Last time I was noting how marvellous it was to be able to sit outdoors and have a meal in the New Zealand winter. Today it would be a foolhardy person who even stuck their head out of the door – back to the winter storm cycle. The actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in Wellington to complete his series for Apple TV, is said to be considering moving here permanently; today is definitely one for the debit column.
I did say I would look back at puzzles of the previous century, and I’ve opened the battered box that contains those from 1996. It’s not a year I’ve looked at previously, I think, so there should be no risk of accidentally duplicating a previous choice. I’ve selected an Independent daily puzzle from March of that year as this week’s puzzle.
In typing it up, I found myself deleting exclamation marks from several clues. The exuberance of my 36-year-old self! (Note the use of ironical punctuation.) The use of the screamer is certainly frowned upon. The ones I removed were from clues where the wording suggested something outrageous was being said. But the wording did that – there was no need for a ‘!’ to nudge the solver with a metaphorical elbow.
In one case, the wording didn’t even justify it. That particular clue was an example of an ‘& lit.’ and I have seen comments linked to American cryptic puzzles which suggest that an exclamation mark is a hint to the solver that something &-litty is going on. But if it’s a good clue it still shouldn’t need it.
There is a screamer in the notes to the 1996 puzzle, marking a reference to an exclamation. That seems to be the time you can use one – lo! ah! ugh! and so on – though often it’s disregarded. In terms of wordplay it can be quite hard to manoeuvre the interjection to the end of the clue so the exclamation mark blends in. We’ll have to see what we find as we explore the rest of the box.
I have finally come to the attention of the vaccination brigade – two text messages, an email and a letter, all within three days last week. Marjorie is most put out that she only got the one text message… Still, they seem to be keen to jab my arm, yes?
So ho! to the website to book, only to find there were no appointments within 75km for the next few weeks. But there’s a phone line, about which there have been discouraging comments citing two-hour waits. We get straight through. First jab at the end of the month, follow-up three weeks later: sorted. Except I then found that there are appointments going begging most days in Wellington – close to a walk-in service, say colleagues taking advantage of it. Last time I checked, that was well within 75km of here. There again, I have sufficient experience of the interaction between Government and technology not to be entirely surprised.
The usual Independent puzzle next Friday, and I’ll be back with an update the following weekend. Just in case I don’t get round to it promptly, I’ll note that there’s a Times Quick from Pedro on August 20, a Times Jumbo on August 21, and an Enigmatic Variations puzzle from Kcit on August 22. At least any update won’t be postponed due to excessive amounts of solving.