Crossword blog: the next dimension

With long periods indoors ahead, many of us have been stocking up on crosswords. Not panic-buying, that would be irresponsible; just … making sure we won’t run out.

We’ve looked here before at an annual collection that includes a lot of work from Guardian setters. This year, the setters in question are Arachne, Enigmatist, Imogen, Nutmeg, Pasquale, Puck, Qaos, Tramp and Vlad. The collection comes in the form of a calendar, the profits go to RNIB and Children in Need and, well … the puzzles are in three dimensions.

A section of a 3D crossword
A section of a 3D crossword

Some clues are entered “across”, from left to right, as normal; others go “away” from you and the rest really do go “down”.

I was initially daunted by the idea of a third dimension, and it is good to hear that I am not alone. Nutmeg tells us that she would be unable to get her head around the grid construction, but the labour is divided so that those who prefer working at the level of clue are able to do so. Of course, just as crossing letters help the solver in a normal puzzle, these 3D ones make sense and can be very friendly once you get going. Think “engrossing”, not “impossible”. Grid designer Bozzy tells us that the process should go like this: “Your brain will freeze, your eyes will cross, and then comes the lightbulb moment that is so rewarding”.

Likewise, Pasquale says: “I am always impressed by the collaborators who have done so much hard work to give me a pile of words and phrases to clue on a plate. Tramp tells us that he received a grid based on a theme “of which I knew virtually nothing”. “One of the solutions I had to clue,” he adds, “has 14 letters and, at first sight, seemed like the hardest word I’ve ever had to clue.” Nevertheless, he persisted … and succeeded.

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As usual, there is an extra-bonkers twist: this year, a 13th puzzle which involves a sphere. Or rather, two spheres. To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Guardian nabob Araucaria, we have a puzzle with one column and a pair of spheres, representing “100”. Having followed these puzzles for some years, I was not in the least surprised to discover they were designed by Sirius, AKA Eric Westbrook, the registered-blind innovator who founded the enterprise. The clues are from Enigmatist and the tribute is there in clues and entries as well as its … unusual shape.

The puzzles can be ordered in paper or digital from the 3D Calendar Puzzles site.

Finally for now, our next offering of Healing Music Recorded in 2020 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to comes from the co-founder of Hothouse Flowers, Fiachna Ó Braonáin …

… and is a cover of the Waterboys’ This is the Sea. Stay safe, all.


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