Well, guess what, my big sis set this one up. She’s always been great at putting on a party, though one such left more than one cigarette burn on our piano. Here are some words from Alison:
‘My brother John lives and breathes crosswords, so when an email popped up buzzing with amazing ideas to promote this year’s crossword centenary I was easily persuaded (as a solver myself) to host an event in Shrewsbury.
Despite assurances that the only requirements were tea, coffee and a copious supply of rubber-ended pencils, I felt compelled to rustle up (with the aid of sous-chef Cathy, an avid Paul fan), some chocolate brownies and butterfly cakes. Most of these were wolfed down by John on the night. I think he had been so frantically busy with events and editing that he had forgotten to eat that week!
By 7.30 a dozen or so like-minded people had turned up at Joseph Hayes Opticians (subtle plug!!) to meet the bu**er responsible for setting the devious cryptics they had been struggling with, obviously delighted to put a name to a face.
We had just settled down with steaming mugs, raring to go, when the Shropshire Star reporter arrived, wanting a photo of us with the “ideas” board (the places, people, landmarks etc in Shropshire that were important to us). So we all madly threw ideas out so that the poor man could get home for his supper. After that John reverted to plan A and gave us all a fascinating insight into how his marvellously warped mind works, always looking for the anagram or wordplay in everything he sees and hears. I think we were all astounded at the speed he can work out clues. Then, settling on the words we all felt essential to the essence of Shropshire (I really, really wanted Grope Lane included, but it was sadly too obscure), and choosing the grid that was best suited to word length we all chose a word to create a cryptic clue for. Great fun and exciting to have our work marked by the master himself! Finally, with gentle but firm guidance from John the grid was filled in with our cryptic creations and completed with normal words and quick clues. We had done it! The Shropshire Puzzle had a little bit of each of us in it and we all went home greatly inspired and happy to have done our little bit to spread the joys of crosswords.
A huge thank you to John for his incredibly hard work in making all these events across the country possible. More please!!’
And here is the puzzle for you to try!