Yesterday’s Guardian had an interview with crossword setter John Graham, aka Auarcaria, whom I discussed last week. There are several things in this interview that a mathematician is bound to be struck by. His profession is not so different from ours.
First, he switched from classics to theology, because “… he couldn’t understand the maths lecturer”. The profession should hang its collective head in shame.
Second, “he has a checker, a woman in Wiltshire, who keeps an eye on his factual accuracy”. Something like exam checkers, or (stretching things a bit) referees, in our business.
Third, “he resists the argument … that crosswords can be a refuge from the world. ‘For me, it’s a way of life …’”.
The fourth is the most striking.
The most hard-fought question in the philosophy of mathematics is surely whether mathematics is discovered or invented. Now listen to this:
He actively enjoys setting crosswords, as a creative process. “It’s a voyage of discovery. I love the way the word invention both means discovering something and producing something new. That’s how it works. Clues are not something you’ve invented in the sense that they’re completey new – they’re something you discover, about words and about connections. And that’s exciting. The art of the crossword is getting all this stuff into a form that makes sense to people and brings the connection to them.”