Live Hitchcock

In 1998, I was explaining the differences between yo-yos to a customer in Spitalfields Market, when I realised that the person behind him looking at the stall was Robyn Hitchcock. “Hello Robyn,” I said, to his back, just a fraction too late, as he wandered away.

Meanwhile in Exeter last night, I caught the last night of Mr Hitchcock’s current British tour. It only occurred to me just a few minutes before he was due on stage that these days you don’t have to wait to call out song requests, so I tweeted one through. Slim chance, maybe, but why not?

Robyn Hitchcock - Exeter

While “singer-songwriter” (with added twisted adjectives of your own preference) is an accurate description, one of the good things about an RH gig is that you get to be entertained between the music too. Tonight, after a brief false start with a harmonica rack and a guitar lead that had impertinently failed to plug itself in, Robyn told us tales of, amongst other things, trolley busses, fire alarm memories, ancient ancestors and their trains to Aberdeen, and the problems of Neolithic Grandma Architecture. All of which were quite as they should be in a world where reality and history are parallel quirks of space-time.

Oh, and there were songs too, new and old and in between. I may have been too late with my tweet, but… Antwoman, swiftly followed by 52 Stations, gained early multiple ticks in my book. Along the way, we also had some stunt guitar to close I’m Only You, Raymond And The Wires, Virginia Woolf and I Want To Tell You About What I Want from the latest album, The Cheese Alarm, and Only The Stones Remain. (Wait! It was BEADS and fish that changed hands? I’ve been singing “meat” for years.)

Peppering the evening were also many implausible requests to the sound desk (“can you make this sound like well-played 12-string, with a touch of sober David Crosby”), which each later seemed to have managed to end up going to have been what was about to have happened. (See the note about time earlier.)

Emma Swift joined Robyn for some songs at the end, and her harmonies gave a lift to Glass Hotel in particular. Closing up with the neither-Dylanesque-nor-Morrisseyan-yet-perhaps-related – I paraphrase – Queen Elvis, and the crowd bayed for more.

Shirtwatch: off-acid pink, with blue and maroon floral motif.

Robyn came back, solo, and said “apparently someone requested this”. OH! Seems I’d not been too late after all, so hooray, I got to hear 1974 live for the first time. (It’s been quite a while since my last RH gig.) I can almost taste the coffeemate and the denim. And to exit, for fun (until the melancholic Unforgiven line) Gene Hackman. An excellent evening’s distraction.

Well Robyn, I may not have sold you a yo-yo way back then, but when I got to design my own custom kendama recently, you got swirled in the paint a little, so that seems to close that loop.

Royal Kendama

The solution to my May crossword can be found in this image.

One answer is not a dictionary word, but is so common I don’t mind using it. Although the clue for it did reference an outdated (and probably derogatory) term, but I remember it being regularly used. What did you think of 8d? Too weird? I enjoyed 16 & 27, but I think 10 was my favourite. Meanwhile, did anyone spot my favourite band hiding in the grid? As always, I’m on Twitter for chat.

I had some further feedback on my April puzzle from Chameleon and Gonzo (spoilers!), which was useful.

No embedded puzzle this month. Sorry, the software didn’t like 8d. So, here’s the printable png.

I’m running a Cryptic Crosswords For Beginners workshop on Saturday, at Lestival. Hopefully I’ll get some new converts. Solution will be posted in one week. Happy solving!

The solution to my April puzzle can be viewed in this image.

8d was my favourite. I liked 13 and 29 for imagery, although the former had general knowledge in the def and the wordplay, so maybe that was a bit too mean. 60% crossed though, so perhaps not? 7d could send you down a wrong road, hmm. I thought 24 was quite fun, but then again, you might find it easy or mean, so who knows!

Nearly finished my May puzzle in good time, and a fresh one for Bungay Balls Up is in the works too. As ever, you’ll find me on Twitter.

What’s that you say Void, “Cryptic”? What happened to “Cryptish”? After getting some further useful and nice feedback on my March puzzle from Chameleon on 1 Across, I’ve decided I’m close enough to “proper” setting now to call my puzzles Cryptics. (Expect “hubris” as an answer soon? 😉 )

So here’s my April puzzle, again as a printable PNG, or in-browser solvable puzzle. A couple of answers are over-crossed. Hey, sorry, but grid construction is hard! Anyway, hope you like it. Do let me know of your favourite, or most hated clue. Answers will be posted here in one week.

Down the motorway for a mooch around the rainy seaside, shelter in a coffee shop, and then the first night of Unfold at the Sunfold. The basement of said hotel was our venue, and first up were drinks, and food laid on. Very civilised.

First act of the night was our genial host, under the moniker of The Steven Morricone Tyranny. Solo at the mic’d-up upright piano, in the guise of evil crooning haunter, we were treated to a selection of songs from the vault. Cheap Guitar, Vesuvius, I Am The Blind and more, together with a Fall cover, and a new song of perspective Then I Met Joanna. Grave Peril was the standout for me.

After a short break, next up was Gigantelope, or, as he introduced himself, Dave. When he started singing, I realised Dave was a fellow Being 747 alumni. He reminded me at first of Brian, although less twee. Both of which are no bad things in my book. Acoustic guitar, both with and without backing track (“opinion is split”, apparently), we had songs of companionship, meditation (“Take A Thought Holiday”), paeans to ice cream and HD TV, and of the horror-relief of the Night Bus home.

Second brother of the night, and shirt of the evening, was billed as Paul Morricone & Con Medicine, although unless CM was the tape machine, it seemed to be Paul alone. Alternating with and without guitar, to backing tracks, we heard songs from the upcoming solo LP. Two openers were songs of reminiscence (…These Tears), before we were asked that age-old question “Do you want to hear a song about Huddersfield?”. A Man Possessed, Happiness, some lovely chorussed guitar, and Like I Was Never There* followed. Last up was “a cover version”, which turned out to be the first live outing of Be Nothing, a beautiful song of ego-crushing self-realisation.

Our headliner was Thomas Truax, who I first heard, I think, played by John Peel, and who I last saw live in 2007. If this was Melody Maker, I might describe Thomas as Hal Hartley redirected by de Chirico, or as how Kerouac would write about George Shearing if he only had a theremin instead of a typewriter, or spying through your neighbours’ window, whistling silently as they watch reruns of The Twilight Zone. But it isn’t, so I won’t.* With a plethora of pedals, a resonator guitar, and homemade instruments The Hornicator and Mother Superior (Stringaling was sulking tonight), we had songs of giant butterfly girls, foxes, treed kittens, moonlight (including an off-stage, out-of-room, and indeed -building, excursion), the wind and beehive hearts. Who wants to be on a wall anyway?

An intimate gig, a top night’s entertainment, and the veggie chilli was great too.

*Facts and actual song titles may vary. Your Scaramangary rights are not affected. Click to enlarge photos, but preferably find Dave’s shots instead. Please hold to speak to one of our unco-operators.

The solution to my March crossword can be found behind this link.

Don’t know about anyone else, but Susannah solved it – hurray. I spent ages deciding whether or not to put a couple of commas in to the clues. One of them went in and out 4 times, but in the end I decided it was sneakily misleading, so I left it out.
I liked 21, 24 and 30d. And 14, but maybe the general knowledge was a bit obscure there – but gettable from the wordplay (I hope!).
I suppose I’d better start working on April’s puzzle…..

Well, I took a bit of a battering on Rookie Corner. But, it’s all fair enough, good feedback, and I’ll take it as motive to improve. Especially my clue surfaces. Hopefully you’ll find this one a big improvement in terms of the readability of the clues.
I noticed a slight problem with the grid layout last night. Nothing awful – it should even make some bits a bit easier – but too late to change now.
Could this be my last “cryptish” puzzle? Hmmmm. Meanwhile, here’s the puzzle as a printable PNG, or a browser-solvable embed. Hope you enjoy.

Cryptish Crossword March 2019

My friend Stuart organised the second BJC in Bath, in 1989. He recently dug out some old clippings, and asked me to put them online, for any archive-minded juggling historians to peruse. (The BJC history wiki is a good place to start.)

So, here you go Stuart, and everyone!
(Right-click and download the files):
Newspaper article 1 (before the convention) JPGs: Small 118KB  Medium 1MB  Large 3MB
Newspaper article 2 (before the convention) JPGs: Small 900KB Medium 2MB Large 15MB
Newspaper article 3 (after the convention) JPGs: Small 190KB Medium 4MB Large 10MB
Thank-you letter 1 JPGs Small 550KB Large 2MB
Thank-you letter 2 JPGs Small 1MB Large 4MB


The solution to my February Cryptish Crossword is in an image at this link. There was a theme to this one, which you no doubt spotted. I did offer the puzzle for publication to someone I thought appropriate, but apparently no-one answers their email anymore. *sigh*

18A riffed on a weak joke I make everytime I’m driving in Suffolk. 11A was my favourite, although I found 14A pleasing. I really liked using “Occam’s Lathe” in one of the clues originally, but couldn’t quite make it parse correctly as a clue, so Killed My Darling.

I’m having a new puzzle published on a crossword blog tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get some useful feedback.