The bonus puzzle offered to Times Crossword Club members last Wednesday when the first qualifier for this year's Championship was published turned out to be a Times crossword from 1961. This was less than two years before I started attempting the Times crossword daily (at the end of 1962) so I reckoned I might be able to polish it off reasonably quickly, but I was soon disabused of that idea. After solving only two clues - "Interval music (8)" [ENTRACTE
] (select between the square brackets for the answer) and "So superlative, large size and incombustible (8)" [ASBESTOS
] - on a first read-through, I then came to a stand for several minutes before twigging the obvious (?!) answer to "The dark is deadly (10)" [NIGHTSHADE
]. This opened up the NW corner, followed by the SW and NE, and finally the SE corner.
I found this last corner particularly tough, but I'd have had a lot less trouble with it if I'd been able to recall the missing word in either of the two quotations, one direct ("“___ is a great matter, I was a coward on ___” (Henry IV Pt 1) (8)" [INSTINCT
]) and one indirect ("Keats saw many goodly ones on his travels (6)" [STATES
]). I knew the latter came from the second line of On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
- "And many goodly Ys and Xs seen;" - but I couldn't for the life of me think what Y (or X) was. The only word that came to mind was SIGHTS, but that seemed extremely unlikely since not only would it leave I as the final letter of 23ac but I was pretty sure Keats would never have written "... sights ... seen". What was particularly galling was that this is a favourite poem, and one that I used to know by heart. At least I think I used to know it by heart; however, when I tried to recall the rest of it after I'd finished, I found I could only really remember lines 1, 4, and 9 to 14 (apart from imagining that stout Cortez "gazed" at the Pacific, and that his men "stared" at each other with a wild surmise). Sadly the other lines, although familiar enough once I looked them up, had vanished into oblivion. As for the direct quotation, it was clearly said by Falstaff, but although I must have heard it spoken a number of times in performances of the play, it rang no bells and I needed the 2nd and 4th letters before I was able to make an educated guess.
The direct quotation would not be allowed in a modern Times crossword, and there were a number of other clues that probably departed a little too far from today's standards; however, I tend to take a fairly relaxed view of crossword clueing, and there are only a couple of clues I might, if I was in a grumpy mood, take exception to. The first is "What the gate-crasher can’t do (4-4)" [SHOW-CARD
], since (unless I'm missing something) it doesn't have a definition. The other is "Used the first person singular (8)" [EGOTISED
] since there's no way of telling whether the 6th letter is S or Z. But this can still happen in modern Times crosswords, as I wrote about here
; and in any case it only worries me (as a competitive solver) when the marking system doesn't allow for alternatives. I'd commented on TftT that I didn't really understand "Requirement for nursery tea essential in adults (5,5)" [CLEAN HANDS
], as I couldn't see how the answer related to "adults"; however, on reflection, the clue is simply contrasting the figurative meaning (as in the legal maxim "he who seeks equity must come with clean hands") with the literal meaning for children at mealtimes. There were some answers whose meanings I hadn't come across before, but that's fine by me.
So, with perhaps one or two minor quibbles, I liked it. I've said before that when my membership of the Times Crossword Club finally expires, one of my options will be to go back and tackle some Times crosswords from the past, and this puzzle did nothing to change that. In fact, if anything it confirmed it: I enjoy a challenge, and I'm pretty sure I could solve puzzles like this one more quickly once I'd become more used to the setters' wavelengths. Anyway I'm looking forward to 14 May and 11 June (if I'm still a TCC member then) when further puzzles from the past should appear.Footnote
I wonder why this particular crossword (described as "an intriguing puzzle from Times past") was chosen. Was it completely random, or random within a given date-range, or a deliberate choice?
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: intrigued