Interview: Susan Chamberlain, master of the cryptoquip



FQ: At what age did you begin doing Cryptoquips?

SC: I was much too old. Given that they are a sleep aid for me, I bemoan my many decades of relying on warm milk, ambien, doing breathing exercises, reading boring stuff, etc. to help me sleep. 

FQ: Which Cryptoquip master has had the most influence on your cryptoquipping style?  

SC: Probably my friend, Peggy, who about 10 years ago was the person who introduced me to them at her cabin in Vermont. Since then I’ve been on my own.

FQ: What have been some highlights of your career as a Cryptoquipist thus far?

SC: Solving it with only 1 letter that matches. That had to evolve though — at first when I saw that situation I would just say “that’s mean of them” and quit. Then back to drinking warm milk which is kind of yucky when you think about it, because you either get re-energized getting up to brush your teeth or sleep with the taste of milk — both unappealing. But no more — I keep going. On occasion, if I’m falling asleep in the middle of it, I will finish it the next day.

FQ: What is your record time for completing a Cryptoquip?  

SC: I guess I better start timing them. I worry though that that may mess up my sleeping strategy.

FQ: Do you recommend eating while cryptoquipping?

SC: Never. I don’t eat in bed. This is my routine: I go to bed, first read the comics, then start the Cryptoquip. I take my time, trying not to get impatient. The first pleasure is completing it; the second is waking my husband up, if necessary, to read him the pun and listen to his groan and his verdict — most often it’s, “that’s really terrible,”  but once in a while I hit the jackpot with “that’s not bad.” Then I’m ready to sleep.



Susan Chamberlain lives in Piedmont CA with her husband John Chalik, the one who groans at puns. Together, they bear the formal title of The Foremost, Finest, Fun-est, Fabulous-est, and Fiendishly-Alliterative-est Friends of Formosa Quartet, and of Piedmont Chamber Music Festival, where FQ will in in residence July 30-Aug 5.