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.
Since then, there have been others. I set one for a very close friend for his birthday. I set one for my husband's aunt and uncle, whom I adore. I recently delivered two as wedding presents for good friends. Each puzzle is accompanied by a copy of that early tutorial I wrote.
It might seem like an odd gift. Maybe even a mean one? After all, I'm essentially offering someone a present they can't open, at least not yet.
But because the recipients know me so well, they know that what I am really giving them isn't a black-and-white grid; it's a keyhold into something I find extraordinary. As a friend recently said, when you create a puzzle for someone, it's like you share a secret. And that's exactly what I wanted to give to these people I love.
Within two days, despite her ridiculous schedule, she had taught herself the rules and solved the entire thing. Turns out, she feels helpless when I'm in need, too.