Cryptic Crosswords or Wordle: Different Approaches to Evangelism

2nd February 2022

Every year the 6th Form of my comprehensive school were invigilators at the Northern Section of the Times National Cryptic Crossword Competition. Competitors from all over the North of England would descend upon York and meet for a whole day in the Viking Hotel to do timed back to back cryptic crosswords.   

For me it was a day off school and a lunch much better than school dinners at the Viking Hotel. In truth, very few of us assisting had any idea of cryptic crosswords and how to complete them. They were fiendishly hard. I remember one clue – here it is, have a go! ‘Alternatively beat the woman with the Tickler (6)’.  *The answer is at the end of the article!

The winner each year was a short sighted man who had to hold the paper so close to his face that at the end of the day he had a small dot of black ink on the end of his nose! He was, undoubtedly a master cryptic crossword solver and went on to win the National Title in London on more than one occasion.

If cryptic crosswords aren’t for you, what about Wordle? Have you discovered this new craze? 6 chances to solve a single cryptic clue with colour codes indicating if you are correct with your initial (and subsequent) guesses. Its creator, Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, knew his partner loved word games, so in September 2021 he created a guessing game for just the two of them. As a play on his last name, he named it Wordle.

What started out as a game for the two of them rapidly became an obsession for his family on WhatsApp, so much so that he agreed to release it to the world. On November 1st 2021 it had 90 users; two months later, more than 300,000 people played and it is suggested that today many millions are playing this simple, free but fabulous game. So much so that the New York Times bought Wordle this week for a figure said to be in the low millions. Not bad for a few months’ work, if that!

This Sunday we’re looking at a passage from Luke 5 where Jesus calls his disciples from being ‘fishermen’ to be ‘fishers of men’. We are thinking about evangelism – sharing good news. Jesus uses fishing as a metaphor for what the disciples are called to do – to spread the good news of the gospel.

We too are called to be evangelists but just like cryptic crossword puzzles we often find evangelism hard, never seem to make any progress, we struggle with how to start and we seldom finish it well. We can get confused by what methods to use. We don’t want people to think that we are ‘freaks’ and we don’t want to come across as imposing our beliefs or ideas.

Perhaps the most effective form of evangelism doesn’t even involve words at all. Our actions may be the loudest form of evangelism we can offer the world. And I think it happens in the most ordinary and routine parts of our lives – it can gently happen in coffee shops, buses, trains, schools, offices, shops and even in the midst of domestic chaos.

In truth we’re probably not going to do extreme acts of evangelism, but we can learn from those who are good at ‘spreading their nets’ to seek a catch.

While we may not be the type to go for extreme acts of evangelism, we can learn from those who are good at ‘spreading their nets’ to seek a catch. And perhaps like those who play the slightly more accessible Wordle game, we might find it much easier to drop in a line now and again and see what comes up!

Be encouraged as you are and share good news in whatever way you can. 

Revd Paul

*‘Alternatively beat the woman with the Tickler’ – ORLICK.  You need to know your Dickens and especially Great Expectations. Mrs Joe used to beat Pip and others with The Tickler. In the story she is killed by ORLICK.