Crossword News November 2016

The October Prize Puzzle was our Round Robin VII. I know that many solvers were perplexed on opening the page to find that it had the title Pound Robin II. This was supposed to be a cryptic hint to finding the theme of the puzzle. Extra letters in wordplay gave the message KILL BIRDS PROVERBIALLY. This was a reference to the saying 'to kill two birds with one stone'. In the grid pairs of birds had to be replaced by names for stones, using the discarded letters from misprints in the down clues. A full solution is available at http://wp.me/p7qTXm-2N

Here are some of the comments

Thanks to Towser and Wan for the excellent grid with its pleasing symmetry, to everyone who contributed to a clue, and of course to John Nicholson for marshalling the clue writers. There was a great variety, and the quality was high throughout. Once I noticed the bird pairs I guessed what the final step would be, but finding the stones wasn’t easy, thanks to the random arrangement of the substitute letters in the down clues. I spotted SAPPHIRE first, and CARBUNCLE took longest to find, despite having only a few letters left to fit in.

What a fantastic little puzzle, big thanks to Towser and Wan for putting this together. I was actually grinding to a bit of a halt with just 3 clues to solve when the pairing of the birds with 180 degree symmetry suddenly hit me and I was able to guess SWAN and NENE and thereby complete the remaining entries - very elegant. Thank you to all Crossword Centre contributors who made this such an enjoyable challenge :-)

 Glad to have played a small part in what is undoubtedly the best Round Robin to date. The grid construction giving all real words is excellent, and there are top-drawer clues as you would expect from such distinguished company.

There were 47 entries and all were correct. The lucky winner picked from the electronic hat was Colin Eaglestone who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers. We also asked solvers to vote for their favourite clues. It soon became apparent that two clue-writers were tussling for the top spot. The results were as follows. 27pts - 24d PSIS - Mark Oshin 21pts - 23d LEVERET - Luciano Ward 12pts - 12d FADEUR - Simon Shaw Other scoring clues 9pts - 7a SNIPE, 18d KILN 8pts - 21d ROWDOW, 22d STEWING 6pts - 24a POLLUTER, 8d NOOB 5pts - 14a COMMA, 26a WREN, 36a OLIOS, 4d AMISH 4pts - 3d LERE 3pts - 17a ATOK, 39a TRIREMES 2pts - 40a EAGLE, 1d CRENA, 6d KRIS, 37d LEA 1pt - 5d RATTEN, 20d WAUL, 28d NAIRN, I shall be sending a prize to Mark.

I would personally like to thank Towser for the idea, John Nicholson for the grid and for organising everything and to all the volunteer clue writers who always come up trumps.

ou still have time to complete the November Prize Puzzle - Top Shoe by Yimin. For December we will be publishing two Christmas puzzles. Once again we are delighted to have our traditional teaser from Eclogue who will present the 8th Seasons Greetings. In addition we have a unique maths Christmas Special from MatriX. The first part of Christmas Puzzle will be published at the end of November but solvers will have to wait until the 14th December to complete the task when I will be publishing the second part. We still are waiting for submissions for 2017.
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 Details of the 2017 Listener Crossword Setters' Dinner have recently been announced. I am delighted that it is to be in the town where I was born. In 2017 the Dinner will be held on the banks of the Tyne, right next door to the famous “Sage” complex and the “Baltic” art gallery; at Jury’s Inn Hotel, Gateshead Quays on Saturday 11 March. As usual, if you were expecting an invitation and did not get one you should contact Jim Coulson. As guests usually congregate in a nearby pub earlier on the Saturday I am going to use my local knowledge to suggest the Central, near the Gateshead end of the Tyne Bridge. This unique old pub, once called the "Coffin" because of its unusual shape, has been upgraded in recent years but maintains many of its original features. There is always a fine selection of real ales, good food and a roof-top terrace ideal for trainspotters. Moreover, for anyone who can show a CAMRA card there is a discount on your beer. http://www.theheadofsteam.co.uk/pub?pub=1 It is a fair walk up the hill from Jury's but far better than any pub on the Newcastle side, apart from the Crown Posada (too small) or the Bridge Hotel (crowded on match days). It is worth noting that Newcastle UFC have a home game with Fulham on the 11th March. Another handy tip is that the Q1 yellow Quayline bus is the best way to get from Newcastle Central Station to the Baltic stop on the quayside..
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 The Book of the Month on the Crossword Centre is the GCHQ Puzzle Book. The has been highly recommended and I am sure it will make a very popular Christmas present for a puzzle lover. http://amzn.to/2fzBEuG
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 I am indebted to Tony Sever who put all this information about the Times Crossword Championship on his blog. Here are the results of the final of the 2016 Times Crossword Championship. The figures in parentheses are competitors' scores out of 90, where 1 point was awarded for each of the 90 clues solved correctly. 1 Mark Goodliffe (90) 2 Simon Chillingworth (90) 3 Roger Crabtree (90) 4 Neil Robinson (90) 5 Alan Dorn (90) 6 Peter Steggle (90) 7 Michael Wareham (90) 8 David Howell (89) 9 Helen Ougham (89) 10 John McCabe (89) 11 Toby Brereton (89) 12 Guy Haslam (89) 13 Chris Price (89) 14 Peter King (88) 15 Nick Petty (88) Congratulations once again to Mark Goodliffe, who claimed his 10th championship win, equalling John Sykes's record. Congratulations also: to Simon Chillingsworth, Roger Crabtree and Neil Robinson for their highest finishing places to date; and to Peter Steggle, Chris Price, Angus Walker and Sue Prout who all reached the final for the first time. The generally low scores support the claim that these were probably the hardest set of final puzzles since the Championship reappeared in its new form in 2006. It's very likely that there would have been more all-correct solutions had not Neil Talbott and Simon Hanson, who have both twice finished second to Mark Goodliffe, not made mistakes in the preliminary rounds. (I don't know about Simon's, but Neil's was a slip of the pen which he didn't spot when checking.) David Howell and Helen Ougham slipped up similarly in the final, but they had both chosen to forgo checking in favour of speed.
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 If you enjoy the Guardian crosswords by Boatman then you will be interested in a new collection of his puzzles recently published. http://amzn.to/2fHl8sQ More details and a photo of Boatman, setter Ashley Knowles can be found in this Argus article. http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14878965.The_art_of_the_cryptic_crossword_to_be_laid_bare_by_Boatman_and_Friends/
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 There are two new treats for crossnumber enthusiasts heading into 2017. Oyler and Zag have combined to launch both an on-line magazine Crossnumbers Quarterly and a book – Challenging Crossnumber Puzzles. More details can be found at the website crossnumbersquarterly.com. The free inaugural issue of the magazine is already available via the site. This enables solvers to get an idea of what is on offer. The magazine will be published quarterly with 8-10 puzzles from a variety of compilers providing a range of difficulty levels. The aim is to encourage both new solvers and compilers with helpful articles and competitions. The annual subscription is £20.00. Challenging Crossnumber Puzzles is a collection of Oyler and Zag puzzles, most appearing in print for the first time. The 62 puzzles cover a broad spectrum of difficulty, themes and styles, promising solvers a serious but entertaining numerical workout. Hints and background are included to help with the solving along with relevant tables. The book is in solver-friendly, spiral bound, A4 format that you can open out flat plus there is generous space for those inevitable scribbles and jottings. This book is guaranteed to keep you occupied for longer than any other book you are likely to take up in 2017 and at £15.00 plus P&P. You do the maths, that’s less than 30p a puzzle! If you have a numerical solver in your circle of friends then either would make a welcome present or why not treat yourself?
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 I have just received information about Crossnumbers Quarterly, the magazine for lovers of number puzzles. You have had a few weeks now to assess CQ0 and we hope you have enjoyed the initial edition. If you did and would like to continue receiving Crossnumbers Quarterly then the subscription for the next four 2017 issues is £20. If you do wish to subscribe then, if you have not already done so, please send us a confirmatory email. If it is intended as a gift, we will also need the intended recipient’s email address. Payment can be made in two ways: 1. Personal cheque made payable to A.F. Cuthbertson with a note of your email address and sent to A.F. Cuthbertson 23, Cairnhill Gardens, ST. ANDREWS Fife KY16 8QY 2. Bank transfer. Sort code 832628, account number 15179955, account holder A.F. Cuthbertson. Please put your name as the transaction reference. We also hope to set up a Paypal account to facilitate payment from overseas but that is not currently available. The next issue will be circulated to subscribers in late December.
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 Best wishes Derek