Sandy Balfour writes in his book "Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8)":
A setter can only set the clue. It takes the solver to complete its meanings, and the meanings are different for each of us. The clue itself will have only one answer, but the associations that each solver can bring to that answer are as many and varied as there are solvers.
Most writings about crosswords look at the game from a standpoint of logic. "Pretty Girl In Crimson Rose (8)" stands apart for its philosophical, almost poetic view of cryptic crosswords.
The book isn't absolutely about crosswords. It is about Balfour's life, his relationships, his travels across the world, his sense of exile. He picks up the skill of solving cryptic crosswords along the way, and finds his experiences resonate through clues. Sometimes they reflect the turmoil he is going through, sometimes they trigger memories, sometimes deliver profound lessons.
The story of his life enmeshes with anecdotes about crosswords, and it's creditable that the dual narrative flows without seeming bumpy or forced.
I can see the low blue shapes of the Swartberg mountain range. It seems to me that all there is between us is distance. It is very familiar. I have been here before. I have travelled both ways along this road.
What happens in a reversal is this. Somewhere in the clue there will be an indicator…
Spread across the story are remarkable cryptic clues, some of which have acquired cult status of sorts today. A feeler:
The real reason for the meeting of Volkswagen and Daimler (6, 6)
Archer triumphant as storyteller (11)
You also get to know a bit about crossword setters from the UK, such as the very well-organized catalogue of clues maintained by Rufus, or Pasquale's not-too-high opinion of Araucaria's clueing technique. Conversations with setters are most entertaining, like one in a pub in which Paul and Enigmatist talk in puns.
A very unusual, beautifully written book. For crossword regulars it is one to keep.
Sandy Balfour says:
In this respect I am a good traveller. I can discuss baseball with Americans in much the same way as I can discuss kabadi with the citizens of Bangalore, or cricket with the Australians.
Unfortunately, bringing up kabadi in a conversation with the citizens of Bangalore will only draw blank stares. To bond with people of this city, choose the same sport that you would with the Australians. Talk cricket.
- Puns: When They Work, When They Don't
- The Araucaria Counterweight Book Saver
- New York Times Election Day Crossword
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