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    [memo to self: endeavour to fit LÈSE-MAJESTÉ into a future crossword – with suitable clueing of course!]


    Hamish Symington

    Given bedtimes are taking over three hours at the moment, I’ve had fewer evenings than I had hoped to sit down with puzzles. Finally got a bit of time to myself…

    Several things to like here – I liked 25a, 1d lovely, 6d fun; 19 raised a giggle. 24 was pure Rufus if you lost the question mark. The anagram was decent, though as ever it falls into the long-anagram problem which is essentially ‘how many crossers can I get before I can work out what it is’. For that reason I tend not to set long-anagram puzzles any more – I kind of feel it’s more an exercise to show how clever I am at making the anagram than it is enjoyment for the solver!

    ** SPOILERS **

    As others have pointed out, a few things to work on – stuff like ‘Amalgam’ being defined as ‘Filling’ when it’s really ‘material which is used for fillings’, ’tiles’ for ‘town’, and so on. Beware thesaurusitis – it’s easy to start to look in Roget and take a word in there as the definition, but it’s preferable to have something from the dictionary (Chambers, OED, etc) as the definition.

    Container indicators like 14a – you say ‘must never be held back’ but that’s not quite right grammatically; it should be ‘must never be holds backwards’ or something like that, but of course that doesn’t make grammatical sense. It’s really tricky when you have a clue which looks lovely on the surface but doesn’t quite parse – you have to gulp, throw it away and start again on it (or try to rework it).

    I don’t know if you have test solvers who you give puzzles to before posting them anywhere; I started out without them, and then got a couple of friends involved; the standard of puzzles went up immeasurably quite quickly, because they were weeding out the duff ones swifter. I still use them.

    Do keep it up. Look forward to the next.



    Many thanks Hamish – and once again, everyone else who’s looked at this one.

    I think it’s OK to ‘spoil’ openly now – the puzzle’s been up for a while. Anyone still tackling it, don’t read on!

    Regarding long anagrams (something I’ve not done too often, admittedly), my objective of course was to, rather cheekily, go one better than “Grantchester”! This I have done, in length at any rate, if not in quality! (I don’t think it’s possible to dream up a better clue than Grantchester!) I suppose it’s case of “some people love ’em, some loathe ’em”. Is that not true, perhaps, of every type of clue? Whatever, I’ll make no apology for fetching out the Scrabble, now and again, in the future!

    I’m glad you appreciated clues like 1d – I think the surface of that one was almost a gift! I was wondering whether “line” was a good enough def., or whether it would have to be “line on map” or some-such, which of course would have ruined the surface. And 6d was another one I enjoyed compiling, this time because of the definition! (I live not far from the village of Balcombe, scene of the mighty ‘fracking’ rumpus of a few years back, so I know all about 6d’s!) With 19d, the fact that my ? is separate from the word “Stalin”, does that invalidate my DBE indication? In 24d, my ? was there purely for the surface.

    In 25a, I read somewhere that “Ethelred the Unready” got this nickname originally from the designation “Ethelred the Redeless” – meaning that he’d dismissed his “Rede” or Counsel and tried to rule his kingdom alone. Not very successfully! Don’t know if the story’s true.

    I can assure you that on my all-too-frequent visits to the dentist, I am constantly conflating the words “Amalgam” and “Filling” – usually when I’m asking him “Is it another amalgam, then 🙁 ?”. Happily, he has all but completely discontinued using the beastly stuff, it’s generally some sort of white polymer instead. Good riddance! I still have to go to get a crown next month, but that’ll be ceramic.

    For 14a. My thoughts are, it’s good policy to have at least one hidden word somewhere in the puzzle. Solvers like them, and for those who are otherwise utterly stumped, it gets them a quick ‘foot in the door’. If the grammar doesn’t quite work, solvers will probably be happy to overlook it, because they’re so pleased at having made a start. Anyway, the surface is grammatical. That’s my excuse, at any rate…

    I think you’re right in describing me as having “thesauritis”. I do like the more ‘detached’ sort of definition. E.g. “CUE” = “strike” which wouldn’t occur to a mere dictionary-browser. Would it be sticking my neck out to say, I think I take after some of the Grauniad‘s setters there (though I can never hope to match their skill)?

    I don’t officially have a team of ‘test solvers’ but having been on Boatman’s masterclass (twice now) I do have E-mail addresses of the other attendees at the class. I have indeed sent one or two puzzles to one of them for assessment, and reciprocated by giving feedback on his puzzles (one of which, incidentally, appeared on BD under the pseudonym “Hippogryph” after I’d suggested some changes). I didn’t send the above puzzle off to anyone before posting it here, knowing I’d get the feedback online here (I wasn’t prepared for some of the responses but I’ll pass over that now! 🙂 ) But, yes, if I try to go further afield, I definitely ought to follow up your suggestion – at the risk of annoying some correspondents!

    Thanks for now. I may have another in the near future. In the meantime, over to Trigon’s “SH” to admit defeat…

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