Welcome the Ximenes Slip Archive, a project to preserve online a complete record of the Observer’s Ximenes clue-writing competition 1945–1971.
The archive holds records for 453 Ximenes competitions with 442 Slips and 8,783 clues.
The Ximenes Crossword
The Clue-writing Competition
The Ximenes Slip
Work on the Ximenes Slip Archive began in March 2014 after inquiries revealed that Azed was in possession of photocopies of an entire Ximenes Slip series, believed to be that of regular competitor, the late C. Allen Baker. Other holders of Ximenes Slips came forward in response to further mentions in the Crossword Centre’s message board, and a the first Slips were scanned and added to the website. All but two of the original 444 Slips were found. The last ones were published in the Archive in April 2015. All the available Slips and competition results are listed in the right-hand column of the Archive pages.
The Archive allows visitors to see Slips in two ways:
- The text view of a Slip contains the text of a Slip presented in the same format as Azed Slips, with updated clue explanations and minor corrections where necessary. Clue lists with links to competitors’ records are also available.
- The image view of a Slip is a scanned copy of the Slip in its original form.
Ximenes Slips, and clues and competitors, can also be found from the Browse Archive page of Azed archive. Where competitors’ careers span the Ximenes and Azed series, complete records can be found in the competitor pages.
Azed’s clue-writing competition is the immediate successor to the Ximenes series that ran in the Observer from 1945 until 1971, with 1200 puzzles of which 453 were competitions. Results Slips were produced for all but the first ten competitions, and an additional non-competition Slip was published in 1963.
Ximenes was Derrick Macnutt, a Classics master at Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex. He succeeded Torquemada as a setter of very tough and esoteric puzzles, that might be called ‘proto-cryptic’, in the Observer from 1939 until 1945. At the end of the war, he began the Ximenes series of challenging but less inscrutable barred cryptics, as well as the Everyman series of highly accessible blocked cryptics that continues in the paper to the present day.
In his introduction to Ximenes Crossword No. 1 - Plain, that appeared on 24 June 1945, Ximenes wrote:
A new series begins to-day, in which a very small proportion per word of unchecked letters will be used in “plain” puzzles and a slightly higher proportion in puzzles where some special feature affects composition: at the same time it is intended that the search for a start may be, if anything, easier. With the full checking given hitherto, though the start may happen to be arduous, the finish is apt to be reached with a rush, some clues becoming redundant. Ximenes hopes that the new method will provide a better balance, and wishes his solvers good hunting.
In later writing, Macnutt acknowledged the influence of A. F. Ritchie (Afrit) on his decision to produce a difficult puzzle that appealed to a wider readership than Torquemada’s, and to aim to deliver entertaining, rather than excruciating, clues, grids and themes.
Note Ximenes No. 1 is a 90 degrees symmetrical, 12 × 12 barred grid containing 40 solutions. Four solutions of 4 and four solutions of 6 letters are fully checked. The remaining solutions of 5 to 8 letters include a single unchecked letter, while four 10-letter solutions have two unchecked letters each. The asterisked definition, at 14 across, is ‘Thin drink (6)’.
Ximenes No. 1 also launched the first clue-writing competition. Prizes of 21s., 15s., and 10s. 6d. were offered to competitors who sent with their correct solution ‘a clue to replace the definition marked with an asterisk’ – an instruction familiar to today’s Azed solvers.
Ximenes puzzles appeared fortnightly in the Observer, alternating with the Everyman. For the first seven years every Ximenes puzzle was accompanied by a competition. In 1952 the barred Ximenes became a weekly puzzle as Macnutt relinquished the Everyman, but competitions continued fortnightly. From 1954, competitions were held monthly, every 4 or 5 puzzles, with an extra ‘special’ competition puzzle in the last Observer before Christmas. In October 1956, competitions settled in to the first Sunday of the month, where they have remained ever since.
The subject of this archive, the Ximenes Slip, began with puzzle number 11 in November 1945. The following note accompanied Everyman No. 9:
TO XIMENES SOLVERS Slips with details of successful clues to No. 11 and No. 12 will be supplied to senders of 1d. stamped envelopes. For future puzzles these envelopes should accompany entries if these slips are wanted.
Thus arrived the first Ximenes Slip; the start of a process unbroken, except briefly by Ximenes’ death in 1971, to the present, with
1,071 competitions held, 23,617 clues published and 5,960 competitors receiving mention in the Slips.
The Ximenes Archive was built with the enthusiastic help of many Azed regulars and Ximenes competitors whose clue-writing efforts began as long ago as 1947. Special thanks are due to Jonathan Crowther (Azed), Sir Jeremy Morse, George Willett, Tim Anderson, David Harry and Robert Whale, who between them supplied all of the 453 original Slips and competition results published here. Tim Anderson, David Harry and Mark Owen put in many hours editing the computerised transcriptions, and researching and adding explanations to over 8,700 clues – many of whose topical references might otherwise be lost to history. Sir Jeremy, who sadly died in 2016 as the most successful competitor of the Ximenes and Azed competitions’ 70 years, also provided valuable information on the results of the Ximenes half-yearly and annual Honours competitions.