Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle March 2020

Rare Achievements by Hedge-sparrow

……………………………………………

Rare Achievements by Hedge-sparrow

The names of three individuals who have achieved rare success appear as unclued entries in the grid (one split over two entries). Solvers must highlight five entries (35 cells in total) which summarise their respective contributions, and two words (separately disposed in the grid, 9 further cells) which indicate how these have been recognised. In normal reading order, letters discarded at clashes spell out the general field, to be written below the grid. Six clues contain an extra letter sequence of two, three or four letters, to be removed before solving: in clue order, these give names of fellow contributors. Excepting one abbreviation, all answers and entries are real words or names. Chambers 2016 is the primary reference: 26 appears in Collins.

Across
4 See American army in battle charge (10)
11 One in Italian peace-keeping body (3)
12 Misrepresent female abandoning faith (5)
13 Home Secretary admitting amour to leader of House – it’s a mess! (4)
14 Arrive holding crust of large bloomer (6)
15 Decline stopping leading performer spinning grooves (7)
16 Record hideous publicity about opening of parlour for poodle? (6)
17 Unclued (5)
19 The royal guards relapsed long ago, according to poet (4)
21 Workshop rebuilt at Lake Erie (7)
22 Legendary stable owner put a shilling on Gold Goddess (6)
25 Limit outside diameter to get transmission of energy (9)
28 Insist miscreant acts as a substitute (6, two words)
29 Use piano for choir’s final piece in performance? That’s an idea (7)
32 At first, parliamentarians exploit agreement (4)
35 Play part of frisky jennet carrying County Alderman about (5)
37 Caught fish creating a disturbance around Loch Ness (6)
38 Resolve delay over emergency room comprising several beds (7)
39 Disfigure antique silver tower (6)
40 Head north to Essen, then back to Paris (4)
41 Goat forsaking deserted island (5)
42 Former Russian inmate loading glaze kiln (3)
43 Unclued (10)

Down
1 Almost choked by quickly disposing of odd bits of kernel (7)
2 Poet’s undone, losing lead in race at the end (6)
3 Unclued (8)
4 One in Oban carrying short form of instrument stand with no feet (5)
5 Gadflies beginning to chomp members (5)
6 Throne African ruler’s set up inside ocean-going vessel (7, two words)
7 Prohibition bill supported by unionist (4)
8 One heading south-east on French river (5)
9 Capitol’s out of sight (7)
10 Recognize an Al-Na-based cubic mineral (6)
15 Withdrew treatise penned by poet’s counsel, once (9)
18 Fungal spores are a contributing factor in strongyloidiasis (5)
20 Overthrows from India inflating batsmen’s scores (5)
23 Invigorate and elevate on-line journal, putting in a bit of work (7)
24 What’s left when current overwhelms unfortunate man (7)
26 Attacked on board, Bluebeard finally abandons deck under a bit of pressure (7, two words)
27 In kirkyard, lays out for burial Saint Kelvin amongst ancient crosses (7)
28 Outer layers stretch externally for women in wellies (6)
30 Beats runners? (6)
31 Unclued (5)
33 Below source of Amazon, chart area forming Brazilian state (5)
34 University department receiving tip for racehorse not ridden previously (5)
36 Playing dice for African money (4)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format, indicating the highlighted entries, to ccpuzzles@talktalk.net before 8th April 2020. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book from the Chambers range, which has been donated by Chambers.

 

Crossword News February 2020

Crossword News February 2020

The January Prize Puzzle was One Name is Key by Wan. The theme of the puzzle is F Scott Fitzgerald’s Flappers and Philosophers. The work is a series of eight short stories. Nine clues without definitions lead to four birds (flappers) and five philosophers. The first letters of these clues give BETTY BOOP, a cartoon flapper. Corrections to misprints in remaining clues give eight short stories representing the work – ILIA[d], FABL[e], TAL[e], THEM[e], PLO[t], SPIE[l], YAR[n] and ACCOUN[t]. A second, unfinished, work is included in the grid to help solvers identify the author.

Solvers were to write the first title under the grid and highlight the second, appropriately unfinished in the grid. The title refers to fact that one of the author’s names is Key – Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Thanks for another great puzzle. This was, for me, a real step up in difficulty some tough clues and the theme took a long time to emerge for me. In fact, it was only when I had completed the grid and found The Last Tycoon (unfinished) that I could work back to the other title. Betty Boop was clear as a flapper together with the birds, as were the philosophers. The changed letters in the definitions did not give me any hint to Flappers and Philosophers, but as I write this email I finally get it – Iliad, fable, tale, theme, plot, spiel, yarn, account – all missing their last letters.  Very tough, but ultimately fair.

Seeing Wan’s name I knew I was in for a challenge – but this proved to be (for me) a bit gentler than his previous offerings. The clues were tough but fair – and the endgame wasn’t too tortuous. The ‘Betty Boop’ hint definitely pointed me in the right direction – I don’t think I’d associate ‘birds’ with ‘flappers’ in a million years! The corrected misprints were also baffling until I’d found the work in question – 8 short stories – of course! And I liked the highlighting of another ‘unfinished story’ in the grid. All in all a really enjoyable puzzle that taught me something new as well – thanks Wan. I’m not 100% sure on the title’s meaning – I assume it’s the missing ’N’ from ‘The Last Tycoon’ but am happy to be proved wrong.

I found this a very enjoyable and very tricky puzzle, a really good workout, thank you Wan. The clues were hard but fair, although I still cannot parse 21a, beyond that it’s a Scottish term for a top hat; I can’t see where unemployed or degree fit in. Will you be publishing the parsing with the answers to the puzzle?  Type 1 came through first, with ortolan then blue tit. Type 2 was more difficult, partly because I first got Seneca and became fixed on the possibility that they were all in some way North American native peoples.  I’d never come across Agnesi or Carnap before.  So I have learnt something and was delighted to have completed this one.

There were 43 entries, of which three were marked wrong. The lucky winner is Geoff Lee, from London, who will soon be receiving his prize of a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary which was donated by Chambers.

There is a full solution and notes available at https://wp.me/p7qTXm-dY

You still have plenty time to solve and submit your entry for the February Prize Puzzle, Underdog by Chalicea.

Our puzzle for March is a welcome debut for a well-liked setter with his first puzzle on the Crossword Centre – Rare Achievements by Hedge-sparrow. I asked him to tell us about himself and this is what he replied.

“Sometime during the latter half of the 1990s – for reasons I can’t really remember – I decided one day to attempt to solve a Listener puzzle in The Times.  Although in those days I attempted sporadically to solve the “normal” blocked Times puzzle (with varying degrees of success), and had enjoyed solving – and even occasionally creating – crossword puzzles from a young age, I was certainly no expert in the field.  That first Listener must have been a fairly straightforward example of the genre as I remember, much to my surprise, getting a fair way towards completing it: I was encouraged to keep trying, and soon I was hooked.  It turned out to be a very good moment for this new interest to arise: I found the mental processes of solving clues very therapeutic during many sleepless nights when our children were small during the late 1990s and early 2000s!

My first attempts at setting a thematic barred puzzle came around ten years later.  Under the pseudonym Hedge-sparrow (which is simply one meaning of my surname) I sent two puzzles to the editors of the Listener, one of which was accepted for publication.  This was an exciting moment for me, and again one which encouraged me to keep going with setting puzzles.

I think I must be close to my quarter-century of set puzzles by now.  Over the years, the themes I’ve used have tended to reflect my own interests, including science (I’m a physicist by training and have worked in high-tech industry for more than 35 years, although away from work I’m something of a Luddite – my children, now twenty-something, would certainly say so, anyway 😊), nature, classical music and literature, bell-ringing…  The one interest I’ve never dared to use as a theme is football, and my beloved Luton Town FC (I was born there, within toilet-roll-throwing distance of the football ground!)

I’m probably also a bit of a Luddite when it comes to setting puzzles.  Apart from dictionaries, a thesaurus, and on-line references (and of course squared paper, pencil, and rubber), I don’t use any constructional aids.  This isn’t a “high-horse” thing: it’s just that I really enjoy doing the entire setting process.  I use the times when I’m walking with our dogs around the parks and pathways of Bournville where we live to think about new ideas for puzzles, or to form clues in my mind: often on such occasions my poor long-suffering wife Catherine finds me “far away” when she tries to talk to me.

I’m extremely grateful to all the editors and fellow setters and solvers who have helped and encouraged me in setting puzzles over the years.  A big regret of mine is that I am of such a retiring nature that I’ve never plucked up the courage to attend an event with fellow crossword aficionados – hence, I’ve never actually met face-to-face any other setter, solver or editor (I’ve even read the occasional comment suggesting that I’m not a “real” person, but another setter in disguise!)  But I am real, and I’m working on overcoming my shyness, so I really do hope I’ll be able to meet some of you soon.

John Nicholson has almost finished Round Robin XII and hopefully it will be our April Prize Puzzle.
***
The statistics for our 2019 Prize Puzzles have now been counted and the Crowther Cup will be going to a new winner. Just 3 solvers managed to remain all correct throughout the 13 puzzles of 2019. They were Matthew Auger, Brian Betker and Andie Johnson.  On countback, Matthew stays top of the pile but the Cup now passes on to Andie Johnson, many congratulations to her!
***
David Webb is a regular contestant at The Times Crossword Championship and also runs a YouTube channel called Dweebovision which is dedicated to Scrabble. He has uploaded a short vlog of the 2019 Times Crossword Championship to his channel at http://bit.ly/xwordchamps which captures some of the atmosphere of the day and also features those Scrabble players who were taking part. This is a fascinating video and I am sure it will be of interest to crossworders.
***
Results are in for the Magpie Puzzle of the Year. In a close-run contest, the top five were-

1 Where Am I? by Pointer 11.65%

2 Hexaflex  by EP 10.85%

3 Up and Down by Ferret 8.72%

4 Snark Blancheby  Phylax 8.62%

5 By Gum by Wan 6.14%

Percentages are of the total votes cast (after weighting).

Also published were the top solvers of Magpie puzzles in 2019.

1= Simon Melen

1= Darren Roberts

1= Martin Bright

1= Richard Chamberlain

5 David Agg

6 Matthew Auger

7 John Reardon
***
John Henderson also published the results of the votes for the best Inquisitor puzzle of the year. Congratulations to eXternal who was the eventual winner for his Pacman themed crossword, Clue Two IV. You can read about the voting and the results on the Fifteen squared site at https://www.fifteensquared.net/2020/01/25/inquisitor-review-of-the-year-2018-9/
***
Next month will see the  43rd annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament take place in Stamford and, once again, directed by Will Shortz. You can get all the details at https://www.crosswordtournament.com/
***
If you have lots of free time in the next month you may want to try the Big Crossword, with 1250 clues and a massive 103 x 103 grid.
https://www.thebigcrossword.com/
***
I will be attending the Listener Crossword Setters’ Dinner in Stratford-on-Avon next month. As usual there will be a report on the event in my next newsletter. I look forward to meeting friends new and old. I hear that this will be the largest Listener gathering with some 120 guests already signed up.

Best wishes
Derek

 

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle February 2020

Underdog by Chalicea

Underdog by Chalicea PDF

In 1ac on the edge of 23, a pair of 1d, (16 and 41ac) would work together converting a 31 from the 6ac to 46. Down in the 47, 41ac 13. Wordplay only is given for all of those words. Solvers must highlight the tool (7 contiguous letters).

Across
1 Criminal adopting plan to snare (7)
6 Period of indulgence in activity securing gold (6)
10 One protesting strongly (a bishop) about trouble with energy (6)
12 Fine glazed fabric making a comeback (4)
14 Asexual reproduction in a school essentially ethological book (12)
16 Wrote a spy novel (9)
17 Produced revolutionary milk product (4)
19 Tanned forehead and tip of nose (5)
22 Self-mortification of character abandoning Cornish resort (7)
23 Eccentric architect (9, 2 words)
26 Tree genus in international law (4)
27 Division in church is involved in drink (5)
29 Head loses one kitchen employee (4)
31 House European (9)
34 Fairness when publicity’s pulled out of state of decay (7)
35 Endlessly crafty little insectivore (5)
36 Instrument of European Union protecting retrograde Croatia (4)
37 Sadly, alas, a posh dog (9, 2 words)
41 Victoria’s persistent cadger; Twain’s mischievous protagonist (12)
44 Veronese consortium’s bottled wine (4)
45 Ed’s to encircle backsliding workers in remote regions (6)
46 Projects surrounding opening of Klondike (6)
47 Made sure of having money (7)

Down
1 Wild pigs circling, idle but ill-disposed (12)
2 Thus wicked person’s overthrown (4)
3 Some ambitious miners used up trees (4)
4 Raised animals’ offspring, young sheep (3)
5 Number regularly started on head of Yukon (4)
6 Subtler snaring ultimately gullible once, to fraudulently get goods on credit (6)
7 Beginning of obsession concerning poet’s precious metal (3)
8 Return to former position as tree split (6)
9 Capetown’s expression of disgust for little sibling (3)
11 Advance without companions we hear (4)
13 Company of performers including setter of primarily fictional unfinished work (12, 3 words)
15 A principally problematic lyric poem lacking feet (5)
18 Agree to frenzied decadence without disorderly end (6)
20 Bird’s classy car (6)
21 Large mammal perishes keeling over losing head (3)
22 Dance step with extremes of popularity (5)
24 Hew brushwood in the north (3)
25 Transparent film material oddly used in creels (3)
28 Praise, in times gone by, when alchemist’s metal turned up (3)
30 Malicious woman’s heartless romp in the cut grass (5)
32 Old form of charged nucleus of uranium included in noted upset (6)
33 Returned calls one ignored in city dwellings (6)
35 Indigenous northern dweller’s mounting bleating sounds (4)
38 Norse god seizing gutless miserable souls (4)
39 Struck with amazement; cut wood with skill initially lacking (4)
40 Magistrate’s legal advisor twice trimmed antiquated tax (4)
41 Primarily built employing lakeside exotic tree (3)
42 In Glasgow obtain unlimited share in business … (3)
43 … a manuscript turning up there, great! No, quite the opposite (3)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format, indicating the highlighted entry, to ccpuzzles@talktalk.net before 8th March 2020. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book from the Chambers range, which has been donated by Chambers.

 

Crossword News January 2020

Crossword News January 2020

The December Prize Puzzle was Seasons Greetings XI by Eclogue. This was based on the theme of the popular Christmas carol, The Holly (A) and the Ivy (B).

Variation one are words which can be added:

(A)      HOLLYWOOD and HOLLYHOCK; (B) IVY LEAGUE and IVY-MANTLED

Variation two are familial plant names:

(A)      ILEX, MATE and YAUPON ; (B) ARALIA, PANAX and HEDERA

Variation three replaces the roman numeral components of HO(LL)Y and (IV)Y to form new words.

(A)      HOMILY and HOLILY ; (B) VIVIDLY and CIVILLY

V+I+V = 11 (or XI) to eliminate the possibility of LIVIDLY

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Many thanks to Eclogue for another excellent crossword. Theme and Variations provided quite a tricky challenge.

I usually worry about my ability to solve a puzzle with so many unclued entries, but I didn’t find it too hard to solve enough clues to work out what was going on. I managed to guess words that could be the ‘2’ variations first, which led me to the theme words and then it wasn’t too hard to work out the other variations, with the extra hint from the preamble that the ‘3’ variations involved Roman numerals.  I initially thought that the ‘3’ variations involved adding more Roman numerals to the theme word until I came to 6d. I used an electronic search to find other possible ‘3’ variations which confirmed that those appearing in the puzzle plus the unused alternative are the longest possible for each theme word.

It’s been ages since I was able to solve a Crossword Centre puzzle completely. I might have gotten something wrong on this one, but I enjoyed it so much that I had to send in my solution. A very pleasant romp on the theme of “The Holly and the Ivy”. Happy Christmas!

Thanks to Eclogue for keeping this series going, and keeping it fresh.  I like the device of using the puzzle title to complete the final entry – a nice touch.

There were 51 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Roslyn Rougvie, who will soon be receiving her prize of a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary.

There is a full solution and notes at https://wp.me/p7qTXm-dM

You still have time to solve our January puzzle, One Name is Key by Wan, and submit your solution before 8 February. The February puzzle will be Underdog by Chalicea.
***
The Round Robin crosswords are one of the highlights of the Crossword Centre. We are ready to create our twelfth puzzle in the series. John Nicholson announced it on our message board.

Ian Simpson has kindly given us a theme for this year’s Round Robin, so all we need now are some volunteer clue writers.  If you would like to take part please email me.

All clues are of the type ‘wordplay leads to an extra letter not forming part of the answer’. You will be given your word, or phrase, to clue and the letter that the wordplay must render as extra. As usual I have the answers on a list will allocate them in that order.

Solvers are invited to award points to their three favourite clues and there will be a prize for the setter of the clue that gains the most points.

Clues should be submitted by the end of the month. Thanks very much and good luck.

To take part contact John at gironanick@yahoo.com
***
If you are a fan of Azed you will be interested in this message from Richard Heald.

As you know, in May this year Jonathan Crowther is due to set his 2,500th puzzle as Azed, and a celebratory lunch is being held in Oxford in honour of this remarkable achievement.  As one of the organisers of the event, I thought it might be rather nice to be able to present to him on the day greetings cards and personal messages of congratulations from as many of his celebrity fans and notable cruciverbal colleagues as possible – hence this email.  If you would like to send a card or message, then I think the best idea would be to mark it FAO Jonathan and post it to my home address – c/o 13 Eshton Court, Mapplewell, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S75 5QG – and I will ensure he receives it on the big day.
***
Crossword setter and quiz master, John Henderson was interviewed on BBC Radio York on 17 January. It is a fascinating interview and you can listen to it, about 1 hour 32 into the programme, at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07y4w3c
***
2019 was another year of excellent crosswords from the i-paper. There is a full review of these puzzles on Fifteen Squared and you have a chance to vote for the puzzle of the year.
http://www.fifteensquared.net/2019/12/30/inquisitor-review-of-2018-9-by-nimrod/#more-136514
***
As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Mark Goodliffe won the 2019 Times Crossword Championship. In a fascinating video Simon Anthony interviewed Mark about his crossword skills.

https://youtu.be/0iALMygzVAc
***
In BBC’s Dracula, broadcast at Christmas, viewers caught a glimpse of a crossword in series 3. Now, thanks to Alan Connor, you can try the full puzzle – https://uploads.guim.co.uk/2020/01/13/gdn.cryptic.sphinx03.pdf
***
Only Connect star, Frank Paul tweeted a clever little puzzle. It reminded me of those impossible crosswords that were published, I think, in the Daily Express. You had -USTARD and the clue was – Yellow food stuff. Hopefully this link will get you to it. https://twitter.com/frankmpaul/status/1217580136607948804?s=21

Best wishes
Derek

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle January 2020

One Name is Key by Wan

Nine clues consist of wordplay only; their definitions, four of one type and five of another, are covered by the title of a literary work, though the first type in a broad sense. A fifth, and more specific example of the first type is given by the first letters of these clues. All other clues have a misprint in the definition. The correct letters give the right number of cryptic hints to the content of the theme work.

A second work to be found in the grid may help solvers identify the writer of the theme work. The second work, which is appropriately represented, could be clued with a similar hint using a slightly different interpretation. The title of the theme work must be written under the grid and the title of the second work must be highlighted.

The Chambers dictionary (2016) is the primary reference.

………………………………………………………….

One Name is Key by Wan

Across
1 Bizet, Glass, and occasionally Brahms and Liszt (6)
5 Overturned Dutch fishing-vessel catching our country´s hake (6, 2 words)
10 Skunk caught in Missouri by Jove (5)
11 Ark Royal’s stern Wan’s twisted on sea bottom (7)
12 Nabbing topless drunk, gosh here? (6)
14 East end of London parts dry before afternoon (6)
15 Bees, including some agitated (7)
16 Smell cat perhaps next to young child (5)
19 Judge assuming month is covered with hearings (4)
21 Aberdeen kid who stays unemployed having no degree (7, 2 words)
22 Tickled salmon trout must suspect ducks (7)
24 French now in Cleveland Bay perhaps sacking the English (4)
30 Warning past girlfriend’s left is specious (5)
31 Scoundrel Henry pinches a flag, it could go on a cake (7)
32 Time has established Wan bores (6)
33 A low standard leads to college ending lessons (6)
34 Clumsy waitress slips with jams perhaps (7)
35 Dear Romeo departs sullen (5)
36 Sister recycled spokes (6)
37 Yankee’s truck parking going across North America (6)

Down
1 Scores of sheep after shearing left to sit awkwardly (6)
2 Elizabethan prayer’s particular purpose is not above church (5)
3 Sharpening of a tine’s edges on exotic tree trunk (6)
4 Be quiet nurse when leaving hospital (5)
5 Rappers may use these in error, many switching vowels (8)
6 Fancy lady clothing pet roughly like last master (7)
7 Belle no longer craving king is stuck up (5)
8 Sailing-vessel fitted with five grips (6)
9 Oscar cut cyst on the head back (5)
13 Stan, once again he recycles bottles (6)
17 Makes herd quiet when adding horseshoes? (8)
18 First signs of old age are golf, dancing and mowing (6)
20 Oddly used this fills a sandwich (7, 2 words)
23 It’s like a hire purchase agreement, incoherent, all empty gibberish (6)
24 Shook hard, our Scots boxing bishop (6)
25 Marry, with a struggle, a person of no importance (6)
26 Myth of volunteers leading search and rescue (5)
27 Gents see a young woman (5)
28 One after a tipple, ooh in Japan? (5)
29 Paris’s good to carry cases about (5)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format, indicating the highlighted entry and the title below the grid, to ccpuzzles@talktalk.net before 8th February 2020. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book from the Chambers range, which has been donated by Chambers.

Crossword News December 2019

Crossword News December 2019

The November Prize Puzzle was Esso by Vismut. Highlighted letters in the grid read – The long and the short of it. In the grid the word ITALIAN had to be highlighted. The title is, of course, the Italian word for IT.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

I very much enjoyed the puzzle. The highlighting of IT did not quite work out from the words I originally thought superfluous, but I checked my work and corrected. Italian soon followed, and of course the link to “esso”.  A clue that eluded me for full reasoning was 28a, and I will look forward to the solution to see if I was correct. As always, I am very grateful for these puzzles. I look forward to their arrival each month, and they always entertain.

This was in inventive puzzle with a lot going on. I was thrown by the preamble’s instruction about ‘reading the grid in the usual way’ – I’m not sure there is a ‘usual’ way…….. Anyway, I think I’ve cracked it and many thanks to Vismut.

Tricky to going on, especially with 2 types of variations, but got there in the end.  Thanks to Vismut for the challenge.

When I had solved a few clues I wrongly guessed that the initially highlighted letters would all appear in the fifth and ninth columns and the letters not indicated by the wordplay would all be unchecked. At least I correctly guessed that the highlighted letters spelled ABBREVIATION and that each extra word started with the highlighted letter. It took me a little longer to notice that the extra words could be abbreviated by the highlighted letters.  Once I saw the highlighting was in the shape of IT I guessed that the seven-letter word would be ITALIAN, but I enjoyed having to find most of the letters not indicated by the wordplay before I could guess ‘the long and the short of it’ and only when I had finished did I realise that ‘esso’ is Italian for ‘it’.

There were 44 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Mike Adams who will shortly be receiving a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary.

There is a solution at https://wp.me/p7qTXm-dx

There is still time to submit an entry to the December Prize Puzzle, Seasons Greetings XI by Eclogue.

The first puzzle of 2020 will be One Name is Key by one of our most respected setters, Wan. I asked Wan how he got into crosswords and he answered as follows.

“I started solving crosswords in the RN during the 60s, where at sea it was a case of solve whatever you could get hold of. A particular favourite was the Skeleton, and I even won a book token once, or rather my nephew did as I always submitted under family members’ names. I didn’t really progress much as a solver though, and didn’t get into thematic puzzles until I was almost 60.

I started setting crosswords around eight years ago when encouraged by the much-missed Radix. There was a mini clue-writing competition on Derek’s message board, where nine or ten of us took part and my clue was probably rated ninth or tenth. Radix, who I didn’t know, emailed me to tell me why he felt the judges were wrong and why my clue was the best. He finished by saying that if I didn’t set puzzles already that I should certainly start, and that he would be prepared to test them. Once I got to know Radix, I came to realise that he had probably sent a similar email to all the losers in the competition. I hadn’t dreamt of setting, but, ego inflated, had a go and sent him a puzzle a few months later. After a couple of weeks, I received his response; it began, ‘The first thing you need for a thematic puzzle is a good idea, yours is excellent, after that it is all downhill, I’m afraid.’ Then followed four pages of red ink. I sat in our kitchen with the notes, despondent for a few minutes, but only a few minutes as it quickly dawned on me just how much trouble this person I didn’t know had gone to in order to help me. I studied everything he wrote and redid the puzzle. It came back with some more red ink, but nothing like the first time. Eventually the puzzle was published on this site and I was up and running. Radix tested all my puzzles until he no longer could and we chatted about all things crossword related. He invited me to be his guest at the Listener Dinner, but I explained to him that I felt out of my depth and too nervous to go. It turned out to be the day I had my first Listener published. It was on the elements and I sent him a tie with the elements on it as a thank you for his help. He wore the tie to the dinner I know as I have seen pictures. He later told me about his cancer and that he hadn’t long left, so I knew when I didn’t get a reply that it was probably the end. I still miss him dearly. I don’t know what I would be doing with much of my time in retirement if it wasn’t for Radix and I am so grateful that such a brilliant man would be so generous.

I initially used the pseudonym Hermes, on which I served, but that had been used by a Listener setter before so I changed it to Wan – my partner, Jen, often calls me Juan affectionately, but my spelling better reflects her pronunciation.  We have lived in Girona for around 18 years now. I took early retirement from consulting work and turned to reforming and building flats here. Now I am just retired!”

***
In the Times Crossword Championship it was, once again, Mark Goodliffe who won. He had entered DITHER for the clue -Revolutionary Communist Party following dictator’s first move uncertainly – before changing it to DODDER. John McCabe was second and Helen Ougham third. For the first time there were prizes awarded to solvers outside the elite group. Colin Thomas won the prize in group B and Keith Long in group C.
***

Details have been published of the forthcoming Azed Crossword 2,500 celebration.  There will be a lunch at Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD on Saturday 2nd May 2020 to mark this very special milestone for Azed (aka Jonathan Crowther).  Attendees of the Azed 2,250 lunch at Wolfson in 2015 will remember it as a joyous day, which is why Wolfson has been chosen as our host venue again.  As on that occasion, guests are also invited to join Jonathan afterwards for afternoon tea at his home nearby, for a chance to meet him and the other guests in a more informal setting, hosted by Jonathan himself and his wife Alison.

The event will commence with a drinks reception from 12 noon, followed by lunch from 1pm.  This will be a fixed three-course meal consisting of a starter, a meat course and a pudding, with a vegetarian alternative available on request.  As with previous Azed lunches, there will also be a selection of wines, generously donated by The Observer newspaper.  Following lunch and speeches, at 4pm we will adjourn to Azed’s home, a short walk away from Wolfson, for afternoon tea and sandwiches.

The price of the lunch will be £55 per head; this will include all food and drinks, plus a small contribution towards gifts for Jonathan and Alison.  More details are available from Richard Heald by emailing him at heald.richard@googlemail.com
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A fascinating article about the setter Enigmatist, John Henderson, was published in the Yorkshire Post and the i paper.
https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/people/he-can-do-the-times-crossword-in-under-three-minutes-and-sets-the-questions-for-only-connect-we-meet-yorkshire-s-greatest-quiz-brain-1-10153905
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The December challenge from the Clue Writing Competition is a RIGHT and LEFT Christmas Cocktails clue with a free choice of the 2 ingredients. http://www.andlit.org.uk/cccwc/comp_info.php?comp_no=153

I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Best wishes
Derek