Crossword News March 2016

A year ago we learnt of the death of Trevor Crowther, my valued helper on the Crossword Centre and a huge personality in the world of crosswords. The Crowther Cup was instituted as a tribute to him and to be awarded to the top solver of our Prize Puzzles. At the end of the year it was impossible to find a single winner. It has been decided to give the cup to four solvers who tied and they will each have the cup for three months.

The top solvers were :
Chris Edwards
Richard Harvey
Gerry Murtagh
MP Young

Congratulations to them all. The beautiful trophy is with the engraver at the moment.
***
Our January Prize Puzzle was Double Jeopardy by Ferret.

This was a fantastic construction, with the PENDULUM moving down the grid towards THE PIT, which is what happens in the dungeon (with Father Time painted on the ceiling) in EDGAR ALLEN POE’s The Pit and the Pendulum. Initial letters from extra words give VINCENT LEONARD PRICE who starred in the 1961 film of the same name. Foucault’s Pendulum was referenced in the clue to 13 Across.

There were 58 Entries of which 6 were incorrect.
The lucky winner out of the electronic hat is Pranav & Kiran Parekh from Illinois.

Here are some of the comments.

This was quite a pleasant work-out, not too testing and with a satisfying full complement of real words in the final grid. It's a shame that the grid was so obviously segmented, almost split into two (and nearly four) by the ugly bar arrangement. I also did not quite get the significance of the 'moved thematically' in that I did not see why the pendulum blade reversed itself in descent rather than swinging to & fro. Sadly my recollection of the Hammer Horror classic is a bit hazy so maybe it did move that way. Nevertheless this was an enjoyable start to 2016 and I look forward to future offerings.

I went to see this film in the sixties when I was very young.  Its tagline was "£10,000 if you die of fright".  I wondered how you would collect but my mother was not amused...

Writing convincing surfaces for double clues looks to be difficult, even with the luxury of an extra word, but Ferret produced many delightful readings in this puzzle.  Solvers were helped by Foucault appearing in one of the clues, and by FATHER TIME appearing at the top of the grid - mimicking his appearance in a painting on the ceiling in Poe's short story. Lowering PENDULUM spelt backwards (as it appeared in the grid) did not lead to real words.  The pendulum did not twist in the film, but writing it the correct way round yielded real words in one position.  That position also produced POE in a straight line. Perhaps the pendulum should destroy the letters through which it passes as it is lowered?  Although that left POE in a ragged NW line, it did not leave real words (UON, for example).  Whatever the correct treatment was, many thanks to Ferret for an clever idea, very well executed (!)

The first clue I solved was 1a which made me pretty happy since I don't think I have ever done this in a 'Right & Left' puzzle before. Then I realised that the right side is a reflection, rather than a translation, of the left side, so it isn't necessary to solve one of the normal clues in order to place answers on the correct side of the grid.  I first found PENDULUM in the grid using the L and N of 13a rather than the L and N immediately below them, and only realised this was wrong when I found that RUENA isn't a word. I spent some time trying to move PENDULUM down the grid without reversing it until I noticed that POE doesn't appear in the initial grid so this movement must create it.  I haven't read Poe's short story or seen the Vincent Price film. From reading online I see that Father Time appears on the ceiling in the story and the Leon is a character in the film, so I assume it is deliberate that these are the answers to the two normal clues.

The Prize Puzzle for February was Literary Round by Dysart. This was another very clever construction. PUCK, MIRANDA, ARIEL, OPHELIA, TITANIA and OBERON, in addition to being characters from Shakespeare, are all moons of the planet URANUS. OPHELIA, being out of order, needed to be replaced by UMBRIEL (the name of a gnome in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock) so that the grid showed the six largest moons in positional order. Changing the L of cell 30 to N enabled URANUS to be seen.

There were 54 entries, of which 6 were marked incorrect. The winner was Ray Parry-Morris from Maidenhead who will soon be receiving his prize.

Here are some of the comments.

A very nice puzzle.  I wondered at first why the moons were all vertical rather than at varied orientations, and then realised that this meant they could be placed in order of distance from the planet – neat.  Many thanks to Dysart.

This challenging puzzle provided a good deal of fun (thanks Dysart) which changed to frustration as I tried to complete it by concentrating on the works of Shakespeare.  Only after a bit of desperate Googling did the significance of the title dawn on me.   To quote the great man, "All's Well That Ends Well."

This was quite a tough work-out, some rather testing clues and enough to get me looking for just Shakespearian fairies in the first instance. Miranda set the alarm bells ringing, then I remembered having started to compile a puzzle of literary moons (I never finished it) and saw where all was leading. The endgame replacement was very neatly accomplished - and disguising Uranus was a neat touch. Another enjoyable piece of the 2016 series - my thanks to the setter.

This month you still have plenty time to complete Exchange IV by Regson.

For April we have two challenging teasers. The Prize Puzzle will be Wild Goose Chase by Harribobs and there will also be a maths special Head Transplants by new setter MatriX. As usual both puzzles will count towards the Crowther Cup competition.
***
I spent the weekend at the enormous hotel that is Beaumont Estate in Old Windsor, very near to the Thames at Runnymede. I was there for the Listener Crossword Setters' Dinner which was held in the beautiful old Chapel. There were 131 people attending the candle-lit dinner.

Jim Coulson and Jan had organised the event to perfection and it was Jim who announced the winners of the awards. The Solver's Silver Salver went to Richard England who then had the task of awarding the Ascot Gold Cup for the best crossword of 2015. All of the all-correct solvers voted and the winner was a huge 92 points ahead of the second place. In reverse order the top puzzles were -

4th Triskaidekaphilia by Be-Ro

3rd Identity Crisis by Sabre

2nd Quads by Shark

1st Mixed Doubles by Shackleton

John Guiver stepped up to receive the AGC.

The Radix Auditorum for the best new solver went to Colin Thomas.

During the meal we were enthralled by a quiz cunningly devised by John Henderson and Jane Tether. The whole puzzle was themed on Sir Jeremy Morse. The decider was based on writing a sentence which included an anagram of his name. The winning table was no. 3 and they received the Gold Casket.

The chat in the bar continued until the early hours of the morning. Jago announced that in 2017 the dinner would be held in the north, either in Carlisle or Newcastle.

I have taken some photos. I am sorry that the quality is not very good but candle light is not the best for my camera. You can view them here https://flic.kr/s/aHskt1sjs1
***
For thirty years Apex posted a Christmas puzzle to his friends which included a clue writing competition. In 2002 he retired and Phi took over setting the crosswords. As we await the results of the 2015 competition, I have been able to update the list of winning clues and you can view them here http://www.crossword.org.uk/xmas.htm
***

A report of possible plagiarism in US crosswords makes interesting reading.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-plagiarism-scandal-is-unfolding-in-the-crossword-world/
***
Best wishes

Derek