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The Saturday Miscellany: How to do the cryptic crossword; football phrases; David Bowie


How to: Do the cryptic

By Oscar Quine

Furious with Peruvian ancestry (12)? Well pick up a pen: ’tis the season to tackle that cryptic crossword head-on. Use these three tips from Alan Connor, author of ‘Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7)’, a how to guide for the budding solver:

"Cross-examine each word in the clue. A ‘flower’ may well be a river, and a ‘wicked thing’ is probably a candle. If you think you understand a cryptic clue on first reading, you’ve likely been hoodwinked."

"And remember the battle is unfair. But this is good news: it's weighted in your favour. The cryptic setter wants to lose: partly through a sense of fair play; partly to avoid their boss receiving hundreds of letters of complaint."

"Solve with a loved one. The solitary commuter with furrowed brow is a poor ambassador for crosswording. Share the delights of wordplay. Take your time, under a blanket on the sofa."

Rotating column: Team talk

By Larry Ryan

I like to talk about my clothes as if they are a football team. Wearing different shirts is squad rotating. Choosing what to take on holiday is like picking a World Cup squad: the black jeans have made it on the plane.

For me, there is a distinct joy in using football phrases and clichés on the playing fields of everyday life – as opposed to when talking about football: that’s torrid.

Recently, at a wedding, I described it as having a cup-tie atmosphere. Alas the person I was speaking to was not a football watcher and responded with confused silence.

At work, if a colleague responds aggressively to a situation, I note they’ve come in with a two-footed tackle.

After a long spell in charge, I should probably change the formation of my phrases, lest things turn stale, but for now, I have the backing of the board.

(Larry Ryan has the full backing of the board – ED )

Micro extract: Quitting talk

"Kiplagat would prefer to have a job that would allow him to continue training, but he is content to stop running tomorrow if someone offers him a decent living."

From ‘The Sports Gene’ by David Epstein (£8.99 Yellow Jersey)

Four play: Things from Iowa*

1. Herbert Hoover

2. The world’s largest truck stop

3. Bill Bryson

4. Deep-fried butter on a stick

*Iowa became 29th US state, this day 1846