The puzzle for Easter is a Beelzebub puzzle from July 2011.
We have just had a flurry of reports about the various anniversaries of lockdowns and other aspects of the pandemic. One thing that I do now that I didn’t then is to consult Google Discover in my smartphone app. I cannot recall when I started doing this regularly and I don’t think I’m too obsessive about it – at least, it’s not directing me to sites about obsessive use of apps yet. And it does throw up some oddities that I would not otherwise encounter.
I found this week that I had received a passing mention on a New Zealand news site, back in July 2020. The article is here. I’m delighted to note that David Tossman is back in charge of things cruciverbal at The Listener (NZ). There was a curious period in the middle of lockdown when the overseas owner (German, I think) decamped like a startled hare leaving a number of going-concern titles in the lurch. There was a hiatus while new owners were acquired, and the presses restarted, and all is now good (or as good as anything is in print journalism these days). David mentions meeting me (the late Rex Benson was also of the party) and in my rather lackadaisical way I have never followed through.
He is posed beside the UCL Jeremy Bentham exhibit (well, what do you call it?). I have passed it a few times and there was always Bentham’s skull in a sort of bell jar between his feet. There were rumours that multiple thefts of the skull – often for the purposes of rugby – had led to it being removed, and even its replica being withheld from display. I wonder if it was there then.
Once you start thinking about the oddities of lockdown, other possibilities come to mind. I have largely stopped using cash – New Zealand always had a focus on electronic payment methods, but I kept coins and notes around for buying coffee and so on. But no longer – it still seems odd not to hand over money for small purchases, but I’ve just stopped.
The other odd thing lies in a couple of subscriptions I have, both to BBC monthly magazines. These are both published by the same not-quite-BBC company, distributed by the same distributor, and even come in almost identical envelopes. Last week, both The Sky at Night and BBC Music arrived on the same day at the end of March. The music magazine was the April issue (with an excellent couple of Malcolm Arnold symphonies on the cover disc), but The Sky at Night was the February edition full of conjunctions past their sell-by date. Obviously there was still plenty of interest (astronomy doesn’t move that quickly), but the two month gap is curious for two horses from the same stable.
I have just sent out the Apex 2020 results to the regular participants. The puzzle itself will go up in a fortnight’s time, along with the winning clues to – well, that would be telling just now. Between now and then, apart from the usual Friday appearances in The Independent, you get a full range of my Times puzzles: a daily cryptic on 8 April, a Jumbo on 10 April, and a Quick Cryptic on 15 April.
There’ll be a couple of setter’s blogs added to the site in the course of the next week, covering 8×8 from The Listener and Spoiler Alert from the Enigmatic Variations series. Just got to write them now…