Are you a cruciverbalist? It’s a rather fine word for someone who enjoys solving crosswords. Anne and I both enjoy them, Anne from her background as a language scholar and teacher, and me from a background in computer programming, where the different languages, in common with spoken languages, each have their own vocabulary, syntax and grammar.
The Sydney Morning Herald crosswords keep us amused each day – we like to solve the Quick over morning tea and the Cryptic after lunch – a collaborative effort for us as we reckon that two brains are better than one, especially for DA’s fiendishly mind-warping puzzles on Fridays.
And then there is the Omega general knowledge crossword on Mondays, which requires familiarity with sports, art and popular culture, mainly Australian. Solving it is a great way for newcomers to learn something of Australian history. Sample clues are “Children’s TV series with fruit dressed in stripy night attire (7,3,7)” – that’s Bananas in Pyjamas (we knew that one) and “Winner of the Women’s 80m hurdles at the Melbourne Olympics (7,10)” – that’s Shirley Strickland (we had to look that one up).
Imagine our surprise when in this week’s Omega the clue for 23 Across was “They are said in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount to be the children of God (3,11).” Answer, of course, The Peacemakers. Now that’s a bit creepy, and reminiscent of an incident in World War II, in the build up to the D-Day landings on the coast of northern France.
A cruciverbalist who was one of the few civil servants in the know and also an avid completer of the crossword in “The Daily Telegraph” noticed that, over a period of weeks, there was an alarming number of answers which were code words for key elements of the D-Day landings – Utah, Omaha, Juno, Pluto and so-on. This was suspicious. Was a German spy trying to communicate with their homeland? After an investigation, it was decided that the appearance of these key words was no more than a co-incidence and that taking any action could well prove counter-productive.
Back to this week’s Omega crossword. Does someone at the SMH have the best interests of MW Choir at heart? Are they warming up Sydney for the release of Kerry’s magnificant publicity machine next week, complete with posters, postcards and press material persuading everyone to attend our May concert?
It would be nice to think so, but deep down I have a suspicion that it is just another of those delightful occasional co-incidences which brighten up our lives from time to time.