For more than 25 years, two crossword puzzles appeared in every issue of Good Times, a standard puzzle and a cryptic, both created by Chris Johnson—until the September issue, when the cryptic vanished as a result of Chris’s retirement. I began receiving e-mails the same day readers began getting the magazine, and all of the e-mails were from fans of the cryptic puzzle who were suddenly not fans of Murray. The next day, as the flow of pro-cryptic e-mail continued, Canada Post’s representatives began weighing my desk down with
The influx of complaint didn’t surprise me. People who enjoy cryptic crosswords really like cryptic crosswords. I know how they feel, though I’m devoted to regular crosswords—cryptics make me feel inadequate. I’ve never been able to get my head around them, which I find frustrating. One of my favourite fictional sleuths, Detective Chief Inspector Morse, not only solved them with ease but created them (baffling his sergeant, whose name, by complete coincidence—I think—was Lewis). Yet I squirm helplessly before them. Very depressing. I know—in principle—how they work, but they remain puzzling peaks I’ve yet to scale. I was ridiculously pleased with myself a few months ago when I dared to scan a cryptic in the weekend paper and actually figured out the first clue I read. I didn’t get even one of the clues I squinted at after that one, but what the heck...the longest journey begins with a single step (as Lao Tzu reminded us so long ago). I suspect that my retirement will be spent sneaking peeks at cryptics now and then in vain efforts to make my brain understand their mysterious ways.
Despite my frustration, however, the devotion of the cryptic puzzler is no puzzle. I nearly endured psychic meltdown (just ask my son and his girlfriend) the day the solution to the Friday crossword revealed a message declaring that the crossword in The New York Times was being discontinued due to budget cuts. It was, of course, an April Fool’s Day joke—a fact to which I would have twigged more quickly had my local paper run the puzzle on April 1 instead of sometime in May. So I do understand, and while I was already thinking about bringing the cryptic back somehow, it was your letters that settled the matter. And it was a reader who came to our rescue with the straightforward suggestion that Chris might have some puzzles we could publish without forcing him to unretire. I asked, Chris agreed, and as a result, you will find on page 62 the return of Chris’s Cryptic.
The moral of the Tale of the Missing Cryptic is this: if you feel strongly about something that appears (or doesn’t) in a magazine—or in a newspaper or on television—an e-mail or letter can change things. It won’t always, but it can. It’s said in publishing that one letter represents a thousand people who didn’t write. Several letters of complaint, therefore, signify several thousand unhappy readers. Another important point here is that letters from readers often contain very good ideas—the sort of idea that can save an editor wise enough to listen.
Thanks to everyone who wrote to yell at me. Please keep it up—you’ll make me a better editor.