Crossword roundup: why did Douglas-Home pronounce it ‘Hume’? | Crosswords

In the sample clues below, the links take you to explainers from our beginners series. The setter’s name often links to an interview with him or her, in case you feel like getting to know these people better.

The news in clues

At prime minister’s questions last week, the prime minister gave a strong whiff of “you’re not still angry – I thought we’d agreed we were past that”. He would be advised not to turn to crosswords for escape. In the Independent, alone, we have, from Rodriguez (known locally as Picaroon), this clue …

9a Ideal Number Ten parties impossible to find out (14)
[ wordplay: anagram (‘parties’) of IDEALNUMBERTEN ]
[ definition: impossible to find out ]

… for UNDETERMINABLE and from Tees, this clue …

16a Scandal: Tories for example shown exit? (9)
[ wordplay: what the Tories are an example of + synonym for ‘exit’ ]
[ definition: scandal ]

… for the new term PARTYGATE. Looking forward, Wednesday will see the Guardian’s 100th puzzle from Imogen.

Latter patter

More prime ministers. Here’s a clue from Pasquale in the quiptic, the Guardian’s puzzle “for beginners and those in a hurry”:

19d Churchill is victorious – then not, after upset (7)
[ wordplay: synonym for ‘is victorious’ + NOT backwards (‘after upset’) ]
[ definition: Churchill ]

It’s WINSTON, a name that has been given to various Churchills down the years and which, the Oxford Dictionary of First Names tells us, was invented by the Churchills. Unrelated to the old name Wynnstan, the first Winston was a 1620 Churchill who was given his mother’s surname as a first name, the surname itself coming from a Cotswolds village.

Nowadays, you don’t have to be landed to pull off the surname-to-first-name switch, and the practice of assigning to a baby what used to be called its mother’s birth name is occasionally flagged up as the latest trend. A different quirk of naming seems to me to remain largely the preserve of the posh: the unexpected pronunciation.

My favourite example, and the subject of our next challenge, belongs to another prime minister. According to family tradition, there is a perfectly good reason why it’s not pronounced the way it looks: when caught during a cattle-rustling expedition, the prime minister’s ancestor called out his name to alert his henchmen to his plight. They misunderstood him, and all went home, which is why the clan has since pronounced it “Hume”. So, reader: how would you clue DOUGLAS-HOME?

Now is as good a time as any to recall this paper’s late journalist Simon Hoggart on the former PM:

Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who was British prime minister for one year from 1963-64, used to produce crosswords for the Times of London, back in the 1930s. Once, he was sitting next to someone on a train who was struggling with a crossword he had compiled. The man asked for help, and was deeply impressed when his companion got all the answers, apparently without a moment’s thought.

Cluing competition

Thanks for your clues for ALBUM. The audacity award goes, of course, to Montano for “19 + 21 × 25 ÷ 30 = 33 1/3?”, a thing of sheer beauty that prompted a smashing discussion.

Of those clues that make use of the last three letters of the answer, my favourites are Faiton77’s “This may contain photos of naked male buttocks” and Minusfifteen’s “Gangster behind collection”.

The runners-up are Peshwari’s “Collection of songs used in musical bumps” and IanBrad’s “Rumours, for example, register”; the winner is TonyCollman’s Hofstadteresque “Could this be a cd?”

Kludos to Tony; please leave entries for this fortnight’s competition – as well as your non-print finds and picks from the broadsheet cryptics – below.

The latest in our collaborative playlist Healing Music Recorded in 2020-22 to Accompany a Solve or Even Listen to is from Fatoumata Diawara.

Fatoumata Diawara

Puzzling elsewhere

We’ve discussed the Two Ronnies crossword sketch set in a railway carriage.

The Two Ronnies

Now, Dave of the crossword podcast Off-Grid, has created a new kind of cerebral challenge: is it possible to reverse-engineer a crossword from a novel or TV show, based on whichever clues we’ve heard about in the story? Here’s a masterclass in how to do it for the Two Ronnies puzzle; there’s plenty more fodder in our Top 10 of fictional crosswords.

Clue of the Fortnight

Nutmeg’s construction is of course delightful …

12a Who’s last to be welcomed by assembled crewmen? (8)
[ wordplay: final letter of WHO (‘who’s last’) inside (‘to be welcomed by’) angram of (‘assembled’) CREWMEN ]
[ O inside NEWCMER ]
[ definition suggested by the whole clue ]

… but, she still leaves me feeling for the snubbed NEWCOMER. Stay safe.

Find a collection of explainers, interviews and other helpful bits and bobs at alanconnor.com.

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