Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Imaginary Crossword Puzzle Review

As a former member of mensa and card-carrying intellectual (the card has nothing to do with being an intellectual, I just carry it around. It has a picture of a kitten on it), I love puzzles. Sudoku? Never been beaten. Samurai Sudoku? Pah! Stupidly Simple Sudoku, more like! Logic problems? I laugh at them and then steal their girlfriends. Yes, puzzles are class.

And so, I was overcome with excitement when I learned that Dagobar Willis, quite possibly the greatest crossword puzzle compiler in the history of cruciverbalism, had created a new crossword. This 106-clue grid, his first in nearly seven years, was going to be more than just a puzzle; it would be an event.

Imagine the anticipation in my trousers when I sat down to enjoy this momentous problem. It was immense. I was not let down, either, with an excellent clue at 1-across: “Bird of Prey (5)”. A true Dagobar clue, if ever there was one! Look at the succinctness, the brevity, the sheer joy in those three words! If he carried on like this, I thought, this would be one of the greatest puzzles in the history of puzzles!

But, I’m sorry to say, my breathless exhilaration had subsided by the time I came to 23-across. The clues that followed the first were all more moribund and lacklustre than the previous. And then 23-across itself – “Mental case? (5)” – was the epitome of predictability and, therefore, disappointment. Where was the love? Where was the Joie de Vivre that permeated Dagobar’s classic clues, such as his famed 46-down from the crossword in the November 17th, 1992 New York Times (“Minelli of Cabaret, (4)”)? None of it seemed to be here.

Sadness welled in my heart as I continued to complete the crossword. Had Dagobar lost his amazing ability in these years of enforced hermitage in the sewers of Paris? Was this the swansong of a tragic, once-great clue compiler? Sure, it was possible to see signs of greatness in some of his clues (like 36 down: “Baby goose (7)”), but I was moved to think of the sad demise of the Rolling Stones, whose albums since the early 80s have all been shadows of the band’s former glory. A good song here and there, maybe a great one every few years, and like Jagger et al, Willis seemed to have fallen into mediocrity.

I am sad to say that things did not improve as I came closer and closer to finishing the crossword. I hoped that with each filled-in answer I would unearth some beautiful ideal clue, hoping against hope that Willis was testing his true fans to see if they would persevere. But no, the crossword got worse and worse, and my own mood matched it, such was my disappointment at this wasted opportunity, this travesty, this former genius spitting at his own memory like a blind man spitting at his own seeing-eye dog.

It is with great guilt that I admit to giving in to my anger and deliberately filling in swear words at the final few clues instead of the intended answers. “Fruit (4)” became ‘Arse’, while one five-letter answer became a string of profanity so long that I had to write letters about a millimetre in height to fit them all in the spaces. I can no longer read them, nor remember what they said, which is probably a good thing because if I reprinted the filth here, I could be condemned by the Pope as immoral.

In summary, then, this crossword was “Something flushed down a toilet or wiped off one’s arse (4)".

Dagobar Willis’s new crossword can be found inside all good publications, and some bad ones, like the Ottawa Citizen and Now Toronto Magazine. Answers will appear in the next issue. Due to a printing error, tomorrow's New York Times crossword will be full of sand.


Red said...

What a disappointment.

And Sudoku is for Class A Morons.

Anonymous said...

I like the "find the word and circle it" puzzles. I don't ever find the words - I just like drawing circles. Now, wait, what were you saying?

Erin Alberty said...

I like the grid-and-story logic puzzles best of all.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Red: Then I guess I'm a class A moron.

Suze: Spirograph: that's for you. I could draw spirograph circles all day.

Erin: Future Mrs Imaginary Reviewer is great at these, but I'm terrible at them. I actually reviewed a book of them in the summer of 2007; it should be in the archives!

BeckEye said...

I'll bet "epee" was one of the word answers somewhere in that puzzle.

Frenchman's sword (4)

Feisty Democrat said...

Ha, red can't do Sudokus! Awesome!

It figures a piece of crap newspaper like Toronto Now would have this crossword puzzle.

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