Second Innings

Players on their careers and hobbies outside cricket

Robin Jackman

My word

Pouring outside? Stuck on an endless flight? If you're Jackers, you flip the newspaper open to the crossword page

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Robin Jackman, now commentating on cricket for television, pictured at Port Elizabeth during the Second Test between South Africa and England (11 December 1999).
"Bird. Five letters, ends with 'n'. Haven't the faintest" © Eastern Province Cricket Board
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Players/Officials: Robin Jackman
Teams: England

My mother taught me how to do cryptic crosswords when I was a teenager, back in England. Those are the only crosswords I still attempt, and it has now become a ritual.

My mum's favourite were the crosswords in the Telegraph, while my dad enjoyed solving the ones in the Times. Personally I enjoy doing the ones in the Telegraph because I started with them.

When I started, it was an introduction to something that was a good test. From then till now, solving crosswords has never been an easy exercise. They've always been mentally stimulating. They help occupy the mind, especially on a long flight. Solving them is a hobby like reading a book.

There is no secret to solving them. And if there is one, it is in understanding when to recognise, say, an anagram or any hidden words. There is always an indicator and sometimes the clues are a bit more straightforward than at others. You have to read the clue in three or four different ways before you find out what the answer is going to be. Sometimes it is the first part of the clue, sometimes in the last part. It is a question of recognising the hidden words and the anagrams.

The great thing about solving crosswords is, they teach you new words. And sometimes the answer can be a word you have never heard of, so then you look up that word and find out what it means and understand what the clue was trying to tell you.

I do not find it particularly necessary to finish a crossword. If I can't, I chuck it away. I look up two answers, fill those in and try to see it if I can finish it from there. I look up another answer if I need to. I do that to understand where the guy who set the crossword was coming from and how he got the answer out of the clue. You try and get into the mind of the crossword compiler. Sometimes it is obvious but most times not too straightforward.

It's not a piece of a cake; it takes a little while. And it is quite good therapy for killing time in a nice way.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

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