Hoisted By My Own Petard

Front path

This morning, whilst Jackie continued with her planting, tidying, and extensive garden maintenance, I carried out some more work on refining the gravel path in the front garden. This involved marking out a line, digging up and either moving or rejecting stray plants, and  replacing some rocks and concrete that line the side nearest the house. Some of the hellebores were so interested in my activities that their normally shy flowers actually raised their heads. These can be seen my clicking on the image above.

‘A Suitable Boy’, Vikram Seth’s novel, a magnificent saga of an Indian family, came up in conversation recently. Although not normally a name-dropper, I just had to mention that I had received a very complimentary letter from the author a dozen years ago. In ‘The Listener Setters’ Dinner’ I describe how this came about.

The Times Listener Crosswords were ones that I enjoyed setting during a period of about twenty years. They are termed ‘advanced cryptics’ as they are very difficult both to create and to solve. The clue solving was often the easy part, as there is always a final twist that requires further thought and activity. One of my devices was to involve solvers in producing a drawing at the end. Four-Letter Word was one of these that earned the praise of Mr Seth.

Thinking it might be fun to present this to my WordPress readers, I consulted my albums of published puzzles. Because of the nature of this work, I was required to solve the entry method. I couldn’t do it without a struggle that took me quite a long time. Well, it was as long ago as 12th October 2002 that it appeared in the newspaper. The solution, published on 2nd November, for reasons that will become apparent, didn’t have much printed in the grid. Thus, I was hoisted by my own petard.

I am fully aware that most of my readers will not be familiar with cryptic crosswords, so I will not bother you with the clues. It is the theme I would like to offer.

The drawing I wanted to create needed flowing curves. How on earth was I to manage this on a typical square grid? It was after six months thought that I hit upon the idea of using hexagons in a honeycomb. That particular device was not original, but I like to think the use to which I put it was.

Focussing on the preamble and the grid, and ignoring the clue column, this is what solvers were presented with:Four-letter Word 001

The preamble is the paragraph on the left beneath the title. It explains what is required in addition to solving the clues. The grid is where the answers are written.Four-letter Word 003

Examples of entries given in the above illustration are 30 REGRET, 31 RIPPLE, and 32 PENNON.Four-letter Word 002

Once the whole grid has been completed and the correct sequence of letters blocked in, an outline that could be a cat is produced. I have used a highlighter to make it stand out. The initial letters of the 8 letter answers, in clue order, spell out CHESHIRE, helping to identify Lewis Carroll’s character. For clarity I have not confused the issue with a fully completed grid.Cheshire_Cat_Tenniel

With a little artist’s licence, solvers will have reproduced a suggestion of Sir John Tenniel’s famous illustration to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Four-letter Word 004

In that story, the creature disappears leaving its GRIN. Thus, according to the preamble’s instructions, solvers, having used a pencil, are to rub out everything but the four-letter word appearing above hexagon 38. This location is shown in the entry examples given above.

This evening, for our dinner, Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and egg fried rice was supplemented by the contents of a doggy bag provided by Lal Quilla last night. We were grateful that Elizabeth hadn’t been able to finish the chef’s special that she had enjoyed. So did we.



  1. This was one of the most fun posts I have read from you! Thank you for sharing the puzzle. 🙂 I wouldn’t have been able to solve these.
    PS: I adore Parker pens. They were my favourite when I was in school. I don’t know if kids still use fountain pens for their notes. It was mandatory for us.

    1. Thank you Sam. That is a relief. Some others have found it difficult. I have a couple of fountain pens which I use. When I was at school in the ’40s we had steel nibs and ink wells in the desks

      1. I started using them again a couple of years ago and recently I have been writing exclusively with them. They hold ink in plastic cartridges. I miss my old pens which worked on physics. I feel nostalgia coming on… ah! The 90s – when I spent a significant amount of time with my hands a lovely shade of Royal Blue.

  2. I am a lover of cryptic crosswords, though haven’t done one in some time for various reasons – but I had enough difficulty with the square grid variety to have had a complete brain freeze at the sight of your examples here! Your post has made me think I need to get myself a little book to reignite my interest and skill level This was an excellent post, most enjoyable!

  3. Your cryptic crosswords are fascinating, Derrick, but well beyond my ken. Or perhaps it was the Jack Daniels with dinner. Oh,well.

  4. Your mind is amazing. Cryptics are beyond me. More at home with cryptids , like the Chesire Cat. 😀

    Many thanks for directing me to this post. 🙂

  5. Very clever, Derrick! I think this puzzle would have taken me a year to solve. But I always like a challenge. Thanks for sharing the link – now back to my crossword ;0

  6. Most impressive, Derrick. I used to do cryptic crosswords, but haven’t done any for some while. This looks like quite a challenge. I had a couple of Parker pens when I was at grammar school, although my first fountain pen was a Conway Stewart which my parents bought for me when I passed the 11+. 🙂

  7. I’m here from the future. I think I’m totally confused by this whole thing. My husband does the NY Times crosswords every day, but I don’t know if he’s done this type of puzzle. I’m impressed by your skill.

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