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March Update: When things get tough…

March 31, 2013 at 9:53 PM

I’ve just emailed this to my 2500 Clue Challenge mailing list, updating them on my progress for March. If you’d like to be on the mailing list, then simply send me a quick email to 2500cluechallenge AT danielpeake DOT com and I’ll add you to the list!

We’re a quarter of the way through the year!! Amazing – where did the time go? And also, where did the heat go? It’s been a sodding cold start to the year.

Anyway, enough complaining about the weather. I do plenty of that in my day job. In March, I solved 196 out of 607 clues, taking me to 633 out of 1811 in total. This makes me just under 2 days ahead of schedule, which should mean I finish in mid-December at the current rate. To see my day by day progress, I update this spreadsheet most days: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=0 . Also you can follow me, @danielpeake, or search for #2500ClueChallenge on twitter and flickr. Crosswords have been varied, with themes ranging from James Bond, Animal Farm to the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick. My clue of the month is by Paul: “Bugger duck sauce! (5)”. Answer at the end of the email.

It’s been a hard month, particularly the last couple of weeks. As I’m trying to raise awareness of depression, it’s only fair that it decided to pay me a rather intense visit of late. It was triggered in what I find an amusing (and completely first world) way – I bought the wrong computer monitor. I meant to get a different one, when it arrived from amazon, I realised I’d got the wrong one. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it was by no means the only thing on my plate at that point. But it was enough to make me question my own ability to function.

Whilst I’ve been struggling to cope with the hours of my shift work in my job anyway, this totally blew me out of the water. The depression has made me phenomenally tired, so much so that it’s all I’m doing outside of work. Case in point – several days this week after I finished work at 5pm, I was in bed by half past five, and I slept through until work the following morning. At least I CAN sleep – depression has two different effects on people, it’ll either make you sleep more (like me, 11-12 hours per night on average at the moment), or it’ll make you sleep less like an insomniac. Either way, you don’t feel refreshed by the morning.

The current intense period of depression will ease, I know that, but at the moment it’s a difficult time for me. I’m asking my doctor for an increase in my medication to help me cope better, and I’ll see what the doctor says about how to manage my frankly ridiculous sleep levels. But I wanted to point out that really random things can set off depression, and the effects can be profound and then linger.

By doing the 2500 Clue Challenge, and asking people to donate 1p per clue that I solve,  I’m hoping to raise money for ReThink, which research and support those with a wide range of mental illnesses, obviously my particular focus here is on depression. I’ve got over £300 in donations now, so I’d like to say THANK YOU to all who have pledged and donated so far. If you would like to do so, head over to http://www.justgiving.com/danielpeake2500 for all the details.

FINALLY – please spread the word! I want more people to know about this challenge. Tell them about the challenge, and direct them to my website to find out more, www.danielpeake.com , or simply google “2500 Clue Challenge”.

Until April, let’s hope it warms up (and I bet we’ll be complaining it’s too hot soon).


ANSWER TO CLUE OF THE MONTH: PESTO. (Bugger = pest, duck = O)


February Update – Clues, Memory and appearing on a game show!

March 1, 2013 at 10:00 PM

I’ve just emailed this to my 2500 Clue Challenge mailing list. If you would like to be put on the mailing list, drop me a line at 2500cluechallenge@danielpeake.com .

Hello 2500 Clue Challenge Pledgers! It’s been a bloody cold month. And I say that officially as a weather forecaster. And cloudy, too.

But enough about the weather for now. I am still continuing on with the 2500 Clue Challenge! Part of me was worried that I’d give up after a week and all this build up would be for nothing but. I was talking to a friend recently and he had a similar concern, that I’d give up, but now reckons that now that I’m into the swing of it, I should be able to finish it. I do agree with him. It might be a bit tricky if I go abroad on holiday and have limited access to crosswords, but that’s just part of the challenge. I’m confident now that I’m not going to stop before the end of the year.

I solved 180/551 clues in February (slightly less as a perentage than in Janary), taking me to 455 out of 1204 clues in total. I am about 2 1/2 days ahead of schedule at this point, which means I will finish sometime in early to mid December at the current rate of progress. That’s fantastic news! When I hit 500 clues, which should be within the next week or so, I’ll send an email alerting you of this fact and encouraging you to then donate £5 (or simply wait until I hit £10… or £15…  or £20… or £25!).

My Clue Of The Month for February just has to go to this: Starbucks offering tiniest bit of tax – at the last minute admitting it (5). Answer at the end of this email.

This is, of course, if I remember to email you. My memory is terrible and is very much affected by my depression. Since my depression and particularly in the last couple of years, my short memory has become quite poor. It is also better on some days when I’m feeling happier, and worse on days when I’m feeling down. It is very frustrating that I cannot appear to be able to control how much I remember. To combat this I have to make lists of anything  and everything that I need to do. For example, on my current TO DO LIST (which is 20 items long at the moment) I need to do (amongst others): Charge phone. Send out Feb 2500 Clue Challenge update. Ironing. Take stuff to charity shop. Laundry. Claim £4 of scratchcard winnings (that one I really need to do, actually).

The list can go from quite important things to extremely menial tasks. But if I don’t write it down, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll forget to do it. I’m hoping my memory will come back as I my happiness increases. But I want to make the point that the depression is having a profound day to day secondary impact that isn’t directly related to “feeling happy” and “feeling sad”. It’s something that could affect my work performance, but I don’t let it. As I say, I write lists. Of course, the real fun happens when I lose a to do list. That happens far too often for my liking.

Before I sign off, a three of things. Firstly, my stats spreadsheet is becoming very interesting now. Fridays are the easiest day, Thursdays are the hardest. Maybe that’ll change through the year, but you can view all my current stats here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=0 .

Secondly, I’m going to be on the telly again! I’m going to be on the new gameshow The Common Denominator with Phil Spencer on March 11, 3:30pm on Channel 4. I’m hopefully going to be watching it with a few friends so we can have a good laugh together. Do watch it if you have a chance, you’ll be a good giggle at me I promise.


Thank you very much for reading this tome! Until the 500 clue update and then the March update, happy crosswording!

Oh, and the answer to the clue? LATTE (the letter T in LATE). A sharply observed clue, absolutely brilliant.

Difficulty level: Increased.

February 3, 2013 at 9:17 PM

I’m now one month into the 2500 Clue Challenge! It’s been a month of two halves. In the first half I was able to dedicate my time to the Challenge as I was not working. In the second half I managed to get a job! I’m now a forecaster for MetraWeather in Reading. Forecasting work is done in shifts, and as a result I’ve been working some strange hours and have been very tired. I’ve been able to do the Challenge, but it now has to fit around work and my updates are a little more sporadic on the challenge website.

In January I solved 257 out of 653 clues in January, which puts me about 3 to 4 days ahead of where I need to be. Most days I solved between 5 and 10 clues. The occasional day where I do well in a crossword, with up to 20 clues, has buoyed that average considerably. My favourite, and indeed slightly naughty, clue of the past month has been:  Roy in a position with girl on top? On the contrary (10). [Answer at the end of the email].

I update a large spreadsheet most days with statistics for each crossword. You can find that at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=0 , which also contains links to pictures of each days crossword so you can check I’m not up to anything naughty.

So – why am I doing this? I have depression, and I want to raise awareness of what depression is and try and break through some of the taboo surrounding depression. When I was first depressed, I didn’t know it. It didn’t really cross my mind actually. I knew I was upset, but it just didn’t occur to me that it was depression. Then, when I realised it was, I was in denial about it for quite some time. For a good 4-6 months I didn’t seek help, even though it was clear to others around me that something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t seek help because I thought that I would be persecuted because of my depression, that I would miss out on work/social opportunities because of my depression, and that my friends would all leave me.

When I went to live in Oklahoma in 2007, the additional burden of living in a different country made me snap, and I had to seek help whether I liked it or not. I’ve been open to a few people about my depression and, to my surprise, they didn’t abandon me. They supported me. I know some people won’t be as lucky with their friends, but I’m going to suggest that – based upon the number of people who have admitted to me that they have depression – that everyone knows someone who has experienced it (or is still experiencing it). I still have depression, but my friends have really helped me through it, whether they knew it or not.

I’m doing this Challenge to raise money for Rethink Mental Health, and I’ve been asking you to pledge 1p (or 2p if you’re filthy rich!) for every clue I solve. As of the end of January, that pledge stands at £2.57 (for 1p per clue). I’ll next email you at either the end of February or when I reach £5, whichever happens sooner. In the mean time, SPREAD THE WORD! Please let people know about my Challenge, direct them to my website, get people to donate. I’m aiming to raise £1000 with the challenge, please help me to get there.

Oh, and the answer to that clue earlier? MISSIONARY.


WEEK ONE. Exit silent wreck.

January 6, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Now that I have attempted more than one crossword, I thought I’d provide a quick update! Four crosswords this week, as Monday was Dec 31 2012 and the challenge didn’t start until Tuesday. I solved 53 out of 119 clues this week, which puts me about a day ahead of where I should be! I have been quite enthusiastic about it this week – and I’m still blissfully denying that it’s a whole year long challenge at this point. It’ll sink in, oh help me when it does!

It’s a promising week ahead, I have a job interview with a company in London on Monday. I’m quite excited about this job actually. I’m yet to hear back about the job in Reading that I had an interview for before Christmas. They’re taking their time, I hope they can get back to me soon as I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the London job will nip in and hire me first! What I’m saying is, by the end of this week, I’d-like-a-job-please-thank-you-very-much-where’s-the-cheque-money-money-money-oh-you-want-me-to-work-for-it-ok-I-guess-I-will-then.

DAY ONE. Exit gibbering wreck.

January 1, 2013 at 11:17 PM

No, I’m not going to update every day with a blog post! That would be very difficult to keep up. But, with today being the first day of the 2500 Clue Challenge and all, I thought I’d blog to let you know how I got on with Day 1.

Well, it was a decent way to start the crosswording year! I solved 19 clues out of 33, which is ahead of the 9.5 clues I need to solve per day to hit 2500 clues over the year. Woohoo! I can only hope all days go like today, but I know for sure they won’t.

You can see my actual attempt at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mintypython/8334308805/in/set-72157632403001735/ , and all the statistics for today’s (and subsequent) days are visible on my spreadsheet at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=0 , which now features pretty graphs! The graphs are fairly meaningless at the moment, but they’ll grow in meaning as the year progesses.

So, today, I raised £6.08 for Rethink, the mental health charity! Can YOU help me increase that amount? I’m asking people to pledge 1p per clue I solve, which will be around £25 at the end of the year (but you have a year to save up for it). Just ONE PENNY per clue. That is all. I’ll be explaining why I’ve chosen Rethink in later blog posts, but for now if you want to pledge, email me at 2500cluechallenge@danielpeake.com and let me know! Or you can donate right away at my JustGiving page: http://www.justgiving.com/danielpeake2500 . I am truly grateful of any donations I receive.

Half filled.

December 30, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Today, I found that half of the filling from one of my teeth has gone missing. There’s now a nasty hole in one of my teeth on the left hand side of my mouth. So, new year, new filling, and open wallet surgery!

I’m actually in a bit of a pickle here. A lodger in my house also lost a filling recently, at the end of October he got too enthusiastic with a piece of crackling. It took him over a month to get a proper appointment at the local dentist, they insisted he had a check-up first (which is fair enough). The problem is, the check up was 2 weeks later and the appointment to fill the filling two three weeks after that, he was finally seen at the beginning of December to have the filling.

Now, I could go to a private dentist of course, but I can’t afford that. So, I’m anticipating about a four week wait in between going to the dentist tomorrow, and actually having the filling. Anyway, the reason I’m in a pickle is this: I’m hoping to get a job within the next few weeks. I should hear this week about a job I was interviewed for in mid-December. Essentially, I might be moving house within the next couple of weeks. So, if I do register with an NHS dentist here at home, I’ll have to reregister with another dentist and go through the whole rigmarole again if I move house.

So, what to do? I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and go to the dentist tomorrow. Incidentally, if you’re biting the bullet at a dentist, you really should consider going to a better one. If I get seen quickly, there’s a chance I’ll get my filling before I move. And the worst case scenario would only be paying for two check ups. The sooner I get the filling the better, as I am already starting to feel a few twinges in that tooth…

A personalised Christmas

December 28, 2012 at 7:52 PM

It’s been a lean Christmas in the Peake household, we’ve all got very little money. As I can’t really afford to get the presents I’d like to for my family, I decided to personalise things for Christmas Day itself. It went spectacularly well!

Firstly, I stuffed my own crackers from a cracker making kit. I put very random things inside the crackers including bouncy balls, chocolate, bubble blowing solution and a bouncing spinning top. It’s surprisingly difficult to get interesting objects that fit within a Christmas cracker. Now I know why all crackers tend to have the same set of gifts inside. However, I was able to put my own jokes in. These included:

Who should you call to protect your farm? The Hay Team.
Have you heard about the glow in the dark encyclopedia? It’s volume-inous!
Why was Clifford the big red dog in jail? He was caught red hounded.
What is a vinegar loving dwarf’s favourite musical instrument? A piccolo.
What do mermaids use when wrapping Christmas presents? Shellotape.
What do you get if you cross a reindeer with the ocean? A rudolphin.

They went down… well, about as well as any Christmas cracker jokes did. I was pleased, at any rate.

The real highlight of the day was a surprise treasure hunt around the downstairs of my house that no-one knew about. It took about a day to plan and write the clues, and I hid all the clues just before midnight on Christmas Day (so I didn’t see Santa, naturally).  It was quite a treasure trail – an extra cracker was mysteriously laid out after Christmas dinner. Upon opening the cracker, the 30 minute time limit immediately started (as controlled by me on my PC). They were presented with a lock with a clue inside, but no key. Along with the lock was the following clue:

In these dark and gloomy days,
we really need some light.
Find seven sources made of ‘wax’
that don’t require a ‘light’.

Pretty quickly, they figured out that meant a candelabra of seven electric candles. When they looked behind it, they found:

If Tom Jones put some clothes on,
you could describe him thus.
Remove the middle of the three
to continue all this fuss.

It took a while to poke them towards working out that Tom Jones putting his clothes on could be a Welsh Dresser – and indeed the clue was behind the middle of the three drawers in the dresser, Of course, I made it so they had to take the entire drawer out to see the clue, didn’t I? Naughty Daniel. They then found this:

I reckon that the next clue
is one you’d need to find.
To discover your next CLUE,
see where it’s well defined.

Where is the word CLUE well defined? In a dictionary, of course. They found that one quite quickly – there was about 24 minutes left on the clock. This is what faced them next:

After all the tasty turkey,
basted, cooked and greased,
you’ll kick yourselves when you find
a clue beneath your feast.

Within 60 seconds, they’d found the clue on the underneath of the table where we’d sat and eaten Christmas Dinner. Oh dear, did I make the time limit too long? There was still 23 minutes left! Luckily, the second half of the treasure hunt was more difficult than the first…

There is a thing about gazpacho
likely you have observed.
Find a recipe for the soup
on a place like it is served.

The family quite rightly latched onto the word “served”, and so the looked in and under all the things in which it could be served – tureens, plates, bowls, jugs, saucepans – the entire kitchen was turned inside out! But no clue. I had to prod them “LIKE it is served”, and “why gazpacho?”. Then they started to twig, gazpacho is served cold. A place “like it is served” is a cold place – a fridge! So, how to find a recipe? One of the fridge magnets is a “Tomato Cookbook”, which has recipes in it. One recipe is, you guessed it, for gazpacho soup. So the clue was within that fridge magnet, next to that recipe. That stumped them! Haha! There was about 15 minutes left on the clock, when they found the clue:

In this time of Christmas cheer,
what should we dance to?
___  ____’_  ____  _  ____  _____
Number 52.

Quick as a flash, they realised they needed to be looking for the CD of Now That’s What I Call Music #52 – but there were six draws and one CD rack through which they had to search to find it! Still, a very quick two minutes later, they found the clue. 13 minutes on the clock, and they were 3/4 through the hunt. However, this is where I was quite sneaky:

Now that you’re all dancing,
perhaps you’re “cutting” this.
Lift it up, look underneath,
and spot something amiss.

To ‘cut a rug’ means to dance, and we only have one rug. So did I place the clue underneath there? When I nodded that I had, they looked at me in astonishment. Why? The only rug we have is in the lounge and has two sofas and a very large coffee table underneath, three heavy items which they would have to move to get to the clue, which I had put under the middle of the rug! Very naughty Daniel. It took them ages to move the furniture and roll the rug up but there was the clue, slightly dusty, in the middle of the room. The family couldn’t believe I’d done that! So, then they had this, with seven minutes to go:

You’ve got this far, you’ve done so well,
you’re certainly perplexed.
You now have all that you require.
Be bold to find what’s next.

They quickly realised the bold letters all over the place spelt out the message. It was an entire clue! Written out in full, it was:

In order to undo the lock,
you need to find the key.
Take a look and poke around
deep inside the tree.

I can tell you, it was very very difficult to hide that clue in order amongst the other eight clues. The clue has plenty of unusual letters, four K’s, a few U’s and so on. But I’m very pleased with myself that I was able to do it. They decoded the message with ease… until they came to “inside the tree” where they consistently missed the R in tree. They started looking for a “tee”. I helped them out there – they realised their mistake and with three minutes to go they found the key within our Christmas tree. This allowed them to undo the lock and access their final clue:

Well done! You’ve found the key.
It’s time to cast your eyes
to find yourself and look beyond
to discover your prize.

This was going to be close. After reading out the clue, they had about 2 minutes left to find this “prize”. They realised quite quickly that to find yourself you look in a mirror. We have three mirrors downstairs, but they quite rightly focused on the largest one (more than three times the size of the next mirror). But they mistranslated “look beyond” as look in the mirror, see what you can see in the reflection, and go and look there. This took them to the already quite untidy kitchen. The time ran down very quickly, and as this was the last clue and time was tight, I wasn’t going to help them. Time ticked down… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… TIME UP. Sadly they hadn’t found the prize. I then told them think about the clue again, how could they “look beyond”? Then the penny dropped – they needed to look BEHIND the mirror. As soon as they did that, a bar of chocolate fell out from behind the mirror, which would have been their prize. Well, it still was I guess, as I shared a bit of it with them.

They had come SO CLOSE to finding the treasure. They got through 9 out of the 10 clues in the 30 minutes, and had thoroughly rearranged the lounge, downstairs bedroom and kitchen in the process. They did have a fantastic time however. Unwisely, I left the chocolate I hadn’t eaten downstairs on Christmas Day. I came downstairs on Boxing Day to find it was no longer there, instead a note replaced it, which said “When you find your chocolate, it will light up your day”. Took me five minutes or so, but I finally found the chocolate in a box of tissues which had touch activated fairly lights built in. I deserved that, I suppose.

More interest than the Bank of England

December 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM

This week I’ve been starting to ask people whether they’d like to pledge to donate 1p per clue for my 2500 Clue Challenge, and I have had a fantastic amount of interest so far. I am blown away so far! I’ve currently gathered pledges to the tune of 27p per clue, and I’m fully confident that this will increase throughout the challenge. I was initially hoping for 25p per clue, but now I’m setting my sights on 50p per clue, which would raise over £1000 for Rethink. If you’re interested in donating, then email me at 2500cluechallenge@danielpeake.com, and I’ll get back to you.

What’s been really interesting for me has been that the vast majority of people have said “I have (or have had) depression” or have had experience of depression through the family. About 30 people have pledged or donated, and only 1 or 2 people HAVEN’T said that to me. The amount of support and positivity that I’ve received for the challenge has been fantastic, and I haven’t started it yet.

All in all, this is looking quite promising as a challenge. Throughout the year, I hope to say how I’m coping my depression. I certainly haven’t beaten it yet, but I’m slowly getting there. I don’t really plan on saying why I have depression, for me that’s personal and a very very long story with no one single thing causing it. But I want to say the impact depression has had on my life and how I have, and haven’t, coped with it in recent years.

I did a test week recently for the 2500 Clue Challenge in which I solved 54% of the clues. This past week… erm… less than 25%. I think it’s going to be a close run year to 2500.

If I don’t blog before then, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I’ll certainly blog before the New Year, whilst I still have my faculties.

A pound per day… is agonisingly slow

December 16, 2012 at 1:55 AM

I would really quite like a tablet. No, not the little pill kind, although I’ll probably have a few of those too thanks. No, I mean the electronic computer kind. I’m not entirely sure whether I should get an iPad or not, I reckon I’m going to get the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for a few reasons, including that it includes a styles, the Android operating system makes file management a little easier, and it’s £320 compared to the iPad’s £400.

So, I’ve been saving up. But, I currently don’t have a full time job, which makes saving up money a little tricky. Since the beginning of October, I’ve made it my aim to save £1 per day towards the ‘tablet fund’. I’m not able to do this every day, as I can’t afford it, but I’ve done it on the days when I can afford it. I’ve also had some part time work with the gracious people at QuizQuizQuiz, and I’ve also had a birthday. From each of these, I’ve skimmed off half of my birthday money and £10 per session I’ve worked for QQQ, and put that towards the tablet fund.

It’s now the middle of December, and my tablet fund stands at £196, which I’m very pleased with. I’ve also got £40 in amazon vouchers which I’ve saved up for the past six months, so that takes my total to £236. I’m also owed £40 from various sources for selling some of my old DVDs, of which £20 will go into the tablet fund, making the total £256. So, to get to the magical £320 mark, I need £64. I’m quite proud of myself for being patient so far… but that sixty four pounds equates to another two months and it thus won’t be until February that I get the tablet. My patience is wearing a little thin!

Of course, I might get a bit of money at Christmas, of which half will be put towards the tablet fund and the other half towards, well, rent and living and eating. So that could speed things along a few days. Fingers crossed that at the beginning of February, I’ll be the owner of a shiny new tablet. I will hopefully reward my patience! I’m also well aware that in other parts of the world, people live on less than £1 per day, so I am very thankful that I am able to put aside what is, to me, such a small sum of money towards a bigger goal.

A whopping €3.5m prize!

December 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM

This evening I’ll be commentating live for (approximately) six hours from 7.15pm onwards on the German Gameshow Schlag Den Raab with a €3.5m prize! Absolutely amazing! You can find all the details at http://www.bothersbar.co.uk/?p=6651 . YOU COULD ALSO WIN €100! Please tune in and listen to us for game explanations, statistics, bad puns, and inane chat! It will make your evening, I promise.