Soggy puzzles in Archimedes style

Memorable extracts from an article by Edmund Akenhead, former Crossword Editor, Saturday, January 5th 1980

Some may solve Times crosswords in the kitchen, using them as egg-timers, while others tackle them on the train, on the way to work. One former champion used to solve them in the wings between stage appearances, while another was wont to use them as soporifics ‒ solving them in his customary few minutes before going to sleep at night. It would however have required the services of the late George Formby, in his window-cleaner’s role, to discover the secret of one lady solver who confessed that it was her custom to do The Times crossword in her bath.

So temptingly sybaritic a notion may well catch on (opening up a whole new market for crosswords printed on celluloid and chinagraph pencils that can write under water) and though it may be premature to speculate on the possibility of requiring crossword championship finalists to solve their puzzles while reclining in baths of asses’ milk (which should excite the media more than somewhat) a few suggestions to any readers toying with the idea of adopting such a change in life-style may not come amiss.

Ladies who have recently married husbands named George Joseph Smith should naturally keep their wits about them whatever they may be doing in their baths. Other puzzlers are advised to ask their psycho-analysts to ensure that they show no signs of the dangerous Archimedes Complex which would compel them to jump out of their baths and streak down the street crying “Eureka” (or if they are classical scholars, “Heureka”) whenever they solved a particularly tricky anagram. It would also be sensible of course to instruct the butler on no account to admit any visitor giving the name of Corday until five minutes after the water had been heard gurgling away down the drainpipe.

Fifty years ago the very first Times crosswords were being compiled to appear first in The Times Weekly Edition and a little later in the daily edition with The Times crossword Puzzle No 1 appearing on February 1, 1930, so that the crossword on February 1, 1980, which will be by the same hand which compiled the first Times crossword, will be in celebration of the crossword’s Golden Jubilee. Penguin Books are publishing The Penguin Book of The Times 50th Anniversary Crosswords at the same time, giving the puzzles of February 1, 1930 and February 1, 1980 and one puzzle from the intervening years, chosen from February in each case, except 1979 when the puzzle chosen did not appear until December 14. The book will also include much of the early and the later history of The Times crossword.

Note: The contents of this book are available on this website minus the history, which can be found in the later edition by Harper Collins entitled 75 Years of The Times Crossword – DA