To make a start, during the month one had a meal

To make a start, during the month one had a meal

Crosaire himself

When the Irish Times ceased charging for access to their on-line edition the first question on everyone's lips was: What about the crossword? And they didn't mean the Simplex.

As we know, the Simplex is a mere trivia and vocabulary test, pleasing in its own gentle way of course but no more challenging than a word jumble or game of hangman. It shouldn't take any longer to fill in than your motor tax form.

But when people speak of 'THE' crossword they are referring to Crosaire, Irish for crossroads and pseudonym of Derek Crozier who has set the darn thing since 1947.

The reclusive Mr Crozier (now 91 by my reckoning) has lived in Zimbabwe since the 1940's and is a retired teacher, though he was a tobacco farmer in the 1960's.

It takes him about four hours to set each puzzle, and any regular 'attempter' should agree that the quality is remarkably consistent. Rather than trust them to the vagaries of the Zimbabwean postal service, the crosswords are sporadically transported by hand in bulk lots, thanks to various travellers returning from Africa to the Emerald Isle.

Very occasionally (perhaps every 15 years or so) the Times sees fit to print a quarter page glossary of Crosaire conventions. I still have a folded yellow page from 1989 with juicy hints about N.I., inst. and e'er, which I preserved at the urging of my father who always regretted not clipping the last one he saw back in 1965.

These days, alas any fool can pick up these rare gems as they are dispensed willy-nilly to the dilettante masses on Wikipedia. I only wish I had a cheat sheet for the Guardian's Araucaria.

Needless to say, now that you can actually buy the answers, the social cachet that came with completing the puzzle has vanished utterly.

Myles Na gCopaleen would have been disgusted. He wrote a hilarious article about picking up an early edition on Saturday morning, struggling with Crosaire for 15 straight hours, only to claim at the golf game that evening that he had been too busy to even look at it.

It lead to something like the following irritating exchange

-(Golf Chap, scratching his head) 'To make a start, during the month one had a meal.'

-(Our Friend, looking casually into the distance) Hmm, would it be 'Innovate' by any chance…?

Memo to self: I must get back my copy of The Crushkeen Lawn.

You can print out both of today's I.T. crosswords by clicking here.

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