Listener Crossword 2500 Floreat in Aeternum

With the Listener Crossword reaching a round number, 4500, I am reminded of the memorable crossword that marked no. 2500. At that time I was fairly new to crosswords, although I had got my name in the statistics the year before.

On the 24th May 1979 the Listener magazine contained the extraordinary Floreat in Aeternum designed by Ploutos (Mike Rich). The L-shaped grid was really 5 12 x 12 grids, interlocking perfectly, and with a Playfair square in the corner. Each of the 5 grids was clued by one of the most popular setters of the time.

I. Diametricode by Babs 
The answers to the clues in italics are to be entered in code. The letters of the alphabet (except Q and Z) will be found in the six lights 1, 4, 7, 32, 33 and 34 across, and each of them is to be represented in the code by the letter at the opposite end of an imaginary straight line drawn through the blob at the mid-point of this part of the diagram, e.g. the first letter of 1 across is represented by the last letter of 34 across, and vice versa.
II. Alphabetical Cocktail by Sam
Each of the 26 across clues contains a definition of a word containing one more letter than the light and  a cryptic indication of the light; either may come first. One letter, a different one for each clue is to be removed from the word defined and the remaining letters rearranged to form another word which is the light. The 26 across lights each begin with a different letter of the alphabet. Down clues are normal.
III. Play Quiz by Apex
Answers to four clues in italics are to appear in the diagram in code, according to a code square with a key-word that has to be discovered. All of the letters in their encoded forms can be found from interlocking words. Solvers to enter the code square used in the left hand corner of the diagram.
Nine of the across clues and 10 of the down clues are the definition and letter mixture type which contain a definition (one word or more) and a mixture of the required letters, starting with the beginning or ending with the end of a word.
The remaining across and down clues are the printer’s devilry type, in which the printer has removed a hidden answer and closed up the gap without disturbing the order of the remaining letters, although punctuation  and spacing may have been altered.
IV. Topped and Tailed by Click.
The words to be entered in the diagram are obtained from the answers to clues by either adding or deducting a top or a tail. e.g. if the clue led to “tope”, the word to be entered could be stope, ope, top or topek, but not topes, i.e. no plurals of clued words. The 44 lights are equally divided among the four types and the added tails can be found in GLEN NERRELL.
V. Sixes and Sevens by Zander
Clues to words of 6 or 7 letters are arranged haphazardly and have to be fitted in the grid with the help of the remaining clues.

Prizes of £25 were offered to the senders of the first three entries opened and a closing date of 29 June. At a time when there were no electronic aids this was a tough puzzle. Relying on my Chambers Dictionary I started solving. I was 95% finished on 22 June when, to my horror, I opened the Listener and saw the solution to 2500.

As editor D A N Jones said in his Ad lib column on 5 July-
“A sad boob was made by the LISTENER last week. Solvers of the grand 2,500th crossword were offered five weeks to send in their entry,by 29 June. But we jumped the gun and printed the solution and winners’ names when only four had passed. The first protest came from London, with an Anglesey solver as runner-up, but dissatisfaction is now worldwide: we have eclipsed the pedantry of nations.”

As a consolation, three more prizes were offered to solutions that were not considered in the first judgement. It was also announced that the Listener crossword would henceforth appear every week, where previously it had been 3 weeks out of four.

As a young solver I would often write to the setters and usually with a cartoon that I had sketched. Inspired by the L-shaped grid of 2500 I drew a cartoon and posted it to the Listener.

Some time later I received this nice reply from Mike Rich.

“Thank you so much for sending me your most entertaining cartoon – I for one am sitting in that car.
As to no. 2500, the diagram including all words therein was composed entirely by myself, and only then sent to the five setters whose puzzle types I had chosen to use – fortunately they were all prepared to set their mark of approval on the puzzle by setting their clues. My own fetish was symmetry – you will note that each 12 x 12 is symmetrical and the whole can be folded through the diagonal of the heel – was assuaged.

You may have noticed that in a recent Ad Lib by D A N Jones we are to have our crossword back for all four weeks. Hoo-blooming-ray!
Perhaps I may look forward to meeting you one year at our annual dinner.”

The dinner to celebrate the 2500th Listener crossword was held in Birmingham’s Albany Hotel. One of the speakers was the singer, James Atkins, who had won a prize, as a student, for Listener Crossword no. 2.

Derek Harrison