)

Ye Port in a storm (6)

51 Down, still haven’t a clue

  1. Confused ode attempt, with change of coinage?

    Comment by Sue Jones — February 23, 2010 @ 9:03 am
  2. That does pretty much describe most of my output, expletive sounds like stemming the flow (4-2)

    Comment by admin — February 24, 2010 @ 2:11 pm
  3. Not sure the neat binary split between crossword and sudoku works. I do both, and they work on different bits of the brain.

    Crosswords, as you say, dig deep for forgotten words, references and connections. I can feel the rummaging about somewhere deep within, discarded phrases bouncing of my medulla oblongata.

    Sudoku is just pattern spotting, with no arithmetic (unless you do the killer version, which is just patterns justified by sums). It exercises and entirely different part of the brain, probably the same bit that evolved to enable us to avoid the “That isn’t a lion in the long grass is it?” final thought.

    Confusing a pattern of Mitford acclaim (6)


    Spat? All around your pen dear solver (9)

    isn’t a proper contest. It’s like those (male) kids’ questions – could a gnu with a bazooka take out an alligator with a chainsaw?

    Well, duh!

    Comment by Chris Reed — February 25, 2010 @ 9:42 pm
  4. I understand why playing with words must seem a pointless exercise to some. Even the distribution of vowels in Sudoku proves elusive to my brain. Attempting the grids makes the gears whine and I don’t get a thrill from filling the boxes.Crosswords may just be the thinking person’s Hangman, but Sudoku feels mechanical, like home-work assembling electrical components.
    I was writing about aptitudes more than a value judgement and readers should note that Chris was at the front of the queue asking pertinent questions when brains were issued. Mine came as a gift – ‘to keep whatever you decide’ – for returning the reply-paid coupon in Whizzer and Chips.

    Comment by admin — February 26, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

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