Sometimes a word seems to hog puzzles for a while. Quite a few years ago I recall solving daily Independent puzzles over a period of about a month, and finding three occurrences of LOCH NESS MONSTER in that time.  Not just a short word cropping up, you notice, but a full 15-letter grid-spanning entry.  This was of particular interest to me as a puzzle I was completing for later publication in The Independent contained – well, you guessed it.

May seems to have been the month for PURITANISM.  It was Azed’s competition word, and I finished the puzzle and recalled that I had written a clue for it some years ago which stuck in the mind.  Something about being ‘madly up in arms about sex’ (it in anag.) – I could remember it quite plainly, with its alternating consonants providing good word endings down the ten-letter on the right of Independent grid 17.  And the clue was a neat one – anything that unearths a common phrase like ‘up in arms’ from the fodder looks good.  So I sent it in, and I got a VHC.

As, of course, did something like three other competitors who had spotted the same thing.  I had wondered if that would occur – one should never assume you will be the only person to spot something and the trick can be how you use the thing you spotted.  What I hadn’t expected was something very close to my clue turning up in a Hoskins puzzle in The Independent later in the month.  This set me thinking, and I took recourse to fifteensquared to see when I’d written my memorable clue.  The search function readily threw up a Phi puzzle with PURITANISM – but the note was up (rev.) + martinis* – which certainly looks like a credible treatment (I didn’t track down the actual clue) – but it wasn’t my remembered clue.  I’ve been setting puzzles for The Independent from before the advent of fifteensquared, however, so maybe this clue has simply lodged in my mind for a long time.

Quite why these little constellations of word appearances should occur remains a mystery.  However, should the Wee Frees suddenly loom in an attempt to combine Nessie and a puritan attitude, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.

The puzzle today is a real, live published Beelzebub from2010- I’ll get back to the unpublished sequence next time it’s a Beelzebub’s turn.  Thanks as always to The Independent for permission to re-publish.

Puritanism aside (I don’t think it’s coming up in a puzzle soon), my Independent appearances continue as usual.  There’s a Times daily this Wednesday (6 June), a Church Times puzzle on 15 June and, hot on its heels an Inquisitor on 16 June.  Which is about when I should be back.

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