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My word. I buy the Independent newspaper on Saturdays, largely out of the habit formed having discovered as a student that the crossword (then in the magazine supplement, not at that point called the Inquisitor) was achievable. I had a pretty good hit rate at the time; my (partial) recollection is that two weeks in three I would have a decent stab at it, often in Saturday morning maths lectures. (To any of my then lecturers I offer an apology, at the very least for my lack of discretion; any of my students coming across this should not use my behaviour then as an example now.)

One of my prouder moments was not only completing a crossword, but getting round to sending it in and receiving a dictionary through the post a couple of weeks later – not without some puzzlement, since at the time the prize advertised was a bottle of champagne or olive oil. Sadly the online archives of the crossword don't go back far enough for me to link to any evidence, but some of the puzzlement went away when I saw my name under lights; specifically, listed as a winner under crossword number 100 (which would make the one I won crossword number 97, though beware the renumberings in Inquisitor space – maybe it was really number 346).

In the (many) intervening years, I have continued to enjoy attempting crosswords; I eventually ‘discovered’ Araucaria), occasionally have a crack at Azed (never with success, I hasten to add), and generally enjoy my fortnightly dose of smut in Eye Crossword. I retain a particular soft spot for the themed crosswords; there's something satisfying about solving a puzzle which has taken considerable, conspicuous artistry to construct; what I generally lack is the time to do justice to an attempt at them (attack some clues, sit down with reference books, regret that the dictionary I won – Chambers 1993 – is no longer up to the minute).

I was therefore surprised to find that Inquisitor 1317 (Who's the Daddy by Ecologue, published Saturday 18th January 2014) yielded to a mildly sustained attempt over just one day: I think I was lucky to have solved as some of my early clues the ones interesecting with the theme light to give W.....MB.... as the first author: leaping to William Blake wasn't too hard, and since the corrected letters from clues towards the end fit with “symmetry”, I was fairly confident I had a match. The rest of the clues fell fairly straightforwardly; they're a lot easier to solve when you're not trying to guess the misprint, though even then I spent a fair amount of time trying to justify “orisons” (16ac) and “joe” (8dn) rather than “posions” and “jet”. I hadn't actually come across John Steinbeck's Burning Bright; The Tyger is apparently a sufficiently common source of title fodder for there to be a list of F&SF works with titles derived from it, but some more careful searching eventually turned up the Steinbeck.

Clue analysis:

  • 1ac: BEFRIENDED: Made buddlies with fine red drunk during sex: *(FINERED) in BED (sex);
  • 10ac: APEPSY: It may cause wilnd primate mind to be half abstracted: APE + PSY(che)
  • 12ac: POILU: In Paris soldant's two Hawaiian dishes chucked to the French: POI + LU(au)
  • 13ac: TATI: His Gallic thumour was evident from agitation: agiTATIon (Jacques Tati)
  • 14ac: LIMN: Initially lietter intricately majestic notation (initials; & lit.)
  • 15ac: ARGOT: Low-linfe language to work in deception: GO in ART
  • 16ac: GASES: Perhaps proisons have all sections behind government letter: A (all) SES (sections) behind G (government letter)?
  • 18ac: MORPHEW: Possibly wrash hack after easy romp: *(ROMP) + HEW (hack) = spots
  • 19ac: TAFT: Army on foot in former prieses according to Jock: TA (Territorial Army) + FT (foot) = William Howard Taft (preses = Scot. president)
  • 20ac: BOER: Neighbour around East farming wsort: BOR around E(ast).
  • 21ac: RETRO: Dazted before casualty comes round – about time!: OR (before) + ER (Emergency Room = casualty department) around T(ime)
  • 24ac: AFRAID: Fellow taking part in an attack. WShy?: F(ellow) in A RAID
  • 28ac: STATUE: It's cut from ruock, say, in astute turnover: *(ASTUTE)
  • 31ac: ETENS: Large bfellows set about round nut: *(SET) around EN = nut (printing)
  • 32ac: Martch for his queen ensconced with Home Secretary: H(ome) S(ecretary) around ER = queen
  • 33ac: NORN: In the early hours measure is halved for one of Tihree: ? = Norse analogue of Greek Fate
  • 34ac: POTSHOT: Bags stolen in random firme: POTS (= bags) + HOT (= stolen)
  • 37ac: EDGES: Thank God in butcher's returning fridnges: DG (Deo Gratias = thanks be to God) in SEE (= butcher's hook: look)
  • 40ac: EVITA: Raice lyrically wrote this part of The Return of the Native: in nATIVE reversed; Tim Rice wrote the book for the musical Evita.
  • 41ac: TRUE: HGood's time to regret: T(ime) + RUE
  • 42ac: ETAS: JHumble folk to stuff round: SATE reversed (lower-class Japanese menial workers)
  • 43ac: RENEW: Flying wren with energy to exptend: *(WREN + E(nergy))
  • 44ac: ERRANT: Engaged in pcrime tirade following hesitation: ER + RANT
  • 45ac: POPLINETTE: Daddy's clear of position being outside caorded stuff: POP + NETT (clear of) in LIE (position)
  • 1dn: BATATA: Tiuber essence cheers: BA (soul in ancient Egypt) + TATA (bye-bye)
  • 2dn: FETA: Product of minlk loudly chewed up: F + ATE reversed (= Feta cheese)
  • 3dn: ISLE: Lantd in water lives – headless eel rises: IS (= lives) + EL reversed
  • 4dn: NIMMER: Check up French gentlemen within litfter: MM (fr. Messieurs) + REIN (check) reversed (= thief)
  • 5dn: DONOR: A fellow has gold givenr: DON (university Fellow) + OR (gold)
  • 6dn: DORP: Poke e.g. with stick up isolated aldera: PROD reversed (= isolated village; aldea = Sp. village/hamlet)
  • 7dn: NIGHTMAN: BMinder of bricks, say, close to Mother and Nature at first: NIGH (= close) + MA + N(ature)
  • 8dn: SLOE: Perhaps joet seven down it's said: S (mediaeval Roman numeral 7) + LOE (homonym for low = down)
  • 9dn: OUTWORE: Dissolute roue has a couple lashted longer: *(ROUE) outside TWO
  • 11dn: PISTOL: Schooter on track mostly over line: PIST(e) + O(ver) + L(ine)
  • 16dn: GALIOT: Galledy by riot girl first without right: GAL + (r)IOT (var. galliot = small galley)
  • 17dn: SOFA: Might it provide basic compfort from the South of America: S(outh) + OF + A(merica)
  • 20dn: BAITS: Lurkes a bit suspiciously at top of shop: *(A BIT) + S(hop)
  • 21dn: RIBES: Curreants found in Carib estuary: caRIB EStuary (= saxifrage currant)
  • 22dn: RAKERS: They cleanr lawns, say, right old pain to scientists: R(ight) + AKE (obs. = ache) + RS (Royal Society)
  • 23dn: SLEETING: Having wintry pfall settling unsteadily over the east with temperature dropping: *(SETTLING + E(ast)) - T(emperature)
  • 25dn: WEEPERS: Those who blaubber: footballer's moving south: SWEEPER (= footballing position) with S(outh) moved
  • 26dn: MURE: Will's to walkl up with energy after a rise in spirit: RUM reversed + E(energy)
  • 27dn: LINGER: Palss in tedium in sector of Berlin, Germany: berLIN GERmany
  • 29dn: TETRYL: BYellow explosive let off during test? On the contrary: TRY in *(LET)
  • 30dn: SNASTE: RMiddle of candle that's burnt tin brewing teas: SN (tin) + *(TEAS) (= wick)
  • 32dn: HOT UP: Get wardmer excited on horseback
  • 35dn: OVER: Donae Trevor holds up: tREVOr reversed
  • 36dn: STEP: DTread note in special case: TE (leading note) in SP (special case?)
  • 38dn: DERN: Antiquarian danrk, perhaps, underneath clothes: unDERNeath (= archaic secret)
  • 39dn: ETAT: Loyon's rank is revoked in statement: sTATEment reversed (= Fr. rank)

and once all that's in, replacing WILLIAM BLAKE with JOHN STEINBECK allows highlighting of JOE SAUL and MORDEEN as well as FRIEND ED, leaving VICTOR as the Daddy of the title.

And what is it about synchronicity of obscure words? I had a go at the Sunday 19th January Azed, and what is 21dn? “Old cargo boat: flap about slick when it's capsized?” – OIL in TAG reversed, or GALIOT.