The Welcome Return of the Alphabetti Spaghetti!

Mar 26
Posted by Julia Filed in Crosswords

Fantastic news from The Guardian last month caused much rejoicing, and this post on their blog says it all:

Last month we published a Saturday prize puzzle set by Paul (No 26,495, 14 February). It was a jigsaw puzzle, where the clues are presented in alphabetical order of their solutions, which then have to be fitted in to the right places in the grid. This format was 'invented' by Araucaria and last month's puzzle was the first that we had run since 2013, when John Graham became too ill to continue producing them. The last Araucaria alphabetical was published on 10 September 2013 (No 26,047).” (read the rest on the Guardian Crossword Blog)

The prize crossword (download the .pdf version here) was a triumph, and the answer for A was utterly fitting. 

Grandma + TJ solving crosswords
Image by Schill via Flickr

I was caught out by X though … it has long been a troublesome clue, and I was expecting the same sort of 'made-up-word-itis'. But I was wrong. 

How did you get on with “The other outstanding boy returns for festivals, methinks? (6)“? Though it was nearly 2 months late … 

Long live the Alphabetti Spaghetti! And thank you, Paul. 





A Sad Year for Lovers of Guardian Cryptic Crosswords

Jul 7
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords

It’s been quite a few months since the demise of John Graham … aka Araucaria … and he is, of course, sorely missed. No more alphabetical jigsaw crosswords, continual naughty references to yoof culture, as well as downright cunning clues :-(

If you caught him on Desert Island Discs, you might be forgiven for dismissing him. But John Graham communicated beautifully through his cyptic crosswords, if not through his interviews …

Araucaria (1921-2013) – and the tools of his trade

I am not shy when it comes to talking to people on trains, so when I found myself sitting opposite Simon Hoggart on a train from Hove to Victoria in 2009 we spent the entire journey talking about Araucaria.

We swapped a lot of favourite clues; his favourite was an Araucaria anagram of “chaste Lord Archer vegetating” (The Old Vicarage, Grantchester). When he left the train at Clapham, another passenger turned to me and congratulated us on having entertained him all the way from Sussex. And then he went and bloody died too.

Simon Hoggart (1946-2014): Devotee of Araucaria, friendly to strange women on trains

So that’s what’s happened in the world of cryptic crosswords since my last post on here … let’s hope that there are no more sad happenings at the Guardian. Meanwhile I’ll just get on with keeping this blog up to date!

New Winter Resolution

Nov 16
Posted by admin Filed in News

It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally taking hold of I’m sure no-one reads it any more, but I have hopes that that’ll change! So if you do read this, and you are not a bloody spambot, please comment. It’ll make me proud and happy :-D

So my plan of action is:
1 – move all the content from the old site over to my new one (I can’t take my comments too though, as the old system was – well, too old to do that!)
2 – curate it and post more regularly (like more than twice a year!)
3 – finally make it so you can get hold of my lovely ebook! I think it’s really good, but I haven’t made it available.
4 – put some of my other puzzle-related news up …

Now it may not seem like a lot of work, but it is. Really! And I’m post-dating this so that it should go live on Saturday the 17th November. That was my lovely Dad’s birthday … so it’s a promise.

Julia xx

Competition Time!

Jul 19
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, News

I’ve been on Facebook for a while now, and I think it’s a great place to hang out and share stuff with old old friends – as well as make new ones.

But it’s got a bit out of hand recently … a couple of weeks ago I realised that I was approaching 1,000 friends. And I thought it would be a good idea to do something to mark this number!

So as I approach the big thousand, I decided to be very stern about who I ‘friend’ – but just today I found my old old old mate Justin Sutherland as friend number 998. And I’ve just looked and found that social media guy Nick Unsworth has accepted my invitation, bringing the score to 999. I have a couple of invites out there, so I will now reveal my plan.

When I’ve hit 1,000 ‘friends’, I’m going to write a personalised cryptic crossword for one of you. Although I am slightly alarmed at the prospect of letting my friend who writes fantastic crosswords for the Guardian enter the competition!

So, here it is:

Whoever sends me the best reason why I should write a cryptic crossword for them wins exactly that: a personalised puzzle of their own. If you don’t want one, I can make one for someone else.

You can enter through my Facebook page.

I will also send out ‘runners up’ prizes of my ebook on the art of solving cryptic crosswords. Because it does exist, even though it’s not available on my site.

Good luck!

You can find me here:

Getting the Right Kit for Working Holidays …

Oct 11
Posted by admin Filed in Holidays

Now winter’s round the corner, like every sensible UK resident I’m looking for my January holiday. What’s the point of going away in the summer when the weather’s good and travel expensive? I’d much rather escape the sock-wearing winter instead, when flights are cheap and the monsoons haven’t messed things up yet! And when sunshine and vitamin D are both a distant memory … Problem is: how can I stay away as long as possible and still keep working? These days, the answer’s simple: with a super-lightweight netbook. After considering a tablet, I’m now persuaded that a netbook is the best way to go. And not just because it’s a way of avoiding the famously bad Apple customer service! So the choice seems to boil down to two contenders: Lenovo Ideapad (used to be the indestructible IBM Thinkpad, apparently) or the HP DM1. Whichever I choose, it will involve clicking on this link – in the hope that ONE day I’ll be able to claim my affiliate earnings from Amazon. I wish!

We Love Biggles!

Aug 2
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, Favourite Clues

This Saturday I did the Guardian crossword with a friend who has just had surgery. So we needed an interesting crossword with the right level of humour and difficulty, and when I saw that the setter was Biggles, my heart sank slightly as we would have liked a nice Araucaria.

Biggles notwithstanding, we started solving it – and were DELIGHTED with some of the clues we found. It took us a couple of hours (but there was a certain amount of chatting!) to finish it, but some of the clues were just lovely:

10 ac: Live wire’s second season of Sex in the City (6)
16 ac: “Testes” in translation producing “sweet sins” (9)
1,30: Battered maid regretting this? (7,7)

I could go on, but go and have a look yourself for more. And maybe you can explain 24 across: I know that relativity has never been my thing, but if I know the answer to a clue I should be able to work out why it’s the answer!

Looking forward to the next Biggles puzzle!

NB – Puzzle and solution:

The Joy of Collaboration – on Facebook?

Aug 24
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, News

Facebook’s a handy little site – I know it has its detractors. My crossword collaborator (everyone must have one!) has been on holiday for the last few weeks, but she texted me to discuss this Saturday’s fine Araucaria crossword. Texting proved a touch laborious, so we switched to Facebook chat! We’d finished it within about the hour.

Amongst the clues were some tremendous specimens: German decapitated by neighbour (7) was very neat. and we enjoyed working out why our answer to Homes for Chinese in Yellow Pages (10) was correct.

Have a look and see what you think:

I particularly liked the two really really long clues, though I could find no record of a play called The Head That Wears a Crown. Any help identifying that would be most welcome!

Looking forward to next weekend’s as it’s the August Bank Holiday, one of those times we can confidently expect a 20×20 Araucaria (or Paul?) special. There are benefits to the end of summer … and of course my Kindle arrives at the beginning of September!

Saturday August 7 Prize: Sneaky, but Nice :-)

Aug 9
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, Favourite Clues

Araucaria’s at it again – some lovely clues to enhance Saturday morning. I give you: St Peter, etymologically, to scrub the deck (9). I love it when it takes me more than a day to solve a clue – and that was worthwhile. It does make me wonder – am I getting more stupid when it takes me that long to get one clue? Or is it Araucaria’s deviousness? Probably both. I did like the theme, too – though I’m not really a fan of 9 10 4s.

Other clues that pleased me greatly were: Buy wildly into lawyer for president (5) and Start of play on island with flexible toy (6,3). Sweet.

I won’t spoil it – have a look at the August 7 Prize Crossword for yourself!

Last Saturday’s Crossword …

Aug 4
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, Favourite Clues

I felt like I had stepped back in time, to the days of crosswords in The Times with obscure literary connotations. Yes, the ‘royal four’ in Pasquale’s Prize Crossword was truly flummoxing! After getting the fairly obvious clue One of 4 offering protection – shield – I thought we were onto a heraldic link. How wrong I was …

It wasn’t until I’d been talking to my co-conspirator for an hour on Monday night that we realised that it had something to do with Masters of the King’s Music (see what I mean about The Times? What’s that doing in The Guardian???). Hence spelling Cusins wrong! Luckily, there’s always Wikipedia to help :-)

Apart from that, there were some elegant clues, such as:
Group of nine men, one mad – not a leader amoung them (6)
German vessel sunk by block of ice almost (8)
Like some fiction I start to read in French – no good (9)
… all of which impressed by massively leading me up the garden path at the outset!

Where you might see aileron move? That can be frightening (9) should have been easier, but how was I to know that an ‘aileron’ is not a made up word? Could have asked the L of my L who – though thinking crosswords are a huge waste of time – is a glider pilot. But I didn’t want to involve him …

If you want to see the whole puzzle, go to the online version here. And come back and tell me what you think.

I Got Sent This Clue From the Telegraph …

Sep 20
Posted by admin Filed in Crosswords, Favourite Clues

… and despite my lack of respect for the Telegraph crossword this clue has been brought to my attention (thank you, Trevor!): See odd perennials sprouting (5,3,5). At first glance it looks like an anagram, but how could ‘see’ be 5,3,5? I am used to ‘see’ indicating ‘lo’ and anything to do with vision, but the clue is beautifully misleading. It’s A see. And my ecclesiastical knowledge is limited so I had to look it up: and Rippon and Leeds IS a holy see! Well done, that Telegraph setter!

Suggest you move to the Guardian …