‘Gridman’ goes off the grid, crossword community loses a giant

C.G. Rishikesh  

The crossword community has lost one of its giants. C.G. Rishikesh, whom most readers of The Hindu will have been familiar with as the ‘Gridman’, passed away in Chennai on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 78.

A veteran setter of cryptic crosswords, with over a thousand published puzzles to his credit, ‘Gridman’ was more fondly known as Chaturvasi sir — or simply as “Rishi” — among countless friends, cruciverbalists and protégés in crossword forums and websites across the world. He was “the face of Indian crosswords in the international community”, being the first Indian setter to gain visibility in several global crossword groups.

He joined The Hindu Group’s Frontline magazine in 1986 after an 18-year stint with The Indian Express. He retired from service in 2003, but not before donning his ‘Gridman’ cape in 2001, when he made his historic entry into the TH setters’ panel. He has also made significant contribution as a crossword consultant for The Hindu, helping set the tone for fairness and high standards in the paper’s cryptic crossword feature.

Remembered as a rare individual with a prodigious memory and knowledge of English literature, whose passion for lexical whimsy was soundly matched by his zeal for scouting, guiding and nurturing budding crossworders, C.V. sir was a devotee of the craft till the very end. His enthusiasm scarcely waning with age or health, he marched on and continued to set puzzles till February 2021, when the last of his grids (THC 13177) were published in the pages of The Hindu.

Well-versed in Tamil and English, C.V. sir enjoyed translating, building a bridge — as was his wont — between tongues as well as minds. Among the many works from his long career, he has edited Lettered Dialogue, by historian and author K.R.A. Narasaiah.

His oeuvre is hugely popular among aficionados and novices alike. His clues, brewed to a highly satisfying blend, are so clean that, once you have familiarised yourself with his style, you can almost feel the wordplay morph from cryptic to obvious. They dwell in that Goldilocks zone of “neither too tough, nor too easy”. He encouraged setters to garnish their grids with an “Indian” flavour, including references to national motifs and dictionary-approved terms, and led distinctively by example.

C.V. sir was an eminently approachable person who was generous in his appreciation of good work, as many co-setters attest. During his days as crossword consultant, he could be sighted at The Hindu Crossword desk, ensconced snugly in a spare chair, spectacles pinched between index finger and thumb, and squinting astutely at a sheet of clues, rising from his reverie only to crisply pass on his perspicacious comments to the crossword editor.

For a man of his stature, he displayed tremendous grace and compassion — be it as an arbiter in crossword contests, mediator of disputes in comment forums, or while sharing his keen insights. He reportedly remained curious, always open to feedback and eager to evolve.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 2:08:42 AM |

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