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Ker-splat! Such was the impact online, the politics of crosswording reducing Isobel's whale to a pilchard. More than a hundred contributors converged, bellowing erasers and Xeroxes and moral compasses. The prevailing view seemed to be cafe, yes; library, no. Yet even that yes was qualified.

"First come, first solved," asserted rebelwithmousyhair. In so many words, a cafe worker codenamed YayForYou agreed, "I'd say do the crossword. Do all the puzzles. Tear out adverts for comfortable slacks. Draw penises on photos of world leaders. Just fold the f–king paper up when you're done, please."

Over in the wary camp, softlysoftly encouraged the personal approach: "Why not ask the person providing the paper? It is, after all, their property and they can only say yes, or they'd rather you didn't."

The forum simmered over the week, over the page, with Sudoku somehow entering the debate, the time of day, pencil versus pen, a news vendor's proximity, plus the nifty solution of using your phone to photograph the grid, filling in the diagram later with your mark-up function on the edit tool.

As both setter and solver, I pored the barney with ample skin in the game. Now and then I've inked a cafe's Times while awaiting a foccacia, feeling a mix of guilt and elation if completing the grid. Yet somehow the liberty feels more simpatico if falling a few answers short, giving my successor a chance to seize the omissions, standing on my shoulders to reach the stars.

Where do you stand on this ticklish dilemma? Far better to fill a grid, I say, than leaving the matrix bare, destined for the recycling bin. And far better to attempt the grid in situ than tearing the diagram loose, using a fusillade of false coughs to screen your ripping noises. Not naming names, but you know who you are.

Of course, in the name of appeasing my editor, and propping up my job security into the next quarter, I'd urge you all to buy a paper. Nonetheless I know that cafe yearning: the open grid, that bed of clues, a coffee, a pen. Besides, what if a whale fell from the clouds and wiped us out in T-minus 15 seconds?

davidastle.com

twitter.com/dontattempt

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