Often what I would consider my best crossword ideas are planned.
I have a Word document onto which I deposit any ideas and half-ideas, and at a later date grab what I can from this and weave a few of them into a puzzle.
For example, zaftig, fartlek and bumbershoot have been sitting on this document for a while, and I perhaps would be wise to leave them there.
Anyhow, after these ideas have found their way to the grid, I endeavour to fill the rest with words that might lend themselves to fun clues. The grid-filling I find immense fun. It’s me versus the grid, and I have to constantly be aware that by placing certain letters in particular areas of the grid will cut my filling options drastically. A ‘J’ at a crossing point, for instance, could quickly have me filling the remainder with obscurities.
Back in the 1990s, with Girl Power a its height, I elected to go for a Spice Girls puzzle. One solution was ‘spice’, others being the names of the manufactured fivesome, Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Posh and Scary.
And so I continued to fill the grid, and ended up with the entry, down the middle ‘The Eton Wall Game’. At the tie I thought nothing of it, and elected to clue this later.
For those like me with a comprehensive school education, The Eton Wall Game is a traditional annual event at the aforementioned Public School, the rules of which I shan’t mention. All you need to know is that it can be unpleasantly rough.
And so I’d been left to clue ‘The Eton Wall Game’. On writing a clue, one looks for word association. What can one say about this game. And so the clue became formed of cross-references. ‘It’s Posh, Sporty and a Little Bit Scary (3,4,4,4).
On another occasion, I had filled my grid, and was left with two adjacent 15-letter entries, ‘National Lottery’ and ‘Russian roulette’. It hadn’t occurred to me on filling the grid that the latter could be partially defined by the former. And so ‘Russian roulette’ came to be clued as (National Lottery) where the last thing you’ll do is lose! (7,8)’