This week’s puzzle is again from 1996, and it’s an Independent Inquisitor, which back then was just called Crossword. And, no, it’s not really number 39 in the series – there’d been a redesign of the page about nine or ten months earlier, and the counter had been reset to 1.
In contrast to the Enigmatic Variations puzzle last time, the preamble is a single sentence – but the puzzle has close to 50 clues, which I think may be the most I’ve put up (outside Jumbos).
Anyway, this week saw the appearance of this article. There was a gratifying surge in hits on the site, and a few complimentary emails, so thank you. It did not seem to be protocol for the setter to respond to queries in the comments (I checked a few of the earlier ‘Meet the Setter’ pages), but I will try to address some of them here, in the hope that people are still hanging around.
So, yes, I do set for The Times – there’s one coming up on October 1, just before my next update to the site. I was sort of glad not to be asked for my favourite clue, since I find it quite difficult to remember them (I was reminded that I got an Azed VHC for CHALET, which I cannot remember writing…) but here’s a couple from what you might call different levels:
From The Independent: “I herald a toss, possibly (5,2,5)”
From the Azed competition: “This word’s not right for ‘shy’ (5)”
Answers at the end, as per Guardian style.
And, hi, Meic – I reckon I’m unlikely to get over to Sussex any time soon either. But there’s a pretty good brewing culture here – our monthly subscription package should be here in a week or so.
We can’t determine whether many people followed the link to Marjorie’s site from the photograph. It was chosen partly because my eyes don’t appear – they have developed an alarming ability to slam shut as soon as a camera is aimed. I see Derek Harrison has kindly referenced the piece in his monthly newsletter, with a link to a photograph from 20 years ago. Hmmm – hair.
I would still maintain that I am not so prolific as claimed – I have estimated my output, and I think I will write my millionth word in a clue some time in 2023. Roger Squires has passed the two million clue mark. If I’m prolific then please advise of the word for that (simple use of prefixes not allowed).
In other news this week, I found myself pondering the number of variants of the Covid virus, and anxiously counting along the Greek alphabet. Mu, which is where we seem to be currently resting, is the twelfth letter, while Phi is down the line at no. 21. Given the number of letters we have skipped (‘variants of interest’ not ‘of concern’), there is both time, and every likelihood that I will not be faced with the same sort of problem that companies called Isis faced a few years ago.
And I would also like to point you at a book I finished this week (and, by implication, its predecessor): Seven Demons by Aidan Truhen, the sequel to The Price You Pay. The narrative voice strikes me as P G Wodehouse reimagined by Quentin Tarantino, with a helping of Zaphod Beeblebrox thrown in. The storyline is frequently violent, and the amount of swearing phenomenal (and, to be fair, these are characters you’d expect to swear a lot), but it is truly very funny. There’s even a bonus for lovers of pseudonyms: Aidan Truhen is a pair of anagrams of Diana Hunter, a key character in Nick Harkaway’s latest book Gnomon (if you look around the Web, you may find Mr Harkaway interviewing Mr Truhen…). Harkaway’s real surname is Cornwell, which he hasn’t used so to avert comment that he is making his way on the coat-tails of his famous father, David. You haven’t heard of David Cornwell, you say? That’s because he wrote under a pseudonym too: John le Carré.
This is getting unusually long for me, and the presence of a cat on my lap doesn’t help the spelling, so I shall cast off here. We have a foster cat with us at the moment, still rather timid, and I should spend a little time with him, too.
But not before the promised answers:
HEADS OR TAILS (anag. & lit.)
BRASH (brash – r = bash = attempt, shy & lit.)