Enigmatic Variations 1455
The Golden Oldies by Skylark
Extra letters give MURDER SHE WROTE; the perimeter contains a work from each of the QUEENS OF CRIME: CHRISTIE, SAYERS, MARSH and ALLINGHAM.
This was inspired by my childhood passion for mystery books – after reading Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, I was hooked on Agatha Christie’s works. When I was coming to the end of Christie and Holmes, I tried a Ngaio Marsh, and loved them too, particularly A Surfeit of Lampreys. Later in my teens I was captivated by Dorothy L Sayers’ books, thrilled by her use of codes (Playfair and a Book Cipher in Have His Carcase) and description of early 20th century Oxford in Gaudy Night.
Like many others, I love the ‘aha!’ moment when the murderer is revealed (and of course, trying to spot them earlier myself). The mystery of barred puzzles is what attracts me to them too – the aha! moment is often more surprising and thrilling than in detective fiction.
So years later when I was starting to compose crosswords, I wanted to create a Queens of Crime tribute grid. I’d also heard of the TV series Murder She Wrote, which sparked off a link in my mind. Since they were writing in what was called the Golden Age of Crime, I wanted a title that reflected that.
Wanting to run Queens of Crime down the centre meant it had to be a 13×13 grid, and that the Christie book must be The Mysterious Mr Quin, which took up a side and a half. I was glad Sayers, Marsh and Allingham had some more succinct titles allowing me to fit one of each of their books around the perimeter.
I created this before Vow, my debut EV (1428). Steve Bartlett, the EV editor, gave me some very helpful feedback on my early clueing and I think, suggested the title. But one treat, I hope, awaits me – the Albert Campion books, which I have not yet sampled. I hope I don’t find them too dated.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.