Cryptic v Clarity

I’m waiting for a bus. The automated minute-by-minute information display is not working. Thankfully, there is clear help at hand:

A message inscribed into the bus stop sign, beneath a phone number, reads: ‘Text Bus 4 Times’

I do as instructed.


No response.

For a man whose very existence plays on the desire to bewilder and perplex, I do rather crave clarity. And here it wasn’t.

And it is the cryptic crossword setter’s very nature to direct the mind away from the truth for a brief instant.

Oh dear. Even as I write, I note I have written ‘brief instant’ – tautology at its worst. What else could an instant be? I did overhear recently a tourist at a wildlife park remarking ‘that’s a large elephant’.

I did once think I’d spotted a small elephant. That is, until a friend pointed out that it hadn’t a trunk. And that it squeaked. In my haste I had misidentified, as an elephant, a mouse. So, it was grey. How was I to know?

I digress… again.

I have been given a one-hour slot at the Guardian Open Weekend to talk cryptic crosswords.  March 24, 12.30-1.30 The Guardian offices, Kings Place, London. Do pop by. You can also meet the great Araucaria at the same weekend. He’s 91, extraordinary, fun and lovely, and has better hair than me too.

See you all there I hope. Do come over and say hello.

Best wishes,

John (Paul)



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