I expect the men in white coats any day

New signs of failing powers come so regularly when one is over 70 that most of them are greeted with no more than a shrug.

That it takes 10 minutes for a name you are searching for to come to the surface of your mind – that’s worth a shrug.

That you go upstairs for something, forget what it was, go down again and remember – and then repeat the whole process – well, it comes to us all.

But I thought I could still manage crosswords.

Even if the Guardian crossword that I begin at about midnight has to wait for the morning for the last lights to be filled in, it does get completed before the business of the day begins.

Normally.

But the last clue in yesterday’s puzzle defeated me until I was out of the bath and dressed.  ‘A west African state engulfs a west African state.’ No problem. Malawi, clearly. ‘Show trials.’ Easy.  Rehearsals.  ‘Look for a bird.’ Gander.

But the one that kept eluding me (I hang my head in shame) was ‘International contest won by gifted horse (6,3).’

I won’t insult the intelligence of fellow Classicists by giving the answer that eventually came to me, but only when I had five of the nine letters in place.

As I say, I expect the men in white coats to be ringing the doorbell any day.

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