For two weeks, there was something wrong with the world. It was like there was yin but no yang — or was there yang but no yin? It’s sometimes too difficult to tell one’s yin from one’s yang.
The day started off just like any other day with Khwezi, our toddler, waking us up at 5.30am, insisting that it’s not night time any more: “It’s half-a-clock, wake up and play.” We tried to convince Khwezi that it was still the middle of the night, and just like every Sunday he wasn’t buying it. We gave up, we played, we ate breakfast and then I went to fetch the Sunday Times — same procedure as last Sunday, Ms Sophie? Same procedure as every Sunday, James!
Then, as is our weekly ritual, I begged, pleaded and bargained with Jean, my Ms Sophie, for some hours of uninterrupted “me time”. I got it, but not until after I’d agreed to do the dishes, make the supper and wipe Khwezi’s bum for the next week.
Still, I reckoned, it was worth it: just me and the Sunday Times. I was going to make a meal of it. I licked my lips at the mouth-watering prospect.
For starters, I helped myself to Hogarth’s Mampara of the Week (come on, who doesn’t?) and then sank my teeth into the news, features and opinion pieces (my main course) and nibbled a bit on a few back-page stories (not too many, otherwise I get indigestion). Then there was the business section to get through. The business section is the Brussels sprouts of the newspaper: It’s good for you and you know you should consume it, but you’d rather hide it in the sofa when no one’s looking.
From business, it was a hop, skip and jump through the sports section and a sprint to dessert in the form of the magazine.
Whenever I pick up the magazine and page through it, the work-related stress that has built up over the week starts to vanish. My body relaxes. I turn to the WH cryptic crossword puzzle and I am at peace with the world.
Two weeks ago I picked up the paper’s new-look magazine. “It’s nice and roomy,” I thought as I flipped through it. That’s odd. I arrived at the end of the magazine and I hadn’t seen the WH. I must have missed it. I paged through it again and again and again … but it wasn’t there. I was overcome with hot flushes. My palms were sweaty and I began hyperventilating — and it wasn’t only because I knew couldn’t get out of Khwezi’s bum duties on a mere no-crossword technicality.
I allowed myself one last sad search through the magazine, but in my heart I knew that it was no use. The WH, it seemed, had become a victim of the revamp.
The Sunday Times without the WH is like a car without brakes, Laural without Hardy, sushi without wasabi, kit without kat and yin without yang.
For two weeks, I walked around in a state of depression.
I wasn’t alone. A reader wrote to Barry Ronge to complain that Barry — a word maestro — hadn’t lifted a finger to stop them (non-cryptic-crossword types) from deflowering the magazine.
Barry wasn’t impressed with us cryptic-crossword junkies. If a politician offered us a choice between freedom of speech and freedom to do a crossword puzzle, which would we choose, he asked. It’s a no-brainer — we’d choose crossword freedom. Barry — and the other thems out there — just don’t get it. The thrill of unlocking a cryptic clue is, well, thrilling. It’s a battle of wits between you and the compiler.
My daily fix is the Business Day‘s cryptic crossword, but the WH has become my First Lady who takes the others for a tough climb (7)**. For six years, I’ve been trying to scale it. I’ve come close, but I’ve never been to the summit.
Now I would never again be given an opportunity to conquer the WH. My lifelong ambition had been snuffed out.
I just wallowed silently in my misery. But my crossword comrades in arms were suffering from a sort of crossword road rage (would that be cross rage?). They weren’t being silent about this injustice. They jammed up the paper’s switchboard, moaning, whinging, whining, complaining, grouching, bitching, arguing and spewing vitriol. It was rolling mass action Under this kind of pressure and to make all the cross words go away, the powers-that-be eventually buckled. On September 16 the puzzle made its way back into the magazine. Yin was united with yang — or was yang united with yin? — and balance was once again restored in the universe.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a crossword that needs summiting. There was some tough negotiating, and I’m on Khwezi backside duty for the rest of the year, but I managed to negotiate a lot of “me” time to train for my Everest. Because you never know when the Sunday Times will cross swords with peaceful crossword lovers again and remove the WH.
** Everest. First Lady (EVE) + Others (REST) for a tough climb