Saturday 24 September 2016

Three Urban Legends about Crosswords.

My grandmother did the Times crossword daily. One day she occupied a train journey by looking at the crossword. She worked out the answers in her head, and five minutes before the train reached her stop, she rapidly wrote them in. The young man opposite assumed she had just done the Times cryptic crossword in five minutes. With an expression of awe, he took down her suitcase from the rack and opened the door for her.

According to actors who worked with him, in rehearsals, John Gielgud used to sit and do the Times crossword when offstage. One day he left the paper behind and a younger actor ran after him with it – “Your Times, Sir John!”. But, he reported to the rest of the cast, Sir John had just filled in words that fitted – they had nothing to do with the clues.

Recently a friend told me a similar story: he claimed that he sat on the train to work pretending to do the Times crossword, just filling in words that fitted. But one day just as he was getting off, a man called out “What’s nine down?”.

(You’d need to be pretty clever to fill a crossword grid with words that fitted together.)

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