A Life in Crosswords

The first time I managed to complete the crossword in The Observer some thirty years ago, I posted it off, convinced that I would win the £6 book token that was then the prize. I didn’t. As the entries continued, and the prize still didn’t come to me, I reckoned I had probably spent around £6 in stamps. Still, it was joy of the thing.
I was working in one of London’s rougher schools and spending a few minutes at lunchtime on Monday with fellow devotees Claire and Heather solving the more demanding clues was a great motivation to go in.
At a Spanish evening class, I listened incredulously and not a little enviously to a woman who had won the prize twice, and on the only occasion she had entered the Sunday Express Prize Crossword competition, she had won that too.
The Observer went off. It had been my favourite newspaper, but it was tired and there was too much lazy journalism. I switched to the Independent on Sunday, or the Sindie as it is known. I continued my crossword habits. The first prize was a Mont Blanc fountain pen. When I left that school, the staff gave me a black Mont Blanc fountain pen.
One day a parcel arrived for me. Inside was a copy of the Oxford Concise English Dictionary. The runner-up’s prize. I glowed with pride.
Sundays began to get busy and I switched my weekend paper habits to Saturdays. I had a Telegraph addiction. The general knowledge crossword replaced the cryptic in my affections, though I did both. Each week I faithfully sent off my grids. I never won.
When the Telegraph, aka the Torygraph, became too slavishly adoring of all things Cameron, a man who incites little or no admiration in my breast, I switched to the Indie and occasionally the Guardian. Gradually the Guardian pulled ahead.
I settled down to the crossword, finding it a great deal more demanding than the Telegraph. Quite often I don’t finish it. Some weeks I can barely start it. I send my entries in dutifully with little expectation of winning.
When I got home this evening there was a parcel waiting for me. Inside were two books and a note of congratulations.
Finally, I have won first prize in a crossword competition.
Maybe I should have another crack at the Observer. At my current rate of success, I reckon I might be a winner in around 2028.


18 thoughts on “A Life in Crosswords

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