Some time in the 1950s (I think), The Spectator ran one of its literary competitions. Entrants had to write the opening paragraph of a novel in the style of Graham Greene – though I imagine the subject was not Greene-friendly (a crisis of faith in a Buddhist, perhaps).
Greene entered pseudonymously – and placed third. I’ve also noted victims of impressionists such as Tommy Cooper and Groucho Marx deliver a joke along similar lines – an impersonate Cooper/Marx contest in which the man himself places third.
Style. It’s an odd thing. In these instances. it’s sort of noticing someone else wearing your clothes better than you do. But I’ve often wondered whether style is as identifiable as many claim. I don’t deliberately change my style between outlets – at least, I don’t notice if I do. There again, I have had a sequence of editors at one outlet where the interventions ranged from minimal through to exasperated major rewrites – yet this was me writing the same sort of clues as always, and them trying to ensure a consistent house style.
I’ve recently mentioned the setter Pangakupu who has started appearing in The Guardian. ‘Pangakupu’ is the Maori word for ‘crossword’ – well, technically it’s just the words for ‘puzzle’ and ‘word’ joined together, so it covers all word puzzles. There have been numerous suggestions that Pangakupu = Phi, and the most recent appearance of Pangakupu led to a comment on one solving blog that there was a lot of commonality with Phi’s style; on another blog the claim was that there was nothing in common.
Well, they can’t both be right, can they?
So: yes, Pangakupu = Phi (if you check back, you’ll see I never actually denied the claim). I didn’t wangle my way on to The Guardian roster to test the style issue specifically, but once there it seemed an attractive experiment. In similar vein, Robert Simpson, the composer and BBC producer, used to run a programme called The Innocent Ear. Less familiar pieces were played with the announcement at the end, at which point there was expected to be a number of till-then-contented listeners exclaiming: “But that’s X! I don’t like X!” So herewith ends the current series of The Innocent Solver.
It does mean I can alert you to the next appearance of Pangakupu on Tuesday 18 October, with the usual Friday Independent following. The following week is somewhat more hectic, with an Enigmatic Variations from Kcit on Sunday 23rd, a Times Quick Cryptic from Pedro on Monday 24th, with the usual Friday Independent following. You might also want to guess whether the anonymous Times Jumbo on Saturday 29th is by me: I couldn’t possibly comment.
The puzzle this time round is an old Independent daily from December 2008. It’s a grid I came up with, and I use it very occasionally, as it’s an absolute beast to fill. (I was terribly pleased when one attempt ended up with two 15-letter entries both ending in an I in the south-east corner. But that’s not this one.)