I’ve been looking forward to showing you this one. It is a fiend. Set by the Weekend Crossword Editor (no name provided), you are given a template for a crossword, and the words that fit into it horizontally, and vertically – but not where they fit into it. So before you go anywhere you have to fill in the words. By (almost happy) accident, there was a misprint, too. When you’ve done that, you have to invent amusing clues. This is by far the hardest and most enjoyable competition to do.
Here is the information entrants were provided with:
* a symmetrical crossword with fifteen squares each way, sixty-three blank squares, and no two blind letters together
* the words across, and remember, in no particular order: passive, lupin, audible, nonsuit, stilted, stook,
winnings, royally, dole, rags, chevron, immense, rotunda, Kiel, steamer, torpids, tenaces, lino
* the words down are aback, reunion, négligé, rumbled, National Gallery, whisper, stone, shudder,
third party risks, initial, E.P.N.S, atom, inns, sheathe, espy, candour.
Correctly numbered, this comes out like this:
As you’ll see, ‘winnings’ was the wrong’un in the original instruction. OK, now you’ve come this far, you have to come up with thirty-four clues.
There are are lots of proxime accessits. They include (third) E.P.C. Cotter (Edmond Cotter), who in later life became an expert player and writer about both bridge and croquet; R.O. (Robert Ormes) Dougan, who was to become an expert librarian and an expert in particular on the Book of Kells; R.D.Jebb, later a political essayist; as well as regular competitive obsessives like Pibwob. But they are beaten to the punch by Cassandra, who has to be reminded to provide his or her address, and who completes all the clues as rhyming couplets, thereby staving off into second place R.L., whose winning entry is confined to a few clues. (This is the way to win a competition. Imagine what everyone else is doing and then do something harder that you haven’t been asked to do …).
Photos exist of the third-placed Cotter (here in 1956 in the centre of the front row of a croquet team):
However, it is Cassandra‘s entry that needs the fanfare:
and let’s not forget the footnotes:
R.L., as mentioned is given space to show just some of his suggestions:
The second competition is to parody Lewis Caroll. Our anonymous crossword editopr notes that not all the fates of the crew of the Snark are described, and invites four verses on the fate of the billiard-marker. L.V.Upward is in the running again, but two new names, Janhope and Geraldine win the guinea and half-guinea (one wonders if Geraldine is the dissatisfied crossword entrant who wrote in during the sequence of ‘Gerald’ letters). The penultimate line of Janhope’s is only partly available. I will try to source the full line.
Both these efforts seem to me to be very talented – this is certainly, overall, my favourite competition so far.
The first verse is the standard opening; the subsequent for are the inventions.
They sought it with thimbles, they sopught it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
Then the Billiard-marker, with passion intense,
Shouted “Ninety-eight plays Ninety-nine!”
And explained how at Thurston’s the opposite sense
Of the problem was due to the vine.
“For,” he said, “it is plain as a spot in the sun
That all efforts to snooker a Snark
Must be wholly anachronous, just under-done,
And inclined to be dim in the dark.
They knew it at Harrods’, they knew it at Scott’s
And I told them at Brookman’s Park,
When announcing a series of ‘Geraldine Shots –
Some hazards of potting the Snark!’ ”
But the Bellman retorted: “The facts as reported
Show clearly where Vanity works
[illegible] to depart from the view
Of His Majesty’s Office of Works.
Brookman’s Park is a village in Hertfordshire with a golf course, but I don’t know – and after all, this is a nonsense poem – if Scott’s is or was a club, nor if there is any meaning behind the phrase ‘Geraldine Shots’. Anyone any idea? (Thurston’s is the name of the snooker supplier founded in 1799.)
Here is the second prize entrant: