Crossword News January 2022

Happy New Year!

Last month we had three seasonal puzzles. The Prize Puzzle was Seasons Greetings XIII by Eclogue. Rings two and four provide: A DOLL’S CRACKED MIRROR, ROLL OF STICKING PLASTER, A COFFIN NAIL, THREE BAD SIXPENCES and A MENTHOL CONE, all ingredients of the Starkadder Christmas PUDDING in Stella GIBBONS’ short story “CHRISTMAS AT COLD COMFORT FARM”.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Wow, that's some pudding - had not encountered this before!  Thanks to the crew for the customary Christmas puzzle, another traditional seasonal treat to look forward to each year.

What a wonderful antidote to a cold and miserable weekend (not to mention being a bit off colour following my booster [but well worth it.])  This puzzle was a joy.  Consistently good cluing, mixing in the occasional unfamiliar word, made up a really good recipe; unlike the subject of the puzzle.  My memories of Cold Comfort Farm were limited (the ever simmering pot and the woodshed within which there lurked something nasty) so it was a welcome refresher, thanks to Google.  A high quality book and a high quality puzzle.  Thank you Eclogue.

A neat exploitation of an interesting theme.  While I have read Cold Comfort Farm, the prequel had passed me by, so needed some internet help to complete the items.  Good fun piecing it together, so thanks to Eclogue for maintaining this seasonal tradition.

There were 53 entries, of which 8 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Jack Nichols, who will soon receive his prize of Chambers Crossword Dictionary.

There is a full solution at https://crosswordcentre.blogspot.com/2022/01/solution-to-seasons-greetings-xiii-by.html

The December Special was Ring Cycle by Hedge-sparrow. The theme is the set of seven O ANTIPHONS (also known as the Great Os of Advent), which are Magnificat antiphons used at vespers on the final seven days of Advent.  The title of each antiphon comprises the word O followed by a Biblical name of Christ.  Six of the Biblical names – SAPIENTIA, ADONAI, RADIX JESSE, CLAVIS DAVID, ORIENS AND REX GENTIUM, appear as unclued entries in the grid.  The seventh, EMMANUEL, occurs hidden in the final grid in the shape of an O (to be indicated by solvers).

Here are some of the many comments from solvers.

Brilliantly conceptualised and designed, this puzzle is perhaps one of the most entertaining I've attempted from these pages.  The wordplay and surfaces were an absolute delight, kept going back to read them over even after solving.  True, extra letter in clues give possibilities, but using them in the right places to good effect is an art which the setter has accomplished extremely creatively. A very apposite theme given the season.  Many thanks.

Another intriguing theme, and how appropriate for Advent. I had some early good fortune in getting several letters of the across answer in the top row, and "_AD_XJ ..." seemed likely to be RADIX followed by a second word beginning with J. That soon led me to the theme. Brewer's was no help as it was only after I had finished that I discovered that the relevant entry was indexed under "Seven" (and cross-referenced from "O") - nothing under "Advent", "Antiphon" (not featured at all) or "Vespers"!

Many thanks for an enjoyable puzzle with a difficulty level that was just right for me, as well as a theme with which I was entirely unfamiliar!

There were 56 entries, of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Graham O’Neill, who will be receiving a prize book.

There is a solution at https://crosswordcentre.blogspot.com/2022/01/solution-to-ring-cycle-by-hedge-sparrow.html

The December bonus puzzle was What’s it Look Like? by Artix. In this puzzle the bars gave the letters of BUBLÉ and the unclued entries were albums of Michael Bublé. CHRISTMAS had to be highlighted as an answer to the title, referencing the single, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Artix excelled in constructing this. You looked initially, thought a simple little bonus puzzle, then thought Artix - perhaps not. I found this by far the most difficult of the three December puzzles, with its clever clues, obscure answers, definitions only, word play only etc. So much in such a small grid. When I figured out the TO BE LOVED answer I did think it might be a song and apparently Adele has recently issued it, but too recent to have made it into this puzzle. When CRAZY LOVE emerged, it was the internet to the rescue leading me to Michael Bublé, but it was only when I put the bar pattern on a blank grid that I saw it was spelling out his name.

Interesting mechanic with the short answers (and clever how the alphabetical order even made things like "Number" deducible quite quickly) - I found this a really fun gridfill. Having the nine-letter answers meant that not too much cold-solving was required before checking letters started to assist too. Groaned a little bit when the theme became apparent (not my musical cup of tea!) but still a very fun carte blanche. Thanks.

This puzzle proved to be a tough challenge. There were 32 entries, of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was R Benz, who will soon be receiving a prize book.

There is a solution at https://crosswordcentre.blogspot.com/2022/01/solution-to-whats-it-look-like-by-artix.html

You still have lots of time to solve this month’s Prize Puzzle, Obi by Wan.

The February Prize Puzzle is by a new setter. Missing Letters by Conto is a blocked grid with a twist. Based up in Fife, Conto started setting seriously in 2019. Since then, he’s been published by 1 Across magazine, Magpie magazine, and on Alberich’s puzzle website. You can also see some of his more experimental puzzles on mycrossword.co.uk.
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A new word game has quickly become very popular. Wordle is the invention of Josh Wardle, an engineer at Reddit. Basically, it is a guessing game to find a five-letter word. You get 6 guesses. If a letter in your guess is in the word it turns yellow, if it is in the correct position, it turns green. You have probably seen people tweeting their results. Nicely you can only play once each day. Find out more in this Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/games/2021/dec/23/what-is-wordle-the-new-viral-word-game-delighting-the-internet
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An essay by R H Jackson, entitled Beastly Clues, is a detailed view of the early days of crosswords and  the involvement of T S Eliot and Torquemada. Well worth reading at https://publicdomainreview.org/essay/beastly-clues
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I hear, from a reliable source that the crossword setter o the Irish Times is retiring and editors are looking for a replacement. The Crosaire cryptics, with their famously non-Ximenean clues, are currently set by Crosheir. The thought of composing 6 puzzles every week seems a task too onerous for most setters!
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There is a review of the 2021 Inquisitor crosswords on Fifteen Squared. You can read the votes and opinions of solvers at https://www.fifteensquared.net/2021/12/31/inquisitor-review-of-2020-21-by-nimrod/
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On the clue-writing site the challenge for January is a normal clue to UNDERGROUND (11), entries in before 31 January. http://www.andlit.org.uk/cccwc/main.php

Ed Hall won the November competition with this clue to SOUSAPHONE.

Use a spoon when consuming hot liquid – blow on it! (10)

Best wishes
Derek