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Mark Thakkar

Mar 26, 2002, 3:49:03 PM3/26/02
Mike Rich, co-editor of The Listener crossword, was born on June 29,
1940. He died from a heart attack on March 24, 2002, aged 61.

EDITING what is today regarded as the most difficult crossword in an
English-language journal was Mike Rich’s all-consuming hobby. A
financial adviser by day, he initially turned his attentions to setting
and editing The Listener crossword in his spare time. After the magazine
folded in 1991, the puzzle was rescued by The Times, where it appears
each week on the inside back page of Saturday's Weekend section.
With his co-editor Ross Beresford, Rich, whose pseudonym was Ploutos,
also organised The Times Crossword Championship, an event that — subject
to sponsorship — appears on a more or less annual basis.

Unlike a conventional crossword, or even The Times's daily cryptic
puzzle, The Listener crossword nearly always requires the reader to
consult reference books, or at the very least Chambers' Dictionary, from
which any word, no matter how obscure or obsolete, is considered fair
game. There is always some kind of theme, but even that can be hard to
fathom. It may involve swapping letters or deciphering words in code; on
one occasion the reader had to fold the grid in half and cut two holes
through the paper to establish the final answer. Each puzzle can take
days or weeks to compose; one mathematical puzzle took the setter three
years to devise.

In the past — and with The Listener crossword it is a long past — there
would sometimes be not a single correct entry. In prewar days the reader
might have been asked to complete a diagram in Greek or Latin.
Mathematical "crosswords" appeared up to a dozen times a year, requiring
a degree of mathematical competence well beyond the level demanded from
entrants today.

Writing in The Times in 1997, Rich said: "People sometimes tell me that
The Listener crossword is becoming too difficult. Becoming? Little do
they know! Nowadays, because the editors take special care to ensure
that a solvable crossword is presented each week, it is rare for fewer
than 100 correct entries to be received (yes, we keep statistics)."

Under his editorship Rich insisted that he or his co-editor had to
attempt to solve every puzzle on the basis that, if neither of them
could solve it, then it must be nearly unsolvable and therefore almost
certainly unfair. That said, the puzzles were by never straightforward.
For instance, the last puzzle he compiled, which appeared on December
22, 2001, contained the clue: "See Welsh girl blessed" (7). The answer?
"Elysian". More elegant still, and from the same puzzle, is: “Endlessly
test the virtue of one in office” (4). The answer is "Temp".

Michael Charles Christopher Rich was blessed with the proper initials
for a cricket-lover and an appropriate surname for a banker. He was born
at Hampton. His father, a navigator, was killed in action during the
war, and young Michael was brought up by his mother, a secretary, in his
grandparents' home.

Having learnt the art of the crossword at his grandfather's knee, Rich
discovered that one of his masters at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, was
Ximenes (D. S. Macnutt), the famous compiler. He went on to read
jurisprudence at University College, Oxford, before entering Barclays
Bank in London.

Moving to a merchant bank, he was posted to Ripon in North Yorkshire
where he settled. He then declined a promotion which would have taken
him back to London, and became a financial adviser with Hambro, in whose
employ he remained until a few years ago when he felt the rules on
selling financial products were becoming too Byzantine for a mere
crossword compiler to follow.

Having been a puzzle enthusiast since childhood, Rich submitted a
crossword to The Listener on spec, and was delighted to see it published
on February 25, 1965. From there his career as a compiler — and later
editor — grew. After the BBC closed The Listener, the puzzle moved to
The Times, first appearing in these pages on March 23, 1991.

Although computers have aided the crossword setter to a degree, Rich
preferred to work by hand. On one short train journey a couple of years
ago with Mike Laws, the editor of The Times cryptic crossword, Rich
pulled out a blank grid for Laws' puzzle and proceeded to complete it
from the top of his head with a pangrammatic solution (i.e. using all
the letters of the alphabet).

Despite living in Yorkshire for much of his adult life, Rich was a keen
follower of Middlesex County Cricket Club and the secretary and
treasurer of Ripon Cricket Club. He was a keen charity worker, helping
out weekly at his local Help the Aged shop in Ripon.

Rich was also well known in bridge circles, representing Great Britain
in the European pairs championship. A couple of years ago he started a
monthly subscription magazine, Tough Crosswords. He was working on the
last issue on the day he died.

Mike Rich is survived by Janet Brown, whom he married in 1964, and by
two sons and a daughter.



Martin DeMello

Mar 28, 2002, 5:51:41 AM3/28/02
Mark Thakkar <> wrote:
> More elegant still, and from the same puzzle, is: ?Endlessly test the
> virtue of one in office? (4). The answer is "Temp".

How does this one work?

Martin DeMello

Paul McKenna

Mar 28, 2002, 12:27:51 AM3/28/02
"Martin DeMello" <> wrote in message

temp(t): Chambers gives "tempt" as "to test the vitue of"
Crosswords and Classics

Dr Ivan D. Reid

Mar 28, 2002, 6:43:23 AM3/28/02
On 28 Mar 2002 10:51:41 GMT, Martin DeMello <>
wrote in <a7usjs$o6kre$>:

test the virtue -> TEMPT
endlessly = -T -> TEMP
one in office -> TEMP(orary worker/secretary/etc)

Ivan Reid, Physics & Astronomy, University College London.
KotPT -- "for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty".

Steve Grant

Mar 28, 2002, 7:07:45 AM3/28/02
"Martin DeMello" <> wrote in message

test the virtue of = TEMPT; endlessly = TEMP
one kind of office worker = TEMP

All your base are belong to us.

ICQ #37620434

One year, nine months, three weeks, four days, 12 hours, 55 minutes and 38
seconds. 19996 cigarettes not smoked, saving $4,249.45. Life saved: 9 weeks,
6 days, 10 hours, 20 minutes.

Phil Rose

Mar 28, 2002, 7:45:58 AM3/28/02

"Martin DeMello" <> wrote in message

Because a temp doesn't get paid if they don't work.

Ugh I hate the grammar, but it's the penalty of using sexless "they" in the


Mike Easter

Mar 28, 2002, 9:35:39 AM3/28/02
"Phil Rose"

> Because a temp doesn't get paid if they don't work.
> Ugh I hate the grammar, but it's the penalty of using sexless "they"
in the
> singular. Some
Notes on Gender-Neutral Language Gender-Neutral Pronoun Frequently
Asked Questions (GNP FAQ)

In newsgroups I prefer to use s/he and hir; ie Because a temp doesn't
get paid if s/he doesn't work.

S/he'll lose hir job.

But it causes a lot of static.

Mike Easter

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