Crossword News April 2014

 The Prize Puzzle for March was Exchange II by Regson. This was a very neat puzzle based on Mark Twain's story of The Prince and the Pauper. Extra letters in wordplay read HIGHLIGHT TWAIN’S EXCHANGERS – IN SIXTEEN CELLS. After exchanging the R in ENTIRE and the C in ICONIC (forming new real words) – solvers must highlight Mark Twain’s Prince (Edward VI) and Pauper (Tom Canty) – characters who also exchanged places.

 The final step foiled a number of solvers however there was a decent entry with 45 solutions sent in. There were 8 incorrect, almost entirely due to 10A ANONA being entered as ANANA. Here are some of the comments.

 Before hitting on TOM CANTY - EDWARD VI, parsing the  extra letters as TWAIN SEX CHANGERS instead of  TWAIN'S EXCHANGERS led to the fantastic red herring:  Huck dressing as a girl - "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"; Tom dressing as a girl - Pudd'nhead Wilson"; Joan of Arc wearing men's clothes - "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" and others, apparently enough material for "Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-Dressing and Transgression", Linda A. Morris, 2011.  I enjoyed the finishing touches here: 'C' for 'Canty', 'R' for 'Rex' perhaps as Edward becomes king during the course of the story,  18 Two short boys ... (5) [TOM HAL<] suggesting both boys in the surface and Tom in the wordplay, 4 ENTIRE --> ENTICE and 21 ICONIC --> IRONIC forming valid words, symmetrical placement of highlighted grid elements.

 I wonder if it should have been mentioned that the letter-exchange leaves real words.  I don't really think it necessary to specify that the swap is between diagonally opposite letters, which makes it much easier, as the solver is entitled to assume it is also symmetrical, thus leaving only the main two diagonals to focus on.  Overall a very enjoyable puzzle with a theme it was nice to be reminded of. Thank you to the setter.

 I enjoyed the puzzle but the endgame took ages. I’m not sure why although not being familiar with the original story probably didn’t help.  I thought the clues were good with my only quibble being 8d where ‘golfer’ seems a rather loose definition for ‘Ernie’.

 Thanks to the Crossword Centre and Regson for this toughish workout.  Nice to get a trip down memory lane doing the research.  Most enjoyable!

 The winner was Clive Weatherley who will soon be receiving his prize donated by Chambers.

 A full solution is now on our Puzzles page at

 This month the Prize Puzzle is Structural Problem by Samuel, a puzzle that I can thoroughly recommend. You have until the 8th May to send your entry.

 Next month we are publishing Awl by Chalicea as our Prize Puzzle. I had great pleasure in testing it and I am sure you will too.
Last month I was privileged to attend the Times Listener Crossword Setters' Dinner held at the Cheltenham Park Hotel in the village of Charlton Kings, just outside Cheltenham.

 In the afternoon I went to the chosen pub, the Royal Hotel, just down the road. I was amazed to see such a huge crowd of crossword setters and solvers meeting for a pint and a chat.

 The evening event was superbly organised and hosted by Jago and Jan. A record number of 140 guests were present. The menu seemed to have been assailed by the Reverend Spooner. It announced 'The Limes Christener Toss-word Debtors Sinner' with 'Lump of Ram' as the main course. The food was one of the best meals we have ever had at these functions. As usual the table quiz was set by Tea Leaves (Terry Wills) but after 10 years of entertaining us, he has decided to retire from this role.

 After the dinner came the speeches and awards. Jago mentioned that this was a sad year with the deaths of three Listener setters, Mr lemon, Radix and Syd Lexis, as well as Araucaria,

 Guest speaker Richard Rogan, crossword editor of the Times, gave a fascinating speech recording the history of the Listener Crossword. There were 12 all-correct solvers in 2013. Last year's winner of the Solver Silver Salver, Adrian Mylward, passed on the trophy to the next in line, Simon Melen.

 Simon explained how the voting for best puzzle of 2013 had gone. The final votes had picked out 5 top puzzles.

5th German Serial Composition by Quinapalus

4th Nuts and Bolts by Mango

2nd= Journey to the Centre by Ilver

2nd= Conflict by Pointer

First place and the Ascot Gold Cup went to Quinapalus for his superb puzzle Elm.

After the dinner there was lots of chat and more drinks in the bar. I left at about 1am but some dedicated guests kept going until after 5am! It was a tremendous evening and I managed to meet a lot of old friends. It was particularly nice to chat with Richard Browne, the former crossword editor of the Times and my old pal Paul Henderson (Phi) who was on a tour of Europe. It was 12 years ago that I had last seen him before his move to New Zealand.

 Many thanks to Jim and Jan for the excellent organisation. Next year the dinner will be held in the north of England, with Yorkshire the best bet.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I had been instructed to receive the crossword files and books left by Roddy Forman. With the agreement of his family we had a little auction of some of his books during the Listener Dinner with the proceeds going to Roddy's favourite charity, Sense. We made a fine profit of £185 in the evening.

Among the files I have found a collection of Tough Crosswords magazines. I am sure that some crossword enthusiast would welcome having these rare magazines, even though Roddy has filled in most of the puzzles. If you could give them a good home then please contact me. Again, a donation to Sense would be all that I ask.
Chambers Crossword Completer is now available in hardback and paperback. The paperback is at a reasonable price of £13.39 on Amazon.
The statistics on the 2013 Listener Crosswords are now available. Simply send a SAE to 63 Green Lane, St Albans, AL3 6HE. If you are outside the UK just send an addressed envelope. As usual, donations of postage stamps (used or new) are always welcomed.


Best wishes