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Tuesday 28 June 2016 4:45 AM

Theatre News

09:00 Friday 07 September 2012  Written by John Balson

Can you solve a cryptic crossword like Tony Long?

Halfway through interviewing cryptic crossword master Tony Long I asked for a little test to see how far I had come.

The 68-year-old replied almost immediately with my cryptic clue: "Sub standard equipment."

He was met with mostly silence - save for me slowly repeating it back to gain more time as my brain ticked over trying to form an answer more suitable than 'erectile dysfunction'.

The answer turned out to be 'torpedo' - on the basis that sub is an abbreviation of submarine, and a submarine's standard equipment is a torpedo.

"You have to break down that sentence to pick out the little elements from it which make up the clue," said Tony, who has been solving them for the last 50 years.

"It is about knowing how to analyse and dissect it. You have to get over that first barrier."

He estimates he has solved about 10,000 cryptic crosswords since being introduced to the hobby by his father, who used to solve the Daily Telegraph crossword.

The father-of-two, who has been divorced, widowed and now lives with his partner in Thame, has also been devising them for the last 20 years.

Each one takes about a day.

He believes anyone can learn the skills to solve a cryptic crossword and he has devised tactics to tackle the ten kinds of clue used in them and, more importantly, how to spot them.

The Londoner, who completes the Daily Telegraph crossword in about half-an-hour, also has three golden rules to reduce the brow-furrowing and head-scratching.

He will be revealing both during his new show, which starts from 11.45am and presents puzzle-solving skills in a light-hearted format with jokes and audience interaction.

Tony, who is also a keen amateur actor, said the show is suitable for both beginners and more experienced crossword solvers.

He added: "I'm absolutely convinced that things like cryptic crosswords and Sudoku are great for keeping the whole mind active and alert," he added.

"People my age are always told they should keep active and fit but they should also be doing the same for their brain."

Learn how to crack a cryptic crossword at Norden Farm in Maidenhead on Saturday, September 15.
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