I don’t think I’ve ever actually worked on a blog post outside before. But as the shadows lengthen after a sunny day I can now see the screen! This time the puzzle is an old Beelzebub from late 2014, which is significant because there’s a reference in it to something which is no longer the case. In this case, it’s not so ancient history (some elements of it are ongoing, one might say) and there is an alternative way to get to the answer. Still, it raises the question of contemporary references in crosswords.
Many publications forbid the mention of living people, partly because of the fear of misrepresentation, but partly because of the sense that the facts about living people change. You might claim that the definition ‘Arsenal footballer’ is scarcely going to lead to claims of libel – but you still have to allow for him being transferred to Wakefield Trinity. (Did I mention that sports aren’t my strong suit?)
I once tiptoed into this minefield at a certain newspaper of record by writing a clue for ROSEMARY that referenced the actress Rosemary Clooney. The clue used the surname, but was couched so as to appear to be about her nephew George. The editor took a sort of purist view: the clue was undeniably referencing Rosemary Clooney (and solving it made sure of the fact); if solvers insisted on reading George into it, that was their concern.
The Independent (since we’re talking about Beelzebub) is more relaxed about this, so the clue in Beelzebub 1292 got through – but the person involved didn’t come through quite so well. The whole affair will resonate for a few more years but ultimately all will fade and the parties may not be remembered by anyone other than specialists or quiz mavens. It’s a bit as if you came across a 1954 puzzle referencing the UK Foreign Secretary – quick, who was it? (Hint: very much a crossword staple. Disclaimer: I decided on 1954 not knowing it would be quite so familiar a name. Try 1932 instead if you want another go.)
One expects from time to time to come across a reference you don’t actually know, but which you feel you should. Some of these fading references are going to be ones you don’t know, but can’t imagine ever needing to.
Valentine’s Day brings out three puzzles by me: there’s the usual Friday appearance in The Independent (with a Nina), plus a puzzle in the Church Times, and a Quick Cryptic from Pedro in the non-Church Times. And in case I’m sluggish posting the next update in a fortnight, there’s a Jumbo in the Times on 22 February.