The evening sun slanted through the window inscribing a triangle of golden light across my newspaper. I was struggling with the final clue on the simplex crossword, and this was war! I don’t mind failing the Crosaire, but I’m in a foul mood if I can’t finish the Simplex by the end of the day.
“To make someone a saint.” Eight letters. I thought it was “Sanctify” this morning. First clue and I was so sure I had it right. I scan the crossword quickly when I pick up the paper in the morning, read all the clues, allow them to percolate slowly into my brain. I jot down any obvious answers.
The real challenge comes at lunchtime. There is the race to finish the Simplex and see if I can crack open the Crosaire, the real brain buster. If I fail at lunchtime then I sneak in to the local on the way home and try to nail it before dinnertime.
There is a rule at home you see. Born of the experience of sitting in silence, watching me wrestle with one problem after another, my wife brought out the big guns. Once I get home the Irish Times becomes a newspaper and only a newspaper. No crosswords, no puzzles, no Sudoku.
So I face this unfair challenge to complete before I return home. The challenge sometimes drives me to the local for a drop of golden sunshine in a glass, a Powers Gold Label. Another family habit passed down to me, father to son, like the crossword. It drove my mother insane too, but my father boxed clever. He told her it was an education in the English language, a way to understand words better and a tool for expanding my vocabulary.
So, part of my evening homework was to sit with my father, puzzling out the clues, as he sipped on his glass of Powers.
My oldest child is only five. When can I decently roll out my dad’s plan? I figure three, maybe four more years. But until then what can it be but “sanctify” which does not fit? The laptop beside me knows the answer. A matter of seconds to look it up, but that would be cheating. “You may cheat others but you can’t cheat yourself” my dad always said.
The phone rings in my pocket. “Hi honey” I answer, “I’m just leaving the office, should be home by six. Would you like me to pick up anything on the way home? Bread, milk, bottle of plonk?”
“Who canonised you? Go on then, but no Chardonnay.”
C-A-N-O-N-I-S-E. And I didn’t cheat!