Something extra to keep you busy

Just after completing his stand-in spell for Richard, Mr Magoo sent me a couple of puzzles for blog readers. I’ve added these to the guest puzzles section of my crossword-related web site, or if you’d prefer to go straight to them, here are links to what I’ve unimaginatively called Blog bonus puzzle 1 and Blog bonus puzzle 2.

Although both puzzles are quite tough (I lost my orginal copies, but I think one took me 22 minutes and the other 25), there’s a lot to enjoy. Mr Magoo says the puzzles are responses to challenges I made to setters in the single-handed days of this blog. I think I’ve identified the challenges, but haven’t hunted in the archives to check.

Feel free to say anything about these puzzles in the comments. Conversely, DON’T read the comments until you’ve finished the puzzles. Somewhere there’s a reference that wouldn’t be allowed in the Times, but regular readers should understand it.

5 comments on “Something extra to keep you busy”

  1. Two cracking puzzles. I strongly suspect that my solving times (compared to Peter’s) were significantly assisted by familiarity with Mr Magoo’s clueing style (I subscribe to The Magpie). I guess the ‘challenge’ in #2 was ‘maximum number of authors and associated works’?

    #1: Solving time 9:37. Remarkable construction with eight 15-letter answers, all of them common words or phrases, or simple derivatives. I had to guess NAGARI and MEERSCHAUM from the (helpful) wordplays, didn’t know the Windmill Theatre “never closed” (but the answer was clear) and didn’t understand FIASCO, IRREPREHENSIBLE or LONG-SIGHTEDNESS until after solving.

    #2: Solving time 18:06, with amazingly (for a literature-based puzzle) no mistakes, though both WHIT and WILT were doubtful guesses (I think I knew both authors’ names vaguely), as was the second letter of OBJURGATE (Hawkeye & BJ?!). Inexcusably slow on ANNE BRONTË and had a nightmare (as always) over AUBRIETIA (‘aubrieta’ and ‘aubretia’ being valid alternatives). Lots of great clues but I thought the one to ABOUT A BOY was particularly brilliant.

    1. Thanks to Mr Magoo for these.
      It’s worth pointing out from the perspective of a Times setter that the challenges laid down by Mr M are much harder to achieve when constrained by pre-ordained grid patterns and the embargo on living people. I’m afraid I also found myself semi-consciously comparing every clue with the Times house style. I realise I should get out more!

      Because I did this I think I appreciated the puzzles less. I should have marvelled more at the intricate and imaginative wordplay. I felt that the clueing was more advanced cryptic style in a blocked grid.
      Puzzle one for me illustrated the drawbacks of using an ambitious grid, with several of the long words turning out to be dull abstract nouns of the type we used to see a lot of in the old 27×27 jumbos.
      Puzzle two on the other hand, was beautiful. It is a pity we can’t have more themed puzzles of this type in the Times. They are discouraged editorially, as well for reasons mentioned at the start.
      Never having heard of OBJURGATE and not understanding the clue, I guessed OBJURANCE and invented a new plant called a NOBRIETIA

      1. Thanks to both commenters and Peter – indeed, as fgbp points out, having created grids neither of which was even potentially relevant to the Times, I thought there was little need in this case to tailor the clueing style (i.e I was too lazy).

        The two ‘challenges’ were (1) a reference by Peter to a certain grid having the minimal unching possible – I recognise that he may have meant amongst the accepted grids, or given Times norms, but still I felt it might be possible to go one better, but the odd Shakespeare word at 1 was still a bit sad; (2) a challenge which I thought preposterous, after a puzzle featuring two Henry James titles, to fit four authors and their novels into a puzzle symmetrically. I only widened my authors’ net to include those in Chambers Crossword Dictionary in the end, which surprised me, though I couldn’t claim to have heard of WHIT before.

        If I ever compose a self-promoting ‘resumé’ Times crossword, rest assured it won’t be like these.

        Thanks for trying them, anyone who bothered.

        1. If Mr Magoo tries to do puzzles in the Times style, there’ll be a lot of people out of a job! I doubt if there is any cruciverbal challenge he’s not the equal of!

        2. I actually solved these puzzles not long before going on holiday in May, but I’ve only just caught up with unsolved puzzles and so have only just been able to work my way back through this journal without the danger of accidentally chancing on something I didn’t yet want to see.

          I wasn’t particularly fast (11:26) solving the first puzzle (the one with the eight 15-letter lights), but when I came to solve the second puzzle, my wits seemed to desert me, and I took an alarming 24:52. I started badly with 1ac, a very neat clue, which really ought to have been a no-brainer. Somehow I couldn’t get the idea of Acton, the place in West London, out of my mind, perhaps because it’s near enough to Ealing (in fact most of it is now part of the London Borough of Ealing) to have all sorts of associations – for example Janet and I were married in Acton Register Office. When I momentarily managed to shake it out of my mind, the only other Acton that sprang up to take its place was Harold Acton.

          After that things went seriously downhill, and I simply couldn’t get IRIS out of my mind as the first name of 23ac’s author. I have a long list of books waiting to be read, but I’m afraid The Wasp Factory is definitely not on it, so Iain Banks didn’t spring readily to mind, and I hadn’t even heard of Whit, though the wordplay made it an easy guess. I suspect Nick Hornby is OK if you like that sort of thing, but I’ve never felt particularly moved to read any of his stuff, so his books aren’t on my list either.

          Tom Sharpe is slightly different. I bought Riotous Assembly when it first came out (after hearing an excerpt from it on Late Night Line-Up or some such programme) and thought it was one of the funniest books I’d ever read. I gave Indecent Exposure a miss (discouraged by indifferent reviews), but I did read Porterhouse Blue and later Wilt – however, by then Sharpe and/or my taste must have changed as I found both books a bit juvenile.

          Anyway, clever stuff fitting all those authors and their works into the same puzzle. And of course I’m honoured to make an appearance at 22ac 🙂

Comments are closed.