I’ll tell you how I become a genius. I try to do it six days a week. (The seventh is the Sabbath, when I don’t have to try.) It’s not always easy, this genius business. And dangers lie in wait. Here are the steps that I follow.
Firstly, obtain ‘The Australian’ newspaper. Do not read it unless you want to cry. Turn to the last page of the first section*; here you’ll see the weather map for the entire continent. Below the weather you’ll find the puzzles. Avoid the Sudoku, dodge the cryptic crossword, take a quick peek at the day’s three obscure words (today’s** three are POIKILOTHERMIC, RIEM, KNARRED. I told you they were obscure. Pat yourself on the back if you know any of them. I scored one pat today. Better than average.)
Shun the Mensa puzzle. I hate people showing that they know they are smarter than I am.)
Pass now to the foot of the page. There you’ll see a wordwheel, with one letter in the centre and an additional eight or ten letters disposed in a circle at the perimeter. Our tasks are to find a single word that incorporates all the letters and none others, no repetitions etc etc; and to create as many words as possible of four letters or more.
Next to the wordwheel we find the rankings. Yesterday you’d have seen:
GOOD 23 words
VERY GOOD 28
I try to become a genius before bedtime. As a result some nights I need to go to bed very late.
Yesterday’s letters were INATTENTIVE. I got ‘inattentive’ like a shot. Practice makes that easy. But it was not until 22 hours had passed that I became a genius. (Incidentally, it is pretty clear the designer of the rankings is no genius: if one achieves EXCELLENT, that means she excels; none can excel her. But the genius does. What, I wonder, is the designation for one who finds fewer words than 23. “NOT GOOD”?)
So this is my method. I write down as many words as I can. ‘Attentive’ will be the first. Once I run out of words I start to speculate. Would ‘entant’ be a word? I know ‘extant’; perhaps ‘entant’ will be its antonym. I Google ‘entant’ and learn it’s a ridgy-didge word – in French. Spellcheck – or some other pretentious word authority lurking deep in my phone – now diverts me to ‘entertain’, ‘entente’ and other words of no relevance.
I juggle the letters and test other likely or less likely agglomerations for validity. And it is here that Google brings me to the attention of the AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE, ASIO, THE AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE and others. A red flag flies up on a screen in Langley. At Mi6 a man in an expensive grey suit flicks off a message through the dark net. Moments afterward a young woman snoozing before her screen in Canberra is aroused by a nasty chiming sound. Twenty minutes later large men in dark clothing emerge from a large vehicle. They wear bullet-proof vests and they carry semi-automatic weapons. Silently they surround my house. One carries a sledge hammer with which he knocks and they enter. There they find their enemy, an old wordnerd gazing at a screen, writing words on paper. The word he has written is ‘tannite’. ‘Aha!’ – they cry. ‘ Gotcha!’
* In the ‘Weekend Australian’ search the last page/s of Review.
** Today is the day of my writing, not of your reading. I write today, February 19, 2016.