I wrote yesterday about Oddie’s propensity for sitting on my chair. This means I get a liberal sprinkling of short white hairs forming an extra cushion. And they are definitely not mine. Matthew, on contemplating this phenomenon, enlightened me as to the origin of the phrase ‘the hair of the dog’, indicating the cure for a hangover allegedly being a further drink in the morning. The full sentence should be ‘the hair of the dog that bit me’, that came from the mediaeval belief that the application of the hair of a rabid dog that had bitten someone would cure them of the disease that had been passed on by the biter. Mat was inclined to think that anyone who did try this was only likely to get bitten again.
For something like two years in the early 1990s I worked on producing a 3D 15×15 cryptic crossword. Mike Kindred and I had been commissioned to set one. As he is the half of our partnership best able to tackle the construction of the grid I left that to Mike. What he created was forty five interlocking grids in our pre-computerised existence. All I had to do was put the words in and write the clues. I had to ensure that each word could be read as if running through a cube. This involved hand-drawn grids on huge sheets of paper. The black squares were comparatively easy. Those that required the entry of letters had to be large enough to contain various options, and I had constantly to check that what I wanted to put in one grid would appear in the right places in interlocking ones. The eraser was an essential tool. If I have lost you in the technicalities of this, imagine what it did to my head, as I spread my working sheets across the tables in the trains from Newark to Kings Cross; or on the floor or desk at home. I also had to find room for lots of dictionaries from which to find words that would fit.
Eventually my task was complete. Following the generally accepted grid construction rules requiring a fair distribution of letters and black squares, it was the first ever 3D crossword which didn’t have too many rows of blank spaces. Someone then had to be found to write the computer programme that would reproduce this original work. We wouldn’t have started on this mammoth venture had we not been assured this would be forthcoming. A disappointment was, however, in store. This would cost £25,000, beyond the means of the man who had presented us with the project. It never saw the light of day.
Whilst I was sitting in my study in Newark, probably speaking to Mike about current progress, Becky, camera in hand, stuck her head round the door and took photograph number 13 in the ‘through the ages’ serious.
After a salad meal this evening, with which Tess and I drank Reserve de la Saurine 2011 and the others abstained, we played Bargain Hunt. This is Mat and Tess’s game based on watching the television programme. We each estimated what items might fetch at auction. Mat kept the score.