i Cryptic Crossword 3114 by Maize

January 30, 2021

An ethical dilemma for your Saturday blogger today.

Maize, you see, is me.

Can a poacher turned gamekeeper still be allowed to take pot-shots? ‘No!’ I hear you cry as one voice. Well you’re right of course, and you certainly won’t be getting any sensible criticism from me today – I’ll leave that to you in the comments below, but rather will you get an insight into the genesis of this puzzle – maybe my twentieth or so since I started doing them for fun back in 2012 or so, but the first for which I ever actually received any actual, real, hard cash payment.

I suppose the seed of this quadruple pangram – for such it is – was a question Monk put in a comment at the end of one of his own puzzles, a double pangram, back in 2011: ‘To wit: is a triple pangram possible in a standard grid with an a.w.l. of greater than 7 using, to quote Beermagnet, only “interesting but mostly accessible words”  I’d never done even so much as a single pangram before that, but I do find a perverse enjoyment in what to some consider the ‘chore’ of filling a grid, so thought I’d have a go. The answer turned out to be ‘yes’ and Big Dave allowed the result on his website. I also sent a copy to Monk, after which he put a good word in for me with Eimi, the editor at the Indy, who until that point had unsurprisingly ignored my occasional supplications (of which I’m sure he gets many). This puzzle was my follow up to that triple, a not very subtle attempt at dangling what I hoped would prove to be an irresistible carrot in front of him. Fortunately it worked.

In the comments section to Fifteensquared for this puzzle back in 2016 a setter called AfterDark from India’s Hindu Times chips in; here’s a link to his quadruple pangram, the world’s first, which shows a similar yet also very different style of clue to those we’re used to in UK. Also Monk cheekily wonders if I’m going to do a pentapangram next… You’ll have to wait and see.

Finally I was surprised to spot, when I joined a Facebook group called ‘Cryptic Crosswords’ that they use this completed grid as their wallpaper.

Oh, COD time. Well, that’s for others to say really. I think of this set of clues as being fairly solid without any particular stand-outs. I’m emotionally attached to this one simply because it’s my first:

1a Queen dressed appropriately for crowd (6)

21 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3114 by Maize”

  1. dtw42 said

    I suspected where this was going about halfway through and got out my pack of four different-coloured highlighters to keep track as I went along. That actually helped with the solving for the last few words (e.g. by the time I got to 14ac at the end, knowing I was short of a J nudged me in the right direction). This achievement certainly excuses the one or two words we would normally consider “unpretty” (10ac, say).

    I’ll nominate a COD, then: 4ac, which got a “haha” in the margin (esp. after my recent grid dotted with PMs’ names).

  2. jonofwales said

    A red letter day indeed. Congratulations on the print debut! Back in 2016 this caused a bit of a stir, with plaudits such as “puzzle of the year”, and to be honest they were well-deserved. A grid fill that is quite a feat, with little that was obscure (to me at least!), and great clues to go with it.

    This is one of those rare occasions where I’ve already solved the puzzle in the Indy, but can remember little about it apart from the grid fill achieved. I found it a little tricky, but accessible and interesting. I didn’t need to go looking for missing letters from the pangram(s) as it turns out, though I doubt I would have been as organised as dtw42. You won’t be surprised to hear that my geography let me down, but thankfully Google knows how to spell the names of Turkish cities even if I don’t. 😉

    Lots of fun whether you spotted what was going on or not, with too many good clues to list. My short-list would consist of 1ac, 4ac and 27ac.

    A fascinating blog too about how you went about setting the puzzle, so many thanks all round.

    • Cornick said

      I think that ‘is this the puzzle of the year so far?’ question was actually for the penta – about two years down the pipeline in the i hopefully. It came out on 1st January!
      Sorry about all the geography Jon, and many thanks for advising me to call myself Maize rather than Maze back in the day. 🙂

  3. Denzo said

    Congratulations, Cornick, the longest I’ve taken on a crossword for some time. Last Saturday, many of us complained that Phi’s normal cluing standards had slipped because of kowtowing to his theme. Having today completed the NE corner it was clear that this new setter, to whose wavelength I was not yet fully adjusted, was aiming for at least a double pangram (and maybe a geographical theme also) so surmised the clues might therefore suffer. However, both wordplay and surfaces were excellent throughout until my LOI, 29d which I felt was a weak clue. But it could be that I was by now feeling the whole thing had taken more of my time than usual, and in any case, without looking for letters such as K and W, I night not have solved it!

    First in was Wrexham, which immediately made me wonder about a pangram and suggested two KAs for 7d (needed a map!). The first of these made me realise that the second word of 4a was KEY, not PAD, so this for me was CoD.

    Fairly early on, I guessed LUNCHES and OFFSTAGE with few crossing letters, put couldn’t parse either, so waited. I saw, the parsing of 11 but it didn’t occur that the definition needed to be anything other than DINING OCCASIONS, so couldn’t solve 2d – rather annoying, but this is my only gripe in an otherwise first class puzzle. I also then parsed the clever 9d, runner up CoD.

    My trip to Wikipedia taught me that an OXBOW is not just a flower. I wonder if Zuckerberg is paying royalties for his wallpaper?……..I thought not!

  4. Saboteur said

    A truly great crossword. Not a bad blog, either! Bravo Maize, bravo Cornick!

  5. Veronica said

    I enjoyed it, because we finished it (husband and me), but had to do a LOT of thinking. I would never have finished it without my husband, as he is way better at geography than I am. But together we made a good team and that was another plus. Perfectly balanced and of exactly the right difficulty for me.
    The fact that it was a pangram of any sort completely eluded me as usual. I’m not that bothered about them, other than mild passing interest. So it is pretty impressive to have still made a good puzzle for the likes of me 😊.

    Mild grumble at viragos = dragons. I don’t think that’s very nice. And I was ambivalent about UNPAINFUL – as dtw said, it’s not a great word – on the other hand it was one of those very satisfying moments once I realised it didn’t begin with pain…
    Some lovely clues. COD fir me, by far, was 4 across (agree with dtw). It made me laugh out loud. Clue of the year! Also liked SHIVA, for resonating with the clue. And liked FIGURE, for another ah ha moment.

    And what a lovely surprise to have a crossword from someone I’ve got to know a little from their comments. Especially because it was genuinely one of my favourites.

    • Cornick said

      Thanks Veronica.
      Virago has two meanings. I prefer the heroic, Amazonian original meaning too, but that’s listed as archaic in most dictionaries, and sadly the pejorative meaning has taken over.
      I tried to avoid any words like ‘Unpainful’ but couldn’t do it and also have the pangram thingy.

  6. batarde said

    I think I was a test solver for this one, which remains objectively one of the most remarkable grid fills ever published. Subjectively, I consider Maize’s clue writing top drawer in terms of polish, wit and invention. Chances are good that poor Cornick is going to have the embarrassment of marking his own work a few times, since the Maize series cries out to get the Saturday slot. First bravo of the year from me, I think. Oh, and 2d as my alternative COD.

  7. Veronica said

    Yeah. Get all that! And thanks for reading and replying.
    Just thought I’d say what I was really thinking as I tackled the crossword, since you might as well know what effect clues have on us non-specialists! I understand about the pejorative meaning having taken over – which is the point – it’s just that these little things grate, even in crosswords. When there are lots of little such references throughout society, it pervades how people think and becomes a norm.
    However, really this is only a minor grump.
    In any case, as I said – great crossword.

    • Veronica said

      Reply to Cornick – but I’ve got it in the wrong place somehow.

    • Cornick said

      That was also the clue where my original submission ‘Area in house with small dragons’ was rejected by the editor because of the non-equivalence between house and sign. You may remember our debate about it a month or so back 🙂

  8. Willow said

    What a brilliant puzzle! I spotted the possibility of a pangram early on, and the realisation that it was a quad helped me with the very final answer to go in.

    But, there’s much more to it than this. Firstly, all the clues have superb, fluent surface readings. Secondly, for a setter who is so evidently astonishingly accomplished, there is not even the merest hint of pretentiousness.

    By the way, you may be interested to know that I got off to an excellent start with 1 Across – or at least I thought I had done. I thought of THRONG instead of SQUASH. Why? R stands for Regina = Queen; in another context, a Queen might be a showy, perhaps sleazy sort of performer, one who might wear a Thong … It seems my thoughts have been influenced by some recent slightly risque setters.

    Fortunately it soon became quite obvious that other solutions would not cross check with that.

    Really enjoyable – many thanks!

  9. thebargee said

    Bravo indeed! Thoroughly enjoyable and I’m delighted to say I finished it bar one spelling mistake (ISMIR instead of IZMIR, a slip it seems I shared with the 225 blogger).

    I filled the RHS fairly quickly and spotted the pangram, but would never have realised there were going to be 4. Quite amazing. I was completely stuck on the LHS for a while, but then slowly and surely the answers came. Had I spotted the quadruple thing I would probably have finished sooner.

    Like Willow, when I initially read 1ac I immediately thought of THRONG, which you can, sort of, shoehorn into the clue, but I didn’t write it in. It was only much later when I finally unravelled 1dn that the right answer came to mind.

    My LOI was HADJ. And a nomination for COD? I did like 19ac, ‘fixed equities’ reads so well that it took an age for me to spot the anagram. Thanks, Cornick, for a great puzzle.

  10. allan_c said

    Very late to the party as I don’t get round to the Saturday i cryptic till late Sunday, and I’ve had a busy Monday morning. Actually, I’m surprised to see that I didn’t comment on the puzzle’s first appearance in 2016; I certainly solved it then, as I soon twigged that it was indeed the amazing (pun intended) quadruple pangram. Not that it was a breeze – I was struggling to find the fourth P until I realised that 12ac wasn’t ‘lunches’ and got UPPER as my LOI.
    Great stuff!

  11. Dave Eff said

    Impressive but too hard for me! A few niggles, a flat can be major or minor (what do get if you drop a piano down a mine shaft? A flat major doesn’t really work!)
    I spelt Hadj hajj as had didn’t chime as enjoyed
    I spelt jazz as jass (origin snoring sound s s & jazz originally called jass debatably)
    Ok spot the muso 🙂
    Cod – I liked 12ac & 18dn but I need them easy!

    • Cornick said

      Yes, sorry it was a bit hard, Dave.
      In 4ac the definition is ‘A flat, perhaps’ so that sort of acknowledges that the answer could be more than one thing. We call it definition by example and it’s very common – sometimes DBE is only indicated by a question mark, indeed!

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