This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.

This article is in Samuel’s breathless, hyperbolic style of narration. In 1889 Charles Martin Crandall (1833–1905), US inventor and toymaker, devised a new game called ‘Pigs in Clover’, which became the most popular ball-in-a-maze puzzle in America. The ‘pigs’ were marbles and the solver was required to manipulate them in such a manner as to locate each within a set of concentric circles on the puzzle. Its popularity generated extravagant tales. The Waverly Free Press (Ohio) reported, that ‘[t]he toy works are turning out eight thousand of “Pigs in Clover” a day, and are twenty days behind with their orders’. It was reported that a philanthropist in Kingston ordered enough puzzles for every inmate in the Ulster (NY) county jail and the almshouses of the city and county. —— David Skilton

‘Can’t talk business this morning – have not succeeded in getting the Pigs in Clover yet.’

HEN I speak of ‘Puzzles,’ sir, I do not mention political or religious problems – I am not to be taken in that sense; indeed, I didn't care about being taken in any sense, unless you take me out and treat me. Perhaps you’ll say (‘sarcastic like‘) that you never could take me in any sense – that nonsense is more my forte. Well, you can have your little joke. I don't care. When I mention puzzles, too, I don't refer to social riddles, many of which, all the same, have bothered me not a little. But there have been what I might call necessary puzzles – things that forced themselves upon one's attention whether one would or not, such as how to get out of debt, and how to get directly into it (which is quite as interesting an occupation to some men as getting out of it). So long as they can get well into it, they are not much bothered about how to get out – except to get out of the country with a ‘bit that has stuck’ still in his possession. These things have both puzzled me, as also has the difficulty of convincing the average actor that I was born to write up favourable notices for him, of the difficulty of making your cashier believe that I had no mercenary designs upon him when I have commenced to tell him a story that I imagine to be funny; of the difficulty of persuading editors to value me at my own estimate; of the difficulty of dancing gracefully and with abandon when I have become aware of the awful fact that my suspenders have given way; of the difficulty of persuading a cabman late at night that my card is quite as good as ready coin; of the difficulty of telling a man's father that I loved his daughter above a bit and meant to marry her; of the difficulty of getting home from a race meeting a hundred miles off when I have had nothing left but several tickets reminding me that I had backed ‘wrong 'uns’ and sevenpence halfpenny in copper.

A most respectable-looking man now, but see him below after course on the Pigs in Clover puzzle.

All these are puzzles, sir, there is no doubt, but what I have particularly in my eye just now is that lunatic, inexpressibly time wasting, very absorbing, and misleading bit of puzzledom known as ‘Pigs in clover,’ though goodness knows why they call it that. I feel strongly about this puzzle business, sir; it is blighting the lives of many most estimable men – men who have hitherto led blameless lives, and have alike avoided burlesque troupes, the wine when it was red [Proverbs 23.31] , football, ‘leetin’ on’ [flirting], bazaars, and all other similar iniquities. Many admirable men of this kind have lately forfeited my esteem wholly – and all through this pernicious puzzle. Quite unconsciously, and unwarned by handsomely paid lectures such as gird at [attack] other vices, they have fallen into the trap and are likely to remain there till another puzzle of the same kind is invented to complete the mischief, to put the finishing stroke on the fell work of the ‘Pigs in Clover’ abomination.

See the ‘gent’ above – and look at him now.

Take an example. I was formerly on terms of friendship, not to say of intimacy, with Nobraynes, a respectable agent in the wholesale grocery trade, a man who never told a lie except in the way of business or when he went home late ‘from the club.’ Nobraynes was as consistently honest and as moral as any man could possibly be in the wholesale grocery trade. One day Nobraynes quite unsuspectingly bought a ‘Pigs’ arrangement, just rattled it about for a moment in the street, and then, his curiosity being aroused, adjourned with it to a public-house. He tried that puzzle over, and being unsuccessful, he began to think that his hand and eye must be out of form, and, accordingly, he ordered another whiskey. After that several grinning persons in the room began to rally him upon his want of success and to ask him why he didn't take the glass off the top of the puzzle and put the pellets into the clover with a pair of tongs. Nobraynes naturally got mad, and not being prepared with crushing retorts at the time (a man very often does suffer from that deficiency), he thought that more whiskey would give him inspiration, and at them he went again – the whiskey and the puzzle, I mean. To make a long story short, he sat there neglecting his business and breaking at least two engagements with respectable men in the provision trade, and he got very drunk, staggered home, made to his wife some sort of incoherent reference to account for his condition, as to ‘Pigsh in Cloversh,’ and then very naturally heard something about other ‘Pigs in Drink.’ Next day, with fevered head and distorted imagination, at it he went again almost before he had left his domicile, where he had breakfasted luxuriously upon a seidlitz powder [hang-over cure]. But his efforts to work that puzzle did not ‘fizz’ like the seidlitz powder, but he went on with his folly even the whole way by the tram. But he couldn't do it, and then he got mad and used language that no respectable journal would print, and even since that time, believe me, sir, he has neglected his business, has drunk to that extent that he scarcely knows whether he's himself or somebody else, has, although in the provision trade, allowed very little of the provision trade to go into him, and has forfeited the esteem of all his friends; yes, even of those who used to borrow half dollars of him. A man who chews cloves in a morning [to sweeten his breath] going down to business has something wrong about him, you may depend. Nobraynes has to an extent conquered the puzzle, but not before it has vanquished him as a man and a wholesale grocery agent. He now tries to catch flats [dupes] by affecting in strange hotels that he has never seen the puzzle before, and offering to make bets that he can do it all the same once out of thrice in 10 minutes. He may sell good provisions, but I don't know how he'll manage to make provision for his wife and family if this sort of thing goes on.

Give me your hand, dear boy, and wish me joy – I’ve succeeded with the Pigs in Clover puzzle.

I have many other examples in my mind where other men have been reduced to a state of semi-lunacy by this puzzle craze. What I say is this, if a man wants to put pigs into clover, let him get a pig-jobber to do it for him. I know of one case where a most amiable man has developed a temper perfectly fiendlike, the sort of temper a man wants to take out and lose, and all through this pigs-in-clover abomination. He was in a charmingly amiable mood one day, and actually thought of sending an invitation to his mother-in-law to stop with himself and wife for a half a century or so; then he bought the puzzle pestilence and had a go at it after dinner at the restaurant where be dines. He couldn't do it, try as he might, and of course he was further irritated by the remark of the usual ultra-clever-never-to-be bested-at-anything-man, who asserted that he (the cleverhead) had done it the first time without the faintest difficulty. He went home, practising it on the tram, tram, and [a[f[te]r] several hours at home besides. Then the amiability or his disposition completely left him; all his milk of human kindness was turned to gall, and he, well, he got into a fiend-like rage. smacked the children all round, broke an astonishing quantity of crockery, called [spoke critically of] his wife's relations, kicked the dog out of doors, and generally had a bit of quiet domestic happiness. This is the temper-trying resuIt of cheap puzzles, which are about as unwholesome and as a meal at a tenth-rate coffee tavern.

Last modified 12 March 2022