A few years ago. back in the early to mid 60’s to be precise, quite by accident I got started on “Crossword Puzzles”.
For as long as I can remember I’d always had my head stuck in one broadsheet or another; and at that time, it was Melbournes “The Age”, that had my complete. undivided attention. Naturally enough, as I was living in Melbourne!
It was only normal for me to check out the comic pages of “The Age”, I must admit I took after my dear ol’ dad for that, he really got a good chuckle out of the ‘funnies’ in the papers; I did a blog about that a few years back.
Growing up in London, I was of course addicted to reading such boyhood fare as “Hotspur” “Adventure” “Rover” Wizard” “Beano & Dandy” et al, where else was I to get my education? 🙂
I never did check out the crossword puzzles, which always appeared, on the ‘funny’s page’ it never occured to me, and I can’t imagine why not, I’ve always enjoyed words 🙄
At the time, 1965, I was working for Australian Motor Industries, down there at Fishermens Bend, and a young, New Zealand woman, from one of the many accounts departments, was also a reader of”The Age”, and a crossword puzzle ‘nutter’.
The AMI Company bus,would pick up we office workers, near Flinders Street Railway Station; (NB Railway Station) and cart us off to the ‘Bend’. I usually had my head stuck in the paper, and on one occasion this young woman sitting beside me, head buried in the crossword, asked me for a word. One thing led to another and we before I knew it I was hooked on the crosswords; excepting Wednesdays.
On Wednesdays & Saturdays, the crosswords were cryptic; I was assured by my NZ friend that they were stupid, and not worth bothering with. So I never did! I never bothered to look at them, just took her word for it.
So, for four days a week, I did the crossword puzzle before reading the news; I’d become quite addicted to them. After a while, I started doing them in my head, not bothering to write the letters into the puzzle, until I’d solved it, sometimes I didn’t bother writing the answers in at all. Wasn’t any point really, that I could see.
Move on to early 1966, I’d moved to Perth, originally for a few months holiday and ‘look around’; decided to stay; and became somewhat involved with a young English girl. She had just turned 18 in December.
Come to think of it, my wife was born the same month & year. Both born under the sign of Sagittarius; which is supposed to be compatible with an Aries, for reasons that escape me! There’s not quite 14 years difference; kind of made me a cradle snatcher at the time, in both instances
She, for some reason or other, kind of fancied me; I suppose it was because I was an older man, and her Pommy boyfriend was a scruffy, young, bloke, and I don’t like being scruffy. Anyway, she thought it would be nice, if we lived together and not being an argumentative type I succumbed.
So we got a very nice flat in Burtway, with views of the Swan River, close to where I’d started work; flogging new Ford motor cars, which was pretty good, as I was forever in a new vehicle (my demo), and was allowed to use it for private purposes, as well as my tool of trade. Very relaxed, easy going Sandgropers back in the 60’s. XD
West Australia does not have, and never did have, a broadsheet, so I had to put up with the “West”, a tabloid; however it wasn’t too bad, though small it seemed to work on the same format as the SMH & The Age, even to the crossword puzzles and the Wednesday/Saturday cryptic’s, which I’d still not looked at.
But all was about to change.
I arrived home from work one Saturday afternoon, and there she was, head buried in the crossword; the cryptic!
” ‘ello ‘ello” says me whats going on ‘ere? ” in my best Cockney accent and Jennifer, for that is/was indeed her name; told me she was doing the crossword, as she enjoyed them. She then explained why she liked, and how she went about, solving them and this revelation showed me how much fun and frustration I’d been missing out on.
I don’t think I’ve done an ordinary crossword, in full since! 🙄
Moving on a few years; Jennifer and I had parted, I’d moved from selling cars, to selling booze in the town of Narrogin, as some of my readers know; and during a break one day, browsing through the books, magazines what have you at the newsagents, I came across a book of cryptic crosswords! 😈
It was an English book, and there was a preponderance of questions, aimed solely at the English, I decided to give it a go; after all I am a Pom and I’d only been in Australia 18 or 19 years so things couldn’t have changed that much there surely! 🙄
There were many levels of difficulty; I had a go at the easy ones at the front, and decided I’d try something harder, went to the back of the book, lo and behold, what do you think I found? The answers, yes all the crosswords completed.
Feeling disgusted, and cheated, I ripped all the answer pages out of the book and consigned them to the incinerator! Why sell a book of questions and have the answers in the back? 👿 Doesn’t make sense to me.
It was then that I noticed the last cryptic crossword was out to get me.
All the questions were numbered, which is normal. But that’s as far as it went. The puzzle was void of numbers, in all but a couple of empty squares, I think a total of four squares were blacked out, it was up to the masochists, who took this on, to work out which squares were blanked and what number went where. I was in for a week of fun!
Don’t think for one moment that I actually sat there for a week, doing nothing but work on this puzzle; I worked on it during breaks in my work.
Working in the pub, my hours were odd, to say the least. I’d start at 9.30 every morning and it was always 10.40-11 pm before I called it a day, I wasn’t working all that time; I’d have a snooze after lunch from 2 to 4 and got back into the work at 4.30., every day except Thursday, my day off and Sunday when the pub only opened for 2 hours in the morning (after church) and another 2 hours in the evening you can guess when, but at least 6 hours work was required, preparing and cleaning up, theres a fair bit of work goes on running a pub!
But finish the puzzle I did, over the seven days, I cursed and swore like a trooper, well almost, and at the end, I had the satisfaction of knowing I’d taken on, and completed, a piece of mischief, designed and produced in England, by sadistic compilers, who work and hide behind gruesome names like Mordred!