It’s the time of the year when people take on resolutions about changing behaviour, so it’s not inappropriate to consider other behavioural tics. How about superstitions?
I have just completed two puzzles on Christmas Day. For the last several years, I have always finished clueing at least one puzzle on Christmas Day, so now I set about engineering the situation, leaving a puzzle with one clue, usually to a friendly-looking word, that can be polished off quickly.
I do the same for New Year’s Eve – just at the moment (December 27) I have a Telegraph Toughie ripe for completion, which will now be held in a sort of stasis so that I can finish it on the day. I’ll direct my attention to other puzzles which may mean I will have two (or more) finished on that day as well.
I will then grid a puzzle on New Year’s Day, though I won’t start writing its clues (see below). Completing something like a Toughie on New Year’s Eve tends to present the option of its successor for this purpose, though at the moment I already have three puzzle grids straining at the slips.
What else? I don’t like leaving a puzzle with thirteen clues written. Over time that has extended to not leaving a puzzle with thirteen clues to be written. It hasn’t yet extended to Jumbos and multiples of thirteen, but that may be because I’ve only just thought of the possibility. (I have just noticed that I was left with thirteen unpublished Beelzebub crosswords when the series ceased in The Independent on Sunday.)
Once a grid is complete I won’t start on the clues for a few days. Instead I will from time to time take out the freshly-completed grid and look over it, getting a feel for how the entries interact. At least I tell myself that that is what I am doing, but I’m not really sure what I do get out of this practice; it just seems the right thing to do.
The reason I discovered there were thirteen unpublished Beelzebub puzzles is that I have selected the antepenultimate for the puzzle this time round. This provides another unseen puzzle of mine for the Christmas and New Year holiday period. However, before 2018 is out you will have another puzzle of mine: 31 December in The Times. And, no, I didn’t consciously plan it. (Solve the puzzle to find out what ‘it’ is.) The Times also has a Quick Cryptic of mine (that’s using the Pedro pseudonym) on 10 January.