This time I’m going to point you at a puzzle already on the site, rather than a new one. It’s my first Independent magazine puzzle from 8 October 1988, no. 5 in the series that reached 1500 this weekend. That is close on 30 years ago (you can probably hypothesise what we’ll be doing come September next year), and I have racked up 140 of them since then. They came quite frequently in the early days, but we’ve now settled down to about four a year. You will have to solve the clues in the article with the puzzle to determine whether or not I have a hand in today’s extravaganza – after all, there’s a bottle of champagne at stake. Though, really, who do you think they might ask…
There are now three barred puzzles in the UK weekend papers, and I certainly still think of them as different. This harks back to the early days of the IQ puzzle when it was made clear that it was to be less of a challenge than The Listener. That may not be the case these days – I’ve had one or two IQs that felt quite tricky, and the one currently being completed elsewhere in this iPad should join them, I think. Nonetheless there remains some value in having a graduated approach to the form, and somewhere in the back of my mind the feeling remains that the IQ should be at the easier end of things. You’ll be able to test that in August, when I have a Listener puzzle and another IQ a fortnight apart.
I contribute to all three weekend puzzle series and I used to have a sense of whether a puzzle idea was Listener, IQ or EV. This is a different concept from difficulty, though they’re related; however, if an idea cleaves to one or other outlet I will tweak things to change how hard the puzzle is. In the last couple of years this has become much more fluid, particularly around themes: I seem these days to have to consider that the IQ really shouldn’t have two consecutive puzzles based on 18th century Hungarian sculptors, so one should be directed to EV, or perhaps The Magpie. The question then becomes how to make that theme feel more EV-ish or Magpovian. Perhaps all this tinkering is merely a personal thing and we should end up somewhere near Bernstein on music: there are good puzzles and bad puzzles, and difficulty (and some of the other things we argue about) may not be so heavily-weighted a factor.
One thing you are missing from the article below the puzzle is the set of setter vignettes: single sentence descriptions of the participants. Marjorie and I produced separate versions of mine, with somewhat unsettlingly little overlap. And then I lost the email, along with several years’ worth of its associates, so I can’t tell you what I was.
Ah. Perhaps that’s too big a hint.
Well, you still have four other clues to solve to get your hands on the champers. But if you do win, do have a toast to the next 1500.
For the next few weeks, you should see a Toughie on Tuesday 25 July, a Hellphire puzzle in the Crossword Club come August (which may prompt some more backward-looking musings in a fortnight), a Phi Listener on 5 August (you could also cast a glance at that day’s Jumbo), and once you’ve sampled The Times on 12 and 18 August as well, we’re back to the Inquisitor come 19 August.