Happy Easter

Here we are after the passage of Cyclone Cook (well, weakening subtropical low Cook by the time it reached us) and very little of the threatened chaos came to pass in this neck of the woods (sadly, other parts of NZ have not been so lucky).  Even our three metre hollyhock came through unscathed, though it may be at an even more outrageous angle now.  There was enough concern to keep me awake and apprehensive throughout the night, though, but the one major downpour only kicked in just after I did drop off.

Easter is a time for holiday puzzles so I have set to and transcribed an Easter Jumbo from The Independent of over a decade ago.  I took the liberty of modifying one clue – when I looked at it, I immediately thought I couldn’t have intended that, and blamed the editor.  But my hard copy says exactly the same.  And it really doesn’t feel right.  (Actually, I should own up to deleting a whole comma in one other clue.)

I will also shortly be adding a new setter’s blog covering my latest Enigmatic Variations puzzle, Fugue (I’ll try to remember to convert part of that sentence to a link when I do).  I’m not quite sure of the precise closing date any more, so I am dependent on fifteensquared‘s blog!  (Or the EV editor dropping me a Facebook message – link now activated.)

I am filling the Independent’s Friday slot with what was intended to be next week’s puzzle (but the vagaries of clashing vocabulary have led to a swap).  Since the Independent allowed setters to devise their own grids, I have produced 300.  This one came from thinking about long entries, and whether it was possible to have consecutive grid rows of 15, 14 and 13 – the answer is yes, and there’s also something to mark the 300-ness of things.  Next week grid 299 finally gets in.  And after this, fewer odd grids.  Maybe.

New Zealand mourned the loss of John Clarke this week.  He was Australia’s leading political satirist, and, though a Kiwi, took on the role in Australia because the powers-that-be in NZ were a little terrified of the possibility.  (He did leave NZ the enduring national character of Fred Dagg.)  One of Clarke’s hits in Australia was a spoof on the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and that seemed to inspire a sporting vein, since he shortly afterwards produced The Tournament, a book I came across when Radio 3 chose selections as interval readings during concerts in Wimbledon fortnight.  Clarke’s tournament is unique in that the participants are significant cultural figures from between roughly 1870 and 1970 (artists, scientists, musicians, film stars, etc. – not military or political types) – and they play tennis according to their cultural roles: Einstein’s serve only seems to be faster than light, while no-one’s sure how Amelia Earhart was seeded, because her best performances aren’t on any surface at all.  It’s a vehicle for parodying sports reporting, as well as a repository for countless, often rather erudite jokes (Godel queries how the score in his match can be tied 1-1 after two games, as he can demonstrate that there may be situations where 1+1 is not equal to 2).  There’s nothing quite like it, and it is always worth dipping into.  In all the encomia surrounding his passing, no-one has mentioned this gem, so I’m trying to even things up.

Next time round will see the appearance of the 2016 APEX puzzle.


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