I recall hearing that Harold Massingham (aka Mass) would set out to grid a dozen or so barred thematic puzzles at once, and then patiently work through them and clue them. I can’t see how he did it, but I do have my own little rituals, one of which is to sit down every four weeks and grid a four-week tranche of Independent puzzles. It’s quite time-consuming, and I carefully ensured the fortnightly updates here avoided those weekends.
Whoever tweaked the calendar to throw that system out of kilter can just stop it – OK? The rather intricate past puzzle I have been preparing for publication here is taking quite some time (and will be presented in pdf form only – 76 clues and four grids is a long scroll down); its production has not been helped by finding that the intended publication date suddenly coincides with an Independent gridding-fest. I will return next week with the promised puzzle, and try to keep fortnightly thereafter.
The latest burst of gridding included the Beelzebub Christmas special (I like to get well ahead) – not so unseasonal here in NZ, given that the June solstice provokes a desire to haul out the Lord of Misrule, and some sort of Saturnalian festivity, which is often called Christmas. The sharp intake of breath from the churchmen would be audible in Australia were the Aussies not engaged in precisely the same irreverence. Quite whether Santa could have propelled his sleigh through the storms we’re currently having is a moot point.
It did occur to me the other day that we crossword setters have cause to be grateful to Queen Elizabeth II for being Elizabeth. ER is so much more tractable than say MR (Mary is another of her forenames), and things like Jacqueline or Sharon would have been much less use. I note that any one of Charles, Philip, Arthur or George will suffice almost as well when the time comes.
If you read this promptly over the weekend it appears, please do head off and get a Sunday Telegraph and try the Enigmatic Variations puzzle, which is one of mine. If you are tardy and miss Sunday 7 July, then you will just have to get the Sunday Telegraph a week later and try the Enigmatic Variations puzzle again – I have a hand in that one, as well, but I’ll remind you of that when the polygrid puzzle finally goes up next week.