Thursday, September 14, 2006


So I mentioned cryptic crosswords yesterday and I'm going to mention them again today. I promise it won't become a habit. It's just that in today's Guardian there's a clue that sums up why I like them. Actually, there are a couple. It's set by Orlando who I like generally but who was on sparkling form today.

18 Down is worthy of mention because Cast, cast or cast (6) is just ridiculously elegant and concise. The answer is Actors. It's probably a classic that occurs from time to time, but maybe I'm doing Orlando a disservice. I don't know enough to say for sure but in any case, it's smart.

But it was 11 Across that I thought was so special today.
Top man, by not retiring, starts to lack authority, increasing resentments. (4,5)
So... Top man is the whole thing, if this was a regular crossword, that's all you'd get.
By not retiring means that the letters in 'by not' are retiring... or reversed, so B,Y,N,O and T, becomes T-O-N-Y-B.
Starts to tells you to take the starts - or first letters - from the next words. So Lack Authority Increasing Resentment gives L-A-I-R.
Run the letters together and you get Tony Blair who is, for now at least, the country's top man.

Every word is there for a reason. It builds up to make a fair cryptic crossword answer but also makes sense as a whole in a way that it doesn't have to because yes, by not retiring, Tony Blair is losing his authority and resentments are increasing. That's the thing with cryptic crosswords... it's a little bit of poetry hiding in the corner of your newspaper.

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