Becoming a Cryptic Crossword Setter – The Ninth Prune Stone

Becoming  a cryptic crossword setter – the ninth prune stone.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief.

Or none of the above.

The prune-stone counting game. However many prunes one had eaten, that was to determine one’s career. As a child, in despair I would search through the dregs of my prune-juice-enhanced custard. No ninth stone.

I’d wanted to be the ninth prune stone all my childhood.

*Dear readers, for the rest of this article, for ‘genius’ read ‘drama queen’.

I was a genius. Evidently too talented to play the role of hierarchal rung in ‘society’, too precious to work a supermarket till.  The world owed me, my being a gift to the world.

How dare my mother suggest I work in a bank, when I was touched by a higher power. Worse still, I was even ‘made’ to work as a journalist (shudder).

How dare you, dear reader, suggest I was a nasty smug brat. How very dare you.

And, quite frankly, I was somewhat disappointed in the education I was getting from a school in which my teacher once spelt ski-ing ‘sking’ – I wasn’t having the other poor children grow up thinking ‘ski-ing’ was spelt ‘sking’.  I demanded the teacher look it up in the dictionary there and then. Teacher 0 Smug Brat 1.

Demotion from O level to CSE French for broadcasting the fact that my French teacher’s wife was ugly, was surely unjustified.  Similarly I was relegated to set 3 in maths for suggesting Mrs Stent should be sacked for thinking 3 feet squared was unequal to 3 square feet. Who employs these idiots?

And when attending college, why should I show up to lectures  anyway?  Lecturers seemed to think they knew better than me and chances are I’d end up working for someone at the end of it all. And they’d tell me what to do. Who the hell did they think they were telling me what to do?  I was a genius.

In fact, as a child, my parents had told me what to do, and that was bad enough. Just tidying my bedroom denied my brilliant creativity.

And now I am the ninth prune stone, and I torture people for a living.  I create problems for others, and no one tells me what to do.

A while back I introduced myself to a fellow train passenger who I’d spotted tackling the Guardian cryptic crossword. The man simply uttered the words ‘I hate you’, stepped away from me, and alighted from the train.

What is there to hate?  It’s so unfair.

I am a genius. I am the ninth prune stone – love me!

Best wishes,

John (Paul)


3 responses to “Becoming a Cryptic Crossword Setter – The Ninth Prune Stone

  1. So, that’s about the last frenchman inside – a thief. (3,5,5,5) Enjoy the run! Nothing like a marathon to clear the head.

    So = the/n
    that’s = i….e
    the last = nth
    frenchman = un
    (in)side = pr(..)eston

  2. Can you please tell me how to become one of you? ie a cryptic setter?

    • Jan, thanks so much for your email. Such a long story! In my case it was thouands of hours of work, but I’m sure there are other ways! Send a puzzle on a grid thatnewspaper uses, using Crossword Compiler format, to the crossword editor of that paper, by email. After many rewrites! Good luck!


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