‘A Suitable Boy’, Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel, a magnificent saga of an Indian family, came up in conversation early in 2015. 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 before.
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.
The solution, published on 2nd November, for reasons that will become apparent, didn’t have much printed in the grid.
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:
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.
Examples of entries given in the above illustration are 30 REGRET, 31 RIPPLE, and 32 PENNON.
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.
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.
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.
Finally in this episode of my memoirs I can reveal the answer to a puzzle presented in https://derrickjknight.com/2022/02/18/a-knights-tale-104-mordreds-development-and-various-publications/