Crossword News April 2021

The March Prize Puzzle was Cracking! by Soup. This clever puzzle took the form of a safe dial. Turning the dial correctly revealed the three items, gem stone, secret papers and money box. Here are some of the comments from solvers.

This was a challenge with testing clues and an endgame that required patience to execute but with a rewarding denouement. I cannot begin to imagine how Soup constructed this - maybe he has supernatural powers!  Congratulations to Soup and to the Crossword Centre for continuing to supply high quality puzzles.

Well this has certainly kept me occupied for a while.  The initial grid solve was fairly straightforward.  The repositioning of the letters was a bit of a slog and did not immediately reveal the missing items. I later realised that I must have made an error in one of the circles but I was near enough to make my guesses.  Thank you Soup for a challenge of a slightly different nature.

I really enjoyed this - it very much put me in mind of Kea’s fantastic Listener ‘Safe-cracking’ but a much faster solve! Hats off to Soup on the construction - I’ve no idea how you would even start. I did like moving all the rings around and seeing the safe revealing its contents.  Thanks Soup for a really fun puzzle.

There were 55 entries to this tour de force, of which 4 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was John Doylend from Bungay, who will soon be receiving his prize of Chambers Crossword Dictionary which is donated by Chambers.

There is a full solution and video at

You have plenty time to solve our April puzzle, Round Robin XIII and email your solution. Remember to vote for your favourite clue.
It is very sad to note that one of our regular clue writers, CG Rishikesh, has recently died. Rishi was the longest running crossword setter on The Hindu newspaper and will be sadly missed.

The May Prize Puzzle will be Confusion Down Under by Flowerman.

We would welcome submissions of puzzles for September and October.
The Listener Crossword Dinner was held on Zoom with Jane Teather as host. It began with some obituaries. Jane noted the passing of Atlas (Mick Polley), Chris Butler, Symphonia (John Dawson) and The Tall’n (Terry Allen).  Don Manley gave a tribute to Richard Palmer (Merlin) and he has kindly allowed me to publish it here.

Richard Palmer MBE (31 March 1947- 25 December 2020)

 Richard Palmer and I met nearly 50 years ago when he joined The Institute of Physics Publishing Office in Bristol. It quickly became obvious that we shared a passion for crosswords and we became rival competitors in the new Azed clue-writing competition in 1972, both winning prizes early on, Richard first then me. Richard was a joint annual champion in the 1972/73 first season along with Colin Dexter and Alec Robins. The Ximenean tradition shaped our clue-writing styles for all the subsequent decades.

In 1975 Richard won the Azed monthly cup for two successive months and placed that cup on his wedding cake when he married his office sweetheart Marilyn. Later that year an opportunity for both of us to set barred puzzles was provided by The Azed Book of Crosswords in which Azed’s solvers contributed puzzles. I made a puzzle in the shape of an A and Richard one in the shape of a Z, thereby emulating Azed who had made up a crossword in the shape of an X to honour Ximenes.  Richard decided he would have a go at setting a Listener puzzle and had his first one Arosti, checked by Jim Evans and published in October 1975. It was a fairly straightforward letters latent puzzle spelling out LISTENER CROSSWORDS. Richard duly attended the Listener Dinner at Ye Olde Cock Tavern in Fleet Street where he met Azed. I was distinctly jealous and it took me a year to catch up with him, when my own first Duck puzzle saw the light of day. We subsequently went to Fleet Street together to join about twenty old codgers for something like an average school dinner.

Richard and I set crosswords for some of the same publications over the years, among which were Games and Puzzles and the lesser known IEE News, IEE being The Institution  of  Electrical  Engineers.  Eventually we both contributed puzzles to the Telegraph. Richard’s mother (who survives him) was a keen Telegraph solver who worked at Bletchley Park.

Richard set fifteen Listener puzzles, the peach of which was his Royal Flush puzzle of 2002 celebrating the Golden Jubilee by incorporating all the kings and queens of England – and even the Commonwealth. The puzzle survives in The A-Z of Crosswords by Jonathan Crowther. Richard won prizes from Azed right to the end and my last message to his hospital bed on Christmas Eve was that he had won a second prize for STUDENTY. He told Marilyn   that he was relieved not to have won first prize because posting off the cup was a faff.

So much for Richard and crosswords, for now. There are other things you should know. Richard spent all his working life at The Institute of Physics and was awarded the MBE in 2006. He was an exceptional bridge player and a very good chess player. On the day of his funeral his beloved Leicester City were top of the table. He was a cricket fanatic too. More than all that, our families were big pals, never very far apart though our career paths diverged. Richard and Marilyn had a daughter Claire, and a son Andy to whom I am a godfather. He was a proud grandfather and loving husband to Marilyn who remains a close family friend. No longer can Richard and I compare clues and no longer can I phone for hints when I have filled in a Listener puzzle and cannot see what to do next. I am missing Richard – that’s for sure.

Don Manley Oxford, March 2021

Shane Shabankareh then announced that the winner of the Radix Auditorum claret jug for the best first-time solver was Australian, James Lever. He had started solving at the end of January and managed an incredible 43 correct out of 46 entries. Then to the Solvers’ Silver Salver was awarded to Peter Blayney. Apparently, there were some all-correct solvers who stumbled in 2020, one of whom was Neil Talbott, who, after almost 4 years of perfection, failed to beat the record set by Simon Long.

Peter Blayney reported on the voting for the Ascot Gold Cup. There were 18 other all-correct solvers who were asked to vote for their 5 favourite Listeners of 2020. In the end 26 puzzles got at least one vote. The winner was Tip Top Condition by Twin (Colin Thomas). This puzzle was remarkable in that the first set of down answers could be spelled with an I or an O. This was resolved by a message to write the puzzle’s number in binary.

The voting was as follows.

1. 4630 Tip Top Condition by Twin
2. 4638 Head Start Clues by Elgin
3. 4606 Isolated in May by Dysart
5= 4617 Selfie by Sabre
5= 4609 Where Next? by Harribobs
6. 4604 Tour de Force by Kea
7. 4627 Flappy by Shark
8. 4597 Bunch of Fives by Brock
9. 4595 Equity by Elap
10 4603 In Round Numbers by Colleague.

Jane Teather then turned to the quiz. Guests had had 24 hours to solve one of Enigmatist’s devious quizzes. Matching up two sets of 13 pictures gave places where previous Listener Dinners had been held. The quiz was ‘Beginnings’ and the initial letters of those places in order gave HONEYDEW MELON, which had been the starter at the very first dinner. You then had to write a clue to it. A short list of 5 clues were shown and we voted. I was relieved that my clue had made it to the short list but, in the end it came 4th. Winner was the clue by Oli Grant’s team who will be receiving the Bronze Casket.

Cook stuck with this for the lockdown menu? Yes!

The event was over in an hour, with 105 guests. Thanks go to Jane and John for organising such a great evening.

I managed to take some screenshots of the prize winners and you can see them here
Last Christmas Phi published his annual Apex puzzle. It was a tricky challenge, based on the phrase MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON. Solvers had to write a Letters Latent clue to the Playfair code word, SECURITY. The results are now available and I am delighted to have secured a podium place among such a distinguished field.

Winning clues to SECURITY (with a latent letter)

1st       Collateral has Cruise playing the lead in thriller                                                                                                       Philip Marlow

2nd      Earlier over-confidence is vanishing as tense EU crisis develops                                                                             Kevin McDermid

3rd       Bond picture is out with premier’s opening suspended for a year                                                                             Derek Harrison

Committed puzzlers will be keen to get their hands on The Golden Treasure of the Entente Cordiale. Michael Becker is offering a prize of a gold casket valued at over £5,000 to anyone who can solve the clues that are hidden in the book. A French version and an English version of the book are published on 8 March, with each containing different clues leading to two separate locations. Each book contains nine puzzles, made up of illustrations by Becker, and secret text hidden in the accompanying story, written by Pauline Deysson. Readers must crack the hidden code in the illustration to find the missing text, which will help them solve the conundrum. Once all nine puzzles are solved, readers will be able to find where two geode crystal keys have been buried, one in the UK, and one in France. The hardback edition is expensive at £27.99. You can read more in this Guardian article.
To celebrate the appearance of Alan Turing on the new £50 note, GCHQ have published a series of puzzles that they say are their most difficult ever. If you want to see if you could qualify as a spymaster you can try the puzzles here.
Crossword setter Bluth, better known as stand-up comedian Dave Gorman, is continuing to set high standards. His Independent puzzle on 16 March had so many constraints that it was incredible that he could get so much thematic material in and manage a fantastic Nina in the completed grid. Try it here!202103
I was leafing through a copy of Anatomy of the Crossword by D St P Barnard which I found on my bookshelf. Published in 1963 it was one of the first attempts to dissect the crossword, following Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword (1961). I was bemused by the section that Barnard calls the Paragrammatic Parabole, I was wondering what present-day solvers would make of them. I will give the answers at the end of this newsletter.

1. Ass! He’ll probably go and fall in it (5)
2. As, Bs, Cs, Ds, Fs, Gs (5)
3. Instructio.. (6)
4. Poisonous bully beef? (5)
5. - - - (it certainly must be impolite) (6)
6 ‘O Winne!’ That’s how to make a certain person agreeable! (3, 3, 5)
I received an email from Joe Williams, Kentucky, asking if I had a solution to Gallimaufry by Ximenes. I could not find one so I tried solving it. What a mammoth task but there were some brilliant clues which had stood the test of time. I have put a copy on the blog

If you want a solution, you can email me.
29 March saw the final of the BBC2 quiz programme, Only Connect. On the Puzzle Hunters team was a Listener crossword setter, Paul Taylor, who has published under the pseudonym Apt. You can watch the final on YouTube.
On the Clue-Writing Competition your challenge for APRIL is a STANDARD CRYPTIC clue to ODYSSEY (7) by the closing date of MIDNIGHT BST WEDNESDAY 28th APRIL.
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Crossword News will, as usual, be available on the Crossword Centre and on the blog


Best wishes

Clue answers.
1. ABYSS (A by SS)
2. NOTES (not Es)
4. TOXIN (ox in TIN)
5. MOROSE (O in Morse (code))