Extreme Sports: Common newspaper puzzle injuries

by Andrew Gigacz

In recent weeks there have been some vicious rumours, spread mainly by some of our young whippersnapper Almanackers, that I once broke my nose whilst completing a Sudoku puzzle.

I would like to use this forum to set the record straight about such unfounded, malicious allegations. These charges have been extremely hurtful to both me and my family and I wish now to put these rumours to bed. (I was hoping to do it through Woman’s Day for a hefty fee but the call hasn’t come.)

I categorically state, and do so without any fear of retribution, that I have NEVER EVER had my nose broken as the result of doing a Sudoko.

In fact it was a cryptic crossword.

Many people have asked me how it is possible to break one’s nose doing a cryptic crossword. To which my reply is: well, it was the Friday one and in those days they were renowned for being by far the hardest one of the week. (Fortunately those ones have recently switched to Saturdays meaning I can at least claim to have sustained the injury via some sort of weekend sporting sojourn.)

So how did it happen?

If you’re a regular puzzler you’ll know the frustration that comes with getting a long way towards completing a puzzle but being stumped by the last clue or two. So it was for me on that fateful day. After beginning the crossword over my morning coffee, I had made good headway on the train to work. A couple of clues solved here and there during the working day and I was looking good the polish the cryptic off, in toto, on the train ride home. This would be a rare achievement for a notoriously challenging puzzle.

The train trip home saw further progress made but, upon arriving at my station, I had two clues left to solve. The challenge for me was to solve them both before reaching my front gate. That left me a seven minute walk to achieve the dream.

Now despite many claims to the contrary, I am not an idiot. I did not cross any roads with my head buried in the newspaper. At each intersection I did just as Hector the Cat had taught me to 35 years earlier: stopped at the curb, looked to the right, looked to the left, looked to the right again. Then when the road was clear of traffic, I walked straight across. (Type in “Hector the Cat” on You Tube if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

No injury was sustained by doing something as silly as that.

The killer “punch” came as I was on the final clue, and just about to turn into my street. I have been known to trip on footpaths on occasion and some cruel people attribute this to my clumsiness. It is not true. I believe such events have been precipitated by two factors: surface imperfections and my ultra-efficient walking style. As any (other) elite sportsperson will acknowledge, achieving the ultimate relies heavily on efficiency of technique. So when I walk along a footpath I lift my feet only as high as is required on a flat surface.

And that was my mistake.

While I demand perfection from myself, I should have remembered that not everyone can attain that peak. A slight ridge in the footpath was all it took to bring down the effortless glide that is my walk home while doing the cryptic crossword.

My foot clipped that ridge and my body, my crossword and my pen began to sprawl downwards.

What happened in the next second is a little unclear to me. One, or both of the following things happened: (a) as I tried to regain my balance, a secondary trip occurred, preventing me from putting my hands out to cushion my fall; (b) I was so concerned for the crossword that rather than put my hands out to protect my face I actually tucked them in to protect the puzzle.

Either way, my nose collided with the footpath at full force. Fortunately a woman had been coming in the opposite direction and she had seen it all. When she finally managed to stop laughing, she helped me to my feet and asked if I was OK. I wasn’t. I had blood streaming from my nose and was feeling pretty groggy. But I told her I was and staggered the remaining 100 yards home.

I cleaned myself up as best as I could but I was not a pretty sight in the days and weeks to come. Arriving at work the following Monday I had my “you should’ve seen how the other guy ended up” lines ready but I didn’t use them. I was proud to have taken one on the chin – or nose in this case – for those of us who dare to take on one of the most extreme sporting challenges of all – the cryptic crossword.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?


  1. You idiot!

  2. John Butler says

    Ah Memories!

    Hector The Cat. Didn’t he end up doing 7-10 for heading a grand theft auto ring?

    Gigs, I can’t believe Woman’s Day knocked you back on this.

  3. Peter Flynn says
  4. Tim Ivins says

    I share your pain Gigs, last year I was walking to the bus stop engrossed in a particularly good murder mystery. Regrettably I failed to see the rock which had been kicked onto the footpath in front of me. I stepped on it and over I went, ankle inverted. It swelled up badly and cost me three weeks on the sideline and a few days off work.

    Thankfully it gave me time to finish the book – it turned out that the butler did it…

  5. Thanks Peter, Tim and John. And thanks for comment number 1 from my lovely wife, Kim!

    Tim – when you say the butler did it, does this cast suspicion over my fellow Almanac editor and author of comment number 2…?

  6. Tim Ivins says

    That would depend if he is a Butler by name and, in the literary sense, by profession.

  7. Well one thing I won’t be telling you to do Gigs is, eat some concrete and harden up. My dad and uncles all have broken noses due to footy and all of them are just waiting til mine gets broken :/ not looking forward to it.

  8. John Butler says

    Tim, I’ve rarely been accused of possessing any literary sense… or professionalism.

  9. Kim,

    We need more of your pithy comments.

  10. Gigz,

    There’s a whole blog dedicated to the crossword that broke your nose:


    And here’s DA, the compiler:


  11. Danielle says

    Gee i dont know if i should nawww or LOL

    Danni ;)

  12. Don’t worry Danni. I can take it. Maybe a bit of both – “nawwwOL”


  13. At last the truth comes out! Now i’ve taken a bad crack to the nose before and it didn’t tickle, so faceplanting the concrete must have hurt both your nose and your pride.

    Of course, I would have paid to see that.

  14. Tony T, I need to thank you and curse you.

    Thanks for pointing out that site. I had no idea it existed. You obviously know the legendary DA crosswords.

    And curse you for introducing me to what are sure to be hours of wasted time!

  15. Gigs,

    Did you eventually crack that crossword or, like the concrete, did it just crack you?

    (And, yes, those last few clues are always a ba#####d to get)

  16. Gigs – lol

  17. 16 – Dips, that’s what the lady who came to see if I was OK tried NOT to do. She failed.

  18. Spenopoly says

    There’s a simple solution to prevent this. Just invent something that lets you see where you’re going with one eye and lets you do the crossword with the other and just hope your brain can handle the information.

  19. Spenopoly says

    BTW call it the Cryptomatic.

  20. Ladder of Chill says

    Why is it that when you hurt yourself in public it is seen as funny, hilarious even. Witness the batsman that gets one in the nads. Commentators, players and spectators cackle like hyenas yet surely they have sufferd such debilitating injuriesthemselves and know it is no laughing matters as you do the mandatory 2 count.
    Then there are wives. I see your missus has shown her empathy with her post. Reminds me of one of the times I busted my nose. Curling! My wife and sone (he was 2) were there to watch my curling debut and in the practice I was being instructed in the sport by an Aussie Winter Olympian. Broom in one hand, rock gliding majestically in the other when the broom sudedmly took on a life of its own, strayed into my glide path and tripped me up. Hands were full no time to shed rock or broom, face plant into the pebbled ice. My wife’s reaction as I am almost comatose in the stands having been assited by a former winter olympian to the bleechers. Ordered an extra strong latte.
    Unfortunately on the Monday I had to meet with some Scottish Power exec. What happened they asked and when I explained I copped it Curling they cackled for 20 minutes. Wanted to know what sort of rules we colonials had introduced to the winter form of lawn bowls. Tackling perhaps?

  21. Ladder of Chill, thanks for finally providing a sympathetic viewpoint! (See you tonight, by the way.)

    And Spenopoly, if you invent the Cryptomatic let me know. I’ll be your first customer.

    Wonderful to have such genius minds as Spenopoly’s on board at the Almanac. The kid is clearly a genius – and I should know, ‘cos he’s my son.

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