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the case for codewords

Crosswords.

Never had much time for them. Apart from the Evening Times to see if I could finish it on a brief underground spin between Buchanan Street and Kelvinbridge.

This was possible with easy-peasy clues such as Consumed (3) and Young newt (3). Ate and eft.

Later in life I took to filling long hours on the sofa (in between matinee movies) tackling cryptic crosswords. It was not a rewarding experience. More mental torture at the hands of deranged compilers.

Not for nothing did the person largely responsible for developing the incomprehensible crossword have the nom de plume Torquemada.

I can live with: Get me a Disney dwarf here in France (5). I got Medoc (Me-Doc) but only after ages trying to work out what Dopey had to do with France.

Many, many clues left me baffled and cheated. And that was after finding out the answer. Try this for size: Regard alike English queen and retired foreign character (6). The answer is equate. I found this by consulting a crossword cheat's website. It is equate from E in English, QU in queen, and ATE from ETA the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet backwards or "retired".

Frankly, life is too short to spend my retirement on the sofa doing the Greek alphabet backwards. I tried so-called general knowledge puzzles where crypticism is not required. Sadly, much of the general knowledge is not particular to me. Another name for the wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera (11). Persian variety of the wild ass, Equus hermionus (6). I couldn't even be bothered to google a wax myrtle.

So (to get to my insubstantial point of the day) I have fallen with enthusiasm and occasional shafts of glee upon the codeword which is a crossword without clues. No torment from a mentally unstable compiler. No need to pursue Persian ass.

Each of the 26 letters of the alphabet is allotted a number. The codeword is a logical mathematical endeavour as well as a linguistic pursuit. You have to study the numerical distribution of the letters and the pattern formed on the grid. Find the letter E first and finally hunt the Z. Often as in ersatz or azalea but sometimes in rhizome. The good news is The Herald's Codebreaker puzzle is one of the more challenging but rewarding of the genre.

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