Nearly five years ago, I emailed Swiss Bob with the idea of setting a Saturday crossword, as you are all (mostly) cerebral types who enjoy some mental gymnastics at the weekend after the nocturnal gymnastics of Faggotry Friday! “I’m not a huge crossword fan” the Boss replied unconvinced, “but OK, lets give it a go!”
Well, the first one was a bit rough and ready, and there was no pdf to print out, that innovation only coming a few weeks after. As it became a regular feature, The Boss also started to offer a real prize, so I must have cost him a fortune so far in mugs, coasters and books! Thank you for going with it SB.
So how do I go about setting the crosswords for you postaliers? First of all, I like them to be topical, so that means not doing them too far in advance, and keeping up with the news, GP articles and the comments that no one reads. So lets take an example. This time last year, Crossword Number 196 was all about the political sleaze in the news that week, so I had a few ideas in mind.
Next I have to choose a grid, from hundreds of possibilities, and fit in the first few words so I can start to get a feel for how it might shape up. I usually start with ten or so words or phrases then see what else fits in around them. Sometimes it’s a disaster and nothing works, so it’s time to start all over again, but so far so good.
Number 196 seems to be working OK, now getting the four 12-letter words that cross in the centre is important to get right. Claudia Webbe is one of them, but 17 across didn’t work, but changing “cashing in” to ‘cashing up” let me fit in ‘nouveau riche’ which fits the theme really well! The other two also work with ‘apolitically’ and ‘motivational’, so this is looking good.
Starting to fill in the gaps also throws up a few more good words: ‘comrades’, ‘idle’, ‘alkie’ and ‘Mittal’ (the Blairs’ dodgy donor). Then one of those moments that make it all worth while and makes me laugh out loud: ‘Twin tubs’ fits in 28 across, setting up a cracking Keith Vaz opportunity. Get in!
Finally the grid is filled up, with the last one ‘uglier’ at 31 across sets up the traditional (and by now compulsory) Diane Abbott clue!
Now the fun begins – actually setting the clues. I understand that there may be one or two of you ‘special ones’ who appreciate the occasional easy versions but hard luck this time, we’re going cryptic, with the usual anagram basics and a smattering of filth.
For me, getting the first clue right sets the tone the rest. This falls out really well, as the answer “back to basics” is an anagram of ‘so I stab c back’. As you regulars all know by now, c is ‘Conservative leader’, so we have the clue: John Major’s campaign: “So I stab Conservative leader in back”.
Here’s a few more workings for anagrams that led to the eventual clues for the crossword, now remembering that Alastair Campbell is spelt with an ‘a’ not an ‘i’ – “Labour spin doctor, bell end, partial to a scam!” Sometimes the clues fall out just perfect!
So from these workings, the clues that eventually appeared on GP were:
1 Down: Boris twice starts to wear bling in a confused state (8 – babbling)
31 Across: Diane Abbott and I used glue to stick to her rear end (6 – uglier)
11 Down: Cuba: “we bailed out ex-Labour MP” (7,5 – Claudia Webbe)
Finally there is sometimes the great opportunity to run two clues together: the solution to 29 across, “mantra”, follows on beautifully from 28, the Keith Vaz one, so we have:
28 Across: Lying Keith Vaz used stunt to attract bi women… (4,4, twin tubs)
29 Across: …but really used to pray about endlessly trapping a man! (6, mantra)
So after an hour or so, here is the final grid and all the clues together, so that you can finally start to see how my brain works!
Hopefully you will all be able to have a go at a new crossword next week when I’m back from my holidays!
|1&9 John Major’s campaign: “So I stab Conservative leader in back!” (4,2,6)||1 Boris twice starts to wear bling in a confused state… (8)|
|4 ..see 19||2 …and uses chap to count the money… (6,2)|
|9 ..see 1||3 …that comes in stacks due to sleaze! (4)|
|10 Diane Abbott initially welcomes all comers as hard left Labour members (8)||5 Optically, I think almost all parties are the same… (12)|
|12 Homilies end up being typical political statements (4)||6&14 … malign, puerile and victory at all costs! (4,4)|
|13 Like a short version of 19 Down! (5)||7 Greens envied… (6)|
|14 ..see 6||8 …Labour leader’s salty end! (6)|
|17 French get new money after a un-heroic victory by EU (7,5)||11 Cuba: “we bailed out ex-Labour MP”… (7,5)|
|20 Cash for politicians is for motion about Latvia (12)||15 …a criminal whose lone failure… (5)|
|23 Like most MPs, I got led astray (4)||16&27 …resulted in a harsh sentence to a hanging by Conservative leader! (5,4)|
|24 Scottish leader: “We’ll get fatter!” (5)||18 F1 champion confused at listing on Tinder (8)|
|25 Battering rams used as weapons (4)||19&4 Labour spin doctor, bell end, partial to a scam… (8,8)|
|28 Lying Keith Vaz used stunt to attract bi women… (4,4)||21 … involving Indian businessman ended in committal of… ( 6)|
|29 …but really used to pray about endlessly trapping a man! (6)||22 …second-rate liars Tony and Cherie! (6)|
|30 Heard all about when I nestled up… (8)||26 Yes, Tory leader is a pain in the eye! (4)|
|31 …to Diane Abbott and I used glue to stick to her rear end! (6)||27 ..see 16|
© text & images Richard Puller 2022