I have got quite out of the habit of sending Christmas cards, which makes it all the more unsettling when I receive one which I realise does merit a response. And since the card in question comes every year I really have only myself to blame.
The sender is Jo May, the widow of that great cruciverbalist Les May, and this year she enclosed two rather elderly pages from The Listener, with puzzles by Les from 1981 and 1983. I was solving the puzzle by then, and I do dimly remember the puzzles (one with the implausible – and thus memorable – title Joe to Hie and Make Her His), but clearly they can be solved again, so they are in my Christmas heap. Jo also mentioned that she had had three of Les’ pseudonyms carved on his headstone – Eel, Jewel and Nox. It rather amused me to think of some future student of gravestones puzzling over these apparently random words.
The puzzle I’m adding to your Christmas heap also marks – in a slightly odd way – the passing of a great cruciverbalist, in this case, Michael MacDonald-Cooper. Michael was crossword editor for the alumnus magazine Oxford Today, and produced a puzzle for them every other month. He also solicited contributions from other alumni, and I had one published there, and submitted a second. This second one went into some sort of black hole, and I could never ascertain why. There didn’t seem to be a clash of themes, as none of his puzzles since then used the theme in mine. I suspect that with his passing the magazine will cease publishing crosswords, so this may never emerge unless I present it here. Remember that a requirement of the puzzle’s theme was some sort of connection to Oxford.
This is going up earlier than usual as we’re preparing for the arrival of Sabre who staying with us over Christmas, having completed the Tongariro Crossing a few days ago. Watch out for a possible photo on Facebook.