Once you find the word BEAGLEPUSS and what it means, well, you have to do something with it. It seems so odd that so specific an item should have such a name, but I checked up a number of sources and found confirmation. I think I first encountered it in one of the books by Paul Anthony Jones of the Haggard Hawks website. But it’s also in Wiktionary, and a few other places.
And once you have it, what do you do with it? Dogs and cats are going to come into it, obviously – and probably in that order. And somehow you have to guide solvers to discover what this bizarre word represents. I’m not a great one for drawing things in grids (I can’t draw) but the visualisation of Groucho glasses seemed to be something even I could aspire to, and the lenses begged to be Os. Hmm…LEGO? OLEG?
But the adjacency of NOSE and however I was going to represent MOUSTACHE was a problem. Spelling them out cell by cell would consume too much space – I wanted the specs neat in the middle. So LEG, NOSE and TACHE would occupy single cells, across and down, fully checked, showing where the illustrations should go.
A quick experiment showed that that would screw symmetry. Also rows and columns would have to be treated as sequences of letters rather than words per se – that would allow me the ___NO/SETA/CHE____ that putting the nose above the tache required. So no bars, perhaps – although, in the end, a desire to have a checked letter in each of BEAGLE and PUSS led me to introduce a couple to the top and bottom rows. Likewise the complexities of getting words in rows and columns led me to slip in a few vertical bars in other rows. But it was going to be an odd-looking grid.
I also suspected it would be hard – a Carte Blanche with no symmetry (although there’s one of those in The Listener as I type) and with a few thematically undefined clues somewhere in the mix. I suppose (in 20/20 hindsight) that I could have italicised those, which would probably also have given some indication of rows in the grid. Still, at least the title came easily enough.
So I wasn’t too surprised to see it labelled a D. Great, I thought, my first Magpie D – and then, this month, as their bonus issue, Magpie re-release an issue from 2004, and there’s a Phi grade D in it. There are times when you realise quite how much of your past there is to catch up with you.