It’s been a while since I posted anything about crosswords, so the fact that I saw my name in today’s Observer gives me an excuse to do so now.
First, I was delighted to get another point for a Very Highly Commended (VHC) clue in the ongoing Azed clue-setting competition. The latest competition puzzle was Azed No. 2019. This was an interesting one, incorporating a variation on the “Plain” Azed puzzle in that the 12 by 12 square grid was actually divided vertically into two rectangular puzzles side-by-side. Clues for each half of the resulting “Right & Left” puzzle were run together, usually without punctuation, and with either side coming first. Solvers had to determine the location of the join between the clues, solve each part, and then figure out which side of the puzzle the answers had to go. I think it was a very enjoyable puzzle, with Azed’s skill strongly in evidence not only in constructing the clues but also in disguising the splices.
The two words for which clues were invited for the competition were OVERAWE and HENOTIC; the latter is a fairly unfamiliar term, defined in the puzzle as “tending to unify”. The clue that won me a VHC was
Cow or ewe cooked with odd bits of veal serving to make one nice hot stew?
Here I’m using “cow” as a definition of “OVERAWE”, with subsidiary anagram of OR+EWE+VA (odd bits of VEAL), with “cooked” as an anagram indicator; “serving to make one” defines HENOTIC, clued with another anagram NICE+HOT, with anagram indicator “stew”. I think it’s an easy clue, but I was quite pleased at the way the two halves run into each other to produce a reasonable surface reading. Above all, I think it’s fair – no superfluous words and no dodgy syntax.
Anyway, I’ve now got 3 VHC mentions this year, which is as many as I’ve ever won in the annual competition, so if I can just get one more it will be a personal best. There are 5 puzzles remaining this year, so maybe I’ll manage it!
A few weeks ago I won a prize in the Everyman crossword competition – also in the Observer. This is a much more straightforward puzzle than Azed and I usually do it more as a warm-up exercise than anything else but still post the completed grid off every week. One day last week I came home from work to find a note from DHL saying that they’d left a package with my next-door neighbour. It turned out to be a package of Penguin books: a Concise English Dictionary; a Concise Thesaurus; a Dictionary of Proverbs; a Dictionary of English Idioms; and the Penguin Book of Facts (a kind of encyclopedia). Anyone who’s been to my house knows that I have no shortage of dictionaries already, but I’m pleased with the others.
I finished this week’s Everyman just before starting to write this post. For the second week running there’s a clue formed by an indirect anagram. In this instance it is:
End of game inventor reviewed (2-4)
The answer is NO-SIDE (the signal indicating the end of a rugby match). The subsidiary indication is an anagram of EDISON (“inventor”). This is called an indirect anagram because the letters to be formed into the anagram do not actually appear in the clue. Most British setters frown upon this type of clue, not because they are hard – the one above certainly isn’t difficult to solve – but because they aren’t Ximenean and are therefore unfair. Azed would certainly never countenance such a clue, though an increasing number of setters – especially those for the Grauniad – seem to adopt a much more libertarian approach.