I wrote the cryptic crossword tutorial on this website because a friend was in a tough situation and there was nothing I could do.
This friend is an aid worker who has dedicated her professional life to alleviating the suffering of others, primarily through the prevention of starvation and malnutrition. She works in countries that have been wrenched apart by war and natural disaster.
She works extremely long hours under difficult conditions and she is often lonely. When she is, there is very little I can do to help and that breaks my heart.
When I am lonely, distraction helps and as you know from the contents of this website, I find cryptic crosswords to be a wonderful distraction. I could not give my friend a hug or make her dinner but perhaps I could distract her from her loneliness, I reasoned. Perhaps I could show her the hidden door that leads into the magically complex world of cryptics, and in so doing, give her some respite from the world around her. I wrote her a guide to solving cryptic crosswords. And, to make the process as engaging as possible, I wrote her a personalized puzzle, with clues and answers designed especially for her.
When I write, I am alone. I'm physically alone in a quiet room but I'm also alone in my thoughts. Sometimes I become so absorbed in the text that I literally do not hear anything, including the sound of my husband's voice if he walks in and asks me a question. It's a solitary exercise, writing, from the first sentence I type out on the screen to the moment I hit "send" on the email to my editor.
So I'm always a little amazed when an acquaintance calls up to say she stumbled across a piece of mine in a magazine and enjoyed it. It seems magical somehow that a piece I wrote in such solitude has made its way out into the busy, bustling world and has a life of its own, interacting with people that I have never met and probably never will.
From time to time, when I'm solving a puzzle, a word comes to mind that fits the pattern of letters and blanks in the grid, and satisfies the definition portion of the clue. Technically, I've got the answer. But unless I figure out the riddle, I am not satisfied: the rush that comes from cracking the setter's code evades me.
I'm a writer, explorer, amateur setter of cryptic crosswords, and new mom.