I thought I’d say a few words about the puzzle I put up at Christmas. It’s not really a setter’s blog, so I’m not putting it there.
I don’t know how the puzzle went down as I’ve received no comments. I set it forty years ago, while I was at Oxford University. At that time, I had experimented with a number of Patience-related crosswords. The basic Klondike variant where you put red on black on red and so on allows for a puzzle where you can clue words in groups (Clubs, Diamonds etc.) that then have only a degree of randomness in their placement – rather better, I feel, than simple alphabetical order. In addition, all the ‘Clubs’ clues having answers beginning with C gives some useful information to the solver.
Clock Patience was the largest of these, and it took a lot of work. This was in the days before I had access to computer-aided graphics as a matter of course, so there was a lot of compass work to draw circles, and the whole thing was handwritten until a typed version was prepared for submission. The first chunk of work, though, was to lay out the cards. I decided to play through several hands of clock patience, noting the order of the cards at each number as I did so. That would give me the structure of the grid. If I was incredibly lucky, one of the several hands might even come out. My expectation was that I would find one that got 80% of the way – enough to keep people playing through.
I shuffled the cards and I played a first hand. It came out. I arranged the cards according to my notes of the game and played it again. It came out again. Clearly I had to use that one. All these years later, I still agonise that I may simply have made the same error twice and the thing actually sticks four cards in: King, King, King, King. So one reason for putting it up was to see whether a solver could confirm that the patience played out successfully!
What went up today is an Independent daily puzzle from 2008 – I see it’s actually the one from the week immediately after the last daily I put, so you should be safe from significant stylistic changes. And I need to dig deeper into the box next time round.
Sometimes I get notice of a forthcoming puzzle too late to fit into my fortnightly schedule, so I can only retrospectively point you at the Pangakupu puzzle in the Guardian on 18 January. Coming up next Sunday is an Enigmatic Variations puzzle by Kcit, with a Telegraph Toughie a few days later on 2 February.