A Knight’s Tale (104: Mordred’s Development And Various Publications)

Some of The Times Listener puzzles periodically appear in published collections.

Times Books published this early one of my partnership with Mike Kindred. The subtitle to the book is ‘The World’s Most Difficult Crossword’.

This is one of mine in a collection published by Chambers in 2008. I will hold the solution over to my next instalment in case any readers care to tackle it.

Solvers may well recognise that a word in a clue should be entered as an abbreviation, but not know the abbreviation. American States or Chemical Elements are frequent examples. The lists in the book offer (1) the full form as possibly presented in a clue; and (2) the abbreviated form(s) which may be entered. This was published in 2005.

Collins published this volume in 2006. The puzzle referred to in the final paragraph hides the names Samson Knight and Pavel Rezvoy in the correct positions for first and second finishers. I gambled on the order when setting the puzzle, thus Sam’s win was a bit of luck.

This is a  copy of the solution to an Independent cryptic crossword I designed to commemorate the event.  Read the highlighted perimeter letters clockwise from top left. I had by then joined the daily newspaper’s team, and always spiced up these puzzles with something hidden in the completed grid. One morning I sat in a tube train opposite a man solving one of mine. It was quite an achievement to resist introducing myself.


  1. Wow, Derrick! I wouldn’t attempt solving one of these. I didn’t even understand the example you gave. ? But I’m sending it over to my husband, in case he wants a try.

    1. I’m with you Merril, Derrick would always show me clues he had devised with enthusiasm, and despite knowing the answer, I frequently did not ‘get’ it, and had to have it explained to me!

      1. Thank you, Derrick. With your help (and Google’s) I now get it. Would NEVER have come up with it on my own. I clearly don’t stand a chance with your puzzles. Your brain is a magical thing.

  2. Mum is the crosswords person in our family. You were wise not to reveal you were responsible. He’d have wanted a clue. I wonder if you’ve ever forgotten any of the answers. If not, that’s some detail to hold in a mind!

  3. Ever since dad introduced me to the Telegraph cryptic when I was 16, I’ve tried and more often failed to answer these sorts of puppies. I’ve always been boggled at the idea of these setters being real people and yet here you are…

  4. Your love ❀️ of puzzles and prowess at solving them is one of the reasons your brain is so alive, I am sure. You amaze me, Derrick! ?

  5. So grand, Derrick! I’m so impressed and I’m so excited to see and read this! I’ve been doing crossword puzzles since I was a wee girl, but never known anyone who created them and had them published! Your clues are so great! I’m so proud of you!
    PS… You should have introduced yourself to the man in the tube train. πŸ™‚

  6. I’m certain one can learn some of the tricks of cryptic crosswords but you do need to practise. And it is always good to recognise the different puzzle setters. I used to do the puzzle in the Melbourne Age but I got out of the habit and lost the skill. But I did work out that they got married in OZ.

  7. You are quite the rock star of crosswords! I am supremely tempted to enter but am being held by some urgent business that must be dealt with on the weekend!

  8. Samson and Holly got married in Oz. That is SO incredible! I wonder how many people solved the puzzle but didn’t get that little fun part? I LOVE that kind of stuff! You have such a cheeky way about you! This is really an interesting side of you, Derrick.

  9. Wonderful. I totally “suck” at crosswords. But your definitions are brilliant.
    #41 in the first one made me think of Agatha Christie (And the mirror crake’d from side to side) Or of course Lady Shalott…
    Cheers Derrick.
    PS. Your son crossed the Atlantic rowing? ???? Did I get that right? You must have been frightfully worried until he touched shore…

    1. Thanks very much, Brian. Yes, that is right about Sam. The boats were tracked by the Ocean Rowing Society and we could see where they were each evening. He also posed me from a sattelight phone once a week. Had I known that he had stopped taking photographs and why, I would have been more worried. The boat had a small cabin of which he was enjoined to keep the windows closed to avoid being sunk if capsized. His feet were strapped to boards. He was capsized by the wash of a cargo boat passing too close. The camera is at the bottom of the Atlantic.

      1. OMG. What a story. And what valour and bravery… The experience of a lifetime no doubt.
        Modern tech must have helped, but as a parent, I would have bitten all my nails off…
        Sorry for the camera, but Sam is all right that’s all that matters right? ????????

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