Mind Workout

© Mary Ratcliffe, 2021

My new hobby might actually be good for me, my work and my clients

The dark cloud of Covid-19 and the lockdown in spring 2020 had a silver lining for me in one particular way. Living alone and chatting on the phone or video calls was good but we soon ran out of news and gossip. Some people started doing family zoom quizzes but I’m not that keen on general knowledge, music, sport, history and all that stuff. You either know it or you don’t, and usually, I don’t.

Cryptic crosswords seemed to be a much better idea. I remembered a few of the techniques from years ago and a book with the answers at the back meant that I could reverse-engineer from the solution to remember or learn some more techniques. I like the satisfaction of working things out for myself and working with someone else so that, together, we can solve ever trickier clues.

It became addictive, compelling and fun. We got better and quicker. As we progressed, some of the clues just started to seem too easy and that felt unsatisfying, so we upgraded with more challenging puzzle books.

After a few weeks, my lockdown brain fog seemed to be starting to clear a bit. I felt more ‘on form’, more alert and engaged and I found my memory seemed to be improving.

Away from the crossword book, I started finding things that gave me more than the obvious meaning. Once, listening to the radio, I heard someone say ‘This is not a drill!!’ I think it was in relation to the pandemic and I thought at the time that I knew the message the speaker was giving. Searching online for a definition, I found my theory confirmed. It described a way of drawing attention to the importance of what’s being said.

But then another meaning came to me. I found myself thinking of it more literally and less like an expression. I started imagining screw-drivers, hammers and saws.

I think that’s where I first started seeing the potential of my new hobby.

We learn best when we’re having fun. I’m more likely to go to a dance class than spend an hour at the gym because I so enjoy dancing, but my fitness still improves as much as if I’d spent that time feeling bored on the exercise bike, the rower and the stepping machine. As the best exercise is the one we actually do, finding one of my favourite new hobbies might actually be good for me and my clients as well was such a bonus.

Lots of parallels between my hobby and LCH

Many of the clues are solved by looking beyond the obvious, by looking deeper into the words and seeing what other meanings could be hidden behind the initial first impression. Isn’t this so LCH?!

Lots of plot-twists or red-herrings trip up the newcomer to the cryptic crossword in the same way that the initial sensitising incident can mislead someone not yet appropriately informed by LCH training.


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mratcliffe has written 48 articles