I haven’t delighted you enough recently on this subject, have I? Tick the appropriate box:
Oh, all right. I decided recently (yesterday evening in fact, at about 9.45) that I needed a new hobby. Or any hobby. Collecting things is Out Of The Question. (Yet more stuff? I think not.) Researching things requires long-range effort and concentration. Also OOTQ. (Checking the gin bottle and the tonic stock is as far as I care to go down that road.) Then I remembered that, in my twenties, I occasionally used to compile crosswords.
I’d design my own grids (it took me a while to accept that they had to be symmetrical), fill them in somehow (which got easier when I was given a dictionary for my birthday), and then, the really fun bit, make up the clues. My masterpiece, I vaguely remember, was defined as ‘Workers’ playtime?’, and involved Volkswagens, South African currency and comedy take-offs. (‘BEER AND SKITTLES’, since you ask.)
Nobody ever actually solved these things, of course – that wasn’t the point. (I offered one to a fellow-enthusiast at work once; he didn’t get a single answer.) Nor, I accepted last night, would anyone have a punt at my new ones: apart from anything else, I don’t think I know anybody else who does cryptic crosswords on any regular basis. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)
So, I spent the next two hours researching crossword compilation applications. There are a few out there, but they don’t meet my exacting needs. Actually, all I want is a set of ready-made grids which I can fill in on the computer. If these happen to be standard Guardian grids, so much the better. Ziltch.
So I emailed the Guardian’s crossword editor. (Regular readers may have noticed that I can be a bit obsessive once I’ve snatched at a hook.) To his eternal credit, Hugh replied by return – but the news wasn’t good. Digital versions of their grids aren’t available to the general public. My best plan, he suggested, was to photocopy or download the day’s puzzle from the paper and then use a pencil and a rubber. Fair enough. But I reckon I can do better than that. I feel a highly customised Excel spreadsheet coming on.
Don’t watch this space (or 'light', as we setters call it) though.
Oh, all right – here’s another clue for you all: ‘Harry Potter? (7)’ (Need help? The 5th letter is K.)