Cryptic transports

Photo by Jem Stone, 2005, Victoria Station

Guardian marketing at Victoria station, 2005; photo by Jem Stone on Flickr

I was rather pleased when the Guardian released an app (for Android!) for its crosswords last year. One thing I particularly liked was that it timed how long it took to complete each puzzle and I discovered that the Quick Crossword usually takes me between 3 and 5 minutes, and the Cryptic between 15 and 20 (perhaps as little as 7 minutes for Rufus on a Monday and over half an hour for a knotty Gordius).

And so I got into a pleasant routine on my daily commute to and from work. In the morning, I would start with the Quick and move on to the Cryptic, usually finishing both before arriving at Liverpool St station. On the way home, I picked up the now-free Evening Standard and got to work on its puzzle page, often managing to complete cryptic crossword, codeword, scrabble (now replaced) etc (even the sudoku if everything else was complete) before getting in to my home station in the evening.

But then, earlier this year, the Guardian stopped supplying its app with crosswords – it wasn’t profitable for them, I suppose, which is a shame. It left a significant hole in my journey. Metro is no use because it doesn’t have a crossword on its puzzle page. So, instead, I turned (back) to reading.

We subscribe to various magazines at home: my favourites are Cabinet and the New Yorker. But for Christmas this year, Sophie got me a subscription to Granta, which is proving to be just lovely. New writing, new(ish) writers, short texts, fiction and non-: ideal for my commute. The latest issue, of the best British novelists, has been entertaining, although I would rather have had more new short stories than the seemingly standard excerpts from forthcoming novels. This issue followed ‘Betrayal’ and ‘Medicine’ – two themed issues, which is more the standard Granta fare.

And what I have noticed most is that I now tend to arrive at my workplace in a bit of a strange state. These stories have transported me to another world. It means I come in to my building and go up in the lift to the 8th floor and sit at my desk in something of a daze, feeling not quite in the right place, a testament to the quality of writing if ever there was one. I hope that my writing could one day move someone like that, whether they are commuting or not.

I still do the Evening Standard‘s puzzles on the way home each night – but perhaps that will give way as my backlog of reading material starts to stack up!