Everybody loves Christmas, right? Well, I’m a long way from what you’d call Mr Grumpy, but sometimes I wonder. If I’m not setting puzzles I’m not earning so, while the festive period is enjoyable, it does mean a break as I commit to family stuff and – usually – a busier period for the band, and that can be a problem. Writing good clues consistently requires being ‘in the zone’, and the zone is fickle. Leave it for a few days and getting back to where you left off can be frustratingly difficult.
For some reason it was particularly bad this year; the first couple of weeks of January were pretty hopeless, to be honest, almost as if I’d clean forgotten how to write clues. Actually, I say ‘for some reason’… I can identify part of it, an unexpected obsession which accounted for more time than it should have. Muse are the ones to blame.
Their song ‘Time Is Running Out’ has been on my MP3 player for years and it was by chance that I stumbled across a YouTube video of a full concert at Wembley. The song ‘Hysteria’ is one I’d heard but couldn’t name, and it wasn’t until watching the video that I realised it has a stunning bassline. So, yes, I got obsessed and spent about two months trying to play it, and that kept me away from work. It was a pointless exercise too – I mean I’m never going to play it with the band; we do nicey-nicey cheesy-cheesy stuff and anything with the slightest degree of edge is called ‘rock’ and we refuse to touch it.
I digress. The good news is the last fortnight has seen the crosswords back to where they should be, either seven or eight puzzles (can’t remember precisely) down the electronic tubes to editors.
All of this leads to a question I’d like to ask of fellow full-time setters. How easy/hard do you find it to get back into the groove when a vacation or seasonal break has made a hiatus necessary? Can you just switch it on again, or does it take time?