To cryptic crossword setters and solvers, every day is like April Fools’ Day. Whereas the world at large is consumed with pranks, pratfalls and spoofery for this single day of the year, such mischief-making is stock-in-trade for cryptic protagonists whenever dawn breaks.
Still, two FT setters couldn’t resist the opportunity to give their puzzles an added April Fools twist.
Guy Haslam, who sets the FT Weekend magazine’s crossword under the pseudonym Aldhelm, threw in references to fools in half a dozen of his cryptic clues. (Incidentally, Aldhelm offers solvers a mix of clues to toy with — all the across clues are straightforward, all the down clues are cryptic.)
Meanwhile, over in the FT Weekend Life & Arts section, Tom Johnson (Gozo) constructed a puzzle he last put together in 2017, when April 1 also fell on a Saturday.
This puzzle contains nine pairs of unnumbered clues. Each pair can be inserted in two places on the grid. For example, alternate letters in ATTEST and STREET are the same (aTtEsT and sTrEeT), so the solver can insert either answer in different places.
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As Tom explains: “One set of clues would include these words, all of which would not bear a clue number and solvers would have to fit them in the grid wherever they could fit. But of course, each of them could fit in one of two places in the grid. Thus there can be a huge number of possible all-correct versions, any one of which would be correct.”
Here’s one of his unnumbered clues —
Ocean’s the pits for conch (8)
For solvers looking for a more straightforward approach to cryptic-solving, April 1 also marks the 150th anniversary of a Russian composer. Gaff, whose real name is Peter Willmot, has constructed a puzzle themed on the composer, including references to one of his famous works, and the name of the man himself hidden in the solution.
Sample clue —
9 down Players taking a bow (7)
Finally, here is the first clue in this weekend’s Polymath, the FT’s weekly general knowledge puzzle, complied by Aardvark (Mike Warburton) —
1 across 1966 single by the Rolling Stones featuring Brian Jones on sitar (5,2,5)