Friday, 16 March 2012

Of jumbles and read-ons

On a whim, I said to the child

Here, let me teach you how to do The Hindu crossword.

Y'know, 'cause every self-respecting Tam has to know how to do The Hindu crossword. And only that. Not the TOI one (oo mama). Not the Telegraph (shudder). Not the Deccan Herald one (ugh).

Before you ask, yes, we subscribe to The Hindu. Also the TOI. Our newspaper/magazine subscription story is a long one. I don't want to talk about it now. Suffice to say that we don't seem to have much control over what gets flung on our doorstep (dislodging, in the process, about a kilogram of mosquitoes).

There are few things you are better at than me 

The child tells me, in passing, while skipping a pink coloured skipping rope haltingly. Discussion (calmly now) led to the conclusion that I am better than her at most things (at this point of time). In fact, at all things except swimming. I quickly added a 'at this point of time' tag to it, knowing full well that its untrue. Hanging out with her in the pool today, for example, in five minutes, she had touched the bottom, wormed her way up, hung out upside down in the middle of the lane and criss-crossed me a hundred times. I was clutching the ladder and going 'Cat and Mouse' 'Cat and Mouse' in my head, meanwhile.

I am definitely good at this crossword business, so learn you from me.

I tell her. I learnt some of the stuff that is known in CW folklore, from my dear friend airspy. Yes, despite being a professor, I admit it. Some class time in college was spent by us on this activity. I have spent hours on the damned thing in my younger days, thats for sure. Not all of it in class. Oh yes, before you ask, my parents had The Hindu as well. Mum still does. Of course we drink coffee as well. I missed the centum by a mark or two, if  you must know.

Most people hate math Amma

The child informs me, playing in distracted manner with the sudoku. I should go up in flames at that surely. I tell her thats utter nonsense and its virtually impossible to dislike math. Forget hating it. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. Without numbers, there is nothing, and so what if some rote memorisation of the multiplication table is required? It is only a matter of time before you are fast enough to figure the thing out without memorising, I argue.

Let me help you guys take this one over the line

The husband shows up on the scene with his jargon and his brazen confidence. We forget about math and focus on words now. Sometimes I feel I love words more than numbers. Only sometimes though. I point to the inherent symmetry in the grid, surprising the child, who hasn't noticed it (or, it is not a rule followed in children's crosswords, possibly). There are a lot of anagrams, as usual. "Jumbles" the family chooses to call them. The occasional read-on clue. Really, there is nothing too remarkably clever in the CW. Is it a reflection of the times? The lowering of standards? Or have I become just super good at this.

What is this? Two girls in love before marriage? Super funny Amma

The child says. I choose not to comment on the clue itself, but pencil in the answer. She cracks up big time. She calls her father back to the dining table - the scene of our crimes. "Prema Rita L" do you see, she sniggers. Assuming that he doesn't understand, she goes on to explain. The two girls are Prema and Rita, and love is L. "Prema Rita" she has been going on after that, laughing each time, "What a clue!" Her innocent eyes light up when something makes sense, when I guide her gently to the answer. Its thankful that I know the end-point now, and can walk her to it, and I can almost see the bulb go off in her head.

You are growing up so fast, child

Pretty soon, I will NOT be better than you. At anything. Math, Skipping, Basketball, Crosswords even, perhaps. For years my dad would ask me to help me figure out the CW. I learnt fast and he couldn't catch up with me. He would make a big deal how it made no sense. Truth is, its silly, not the most intellectual of puzzles out there, but it is a lot of fun, once you figure it out. As you surely will, child. Before I know it, you will be really good at all these things... And all grown up... And off to college... And actually knowing what 'premarital' means, and implies.. It is all so scary at times...


Saad Bhamla said...

Off to stanforddddd :)))))

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

what?? nooo way!!!

Space Bar said...

Gosh! It took me a minute to figure that out - she really knows premarital?!


Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

SB - I think she figured it means "Before Marriage" - but I solved the clue not her. So you needn't be speechless unless of course the fact that I know Premarital is speechless-worthy. :-) :-)

dipali said...

Keep up the good work! I'm not regular with The Hindu CW, but it is one of my loves. And I was taught how to solve it by my redoubtable Ma'am.
Sudoku, though, hasn't yet attracted me. The spouse is an addict.