Crossword News June 2022

The May Prize Puzzle was Mayhem Parva by Vagans. Extra letters produced by the wordplay of down clues spell PREAMBLE RECOMMENDATION. Chambers is recommended in the preamble, and Sidney Chambers is the hero of the Grantchester series by James Runcie. GRANTCHESTER and RUNCIE are to be highlighted, avoiding the red herrings ARCHER and BROOKE, two other authors with Grantchester connections.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

A nice puzzle from Vagans, continuing his episcopally-themed series across various publications. The red herrings were a nice touch.  I hadn’t herd of Runcie in this connection, but the name seemed to stand out in the grid and was easy to confirm online.  The preamble recommendation took me a while to work out and then was very amusing – neatly done.

This was as ingenious a hidden theme as I can remember! Even when I had worked out that the last sentence of the preamble was the key, the penny did not drop until I spotted GRANTCHESTER in the diagonal. Long ago I read one of James Runcie's books but I had forgotten that the protagonist was called Chambers. The symmetrically placed "red herrings" were very neat.

This was an enjoyable solve! As a fan of Grantchester I wasn't led astray (at least I hope not!) by the appearance of other famed villagers in the grid. Some neat and commendably short clues with very 'smooth' surface readings.  Thanks to the Crossword Centre and Vagans for the puzzle.

There were 54 entries, of which 6 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Hugh Everett, who will be receiving a prize of Chambers Crossword Dictionary which was donated by Chambers.

There is a full solution at https://crosswordcentre.blogspot.com/2022/06/solution-to-mayhem-parva-by-vagans.html

You still have lots of time to send in your entry for the June puzzle, Repatriation by Hawk.

The July challenge will be That Moment by Chiffchaff.
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The last Saturday in May saw the Azed 50th anniversary lunch, organised by Richard Heald and Will Drever. Some 80 guests met in Wolfson College for lunch with speeches from Azed and, guest speakers, Graeme Garden, Don Manley and William Keegan.

John Burscough entertained everyone with a clever verse.

Azed @ 50   By John Burscough

Lockdown’s over! And so we’re now able

Once again to convene at High Table

In the flesh, in a session that’s plenary

Celebrating Azed’s quinquagenary

His semi-centennial quorum!

Since he picked his first Victor Verborum

One could scarce say his reign has been cursory

Now we greet such a sweet Anniversary

Not Tin-ly, or Silver-ly, or Ruby-ly,

But Goldenly – a loverly (jubbly) Jubilee!

So at last, let our glasses be re-raisèd

50 years – so nifty – here’s to Azed!

After the lunch many guests went to Azed’s house for more food and drinks in the garden.

The only black cloud over the day was, of course, the sad news announced by Azed of the illness of John Tozer, the architect and keeper of the invaluable "andlit" archive and the Crossword Centre Clue-writing Competition.  I'm sorry to report that John suffered a heart attack towards the end of last week and is currently in hospital in a serious but stable condition.  I'm sure you'll join me in wishing John a swift and complete return to health.
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Someone has scanned all of Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword and put it online. This is a chance to read a very rare book and one which is still the standard handbook for solvers and setters. Find it here https://xotaotc.nfshost.com/
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Chris Lancaster has devised a new puzzle for The Telegraph. PlusWord is a fun game and is not behind the paywall. You can try it at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/plusword/
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The Guardian carried an obituary to Barbara Hall, who died aged 99. She was puzzles and crossword editor at the Sunday Times for over 30 years.
https://www.theguardian.com/crosswords/2022/may/31/barbara-hall-obituary
Although in the May newsletter I said that she composed the Sunday Times crossword, Peter Biddlecombe has made it clear that she always worked as one of a team of at least three setters. In the 5 years or so before she retired, she wrote 50% of them and the other half was shared between Jeff Pearce, Tim Moorey and Don Manley.
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Anax produced a clever crossword in tribute to the late Neil Shepherd. You can watch Mark Goodliffe solve it at https://youtu.be/Pvdmn-UVQ5o

Best wishes
Derek