[Wondering what a Nina is? Read this.]
Ninas in cryptic crosswords go back a long time. The one I'm writing about appeared in July 1967 – this is so far the earliest known occurrence of a Nina in a cryptic crossword.
You must hear the story behind it before you see the grid.
Alfred Bately, Head Of Maths at Westcliff High School for Boys in Essex in the 1960s, was an ace solver of The Times crossword. When he was due to retire in July 1967, his colleague wrote to the The Times crossword editor to ask if, on the day of his departure, they could include an appropriate clue in the crossword.
The crossword is not a place for passing on personal messages, was the crossword editor's crushing response.
On the last day of summer term at school, the staff of Westcliff High School began doing the Times crossword. They guessed something was up when 1A produced the answer GOODBYE, and then clue after another led to grid-fills associated with the Maths teacher. Evidently the crossword editor wasn't the heartless creature they had taken him to be. The Times hadn't dedicated just one clue to Alfred Bately, they had constructed a Nina for him.
While the rest of the staff was working on the crossword, Alfred Bately was away. A fresh copy of The Times was quickly procured and the blank crossword left for him to decode. We can well imagine how delighted he must have been on spotting the Nina.
Here is the image of this special crossword taken from the 75th anniversay book of Times crosswords, with the grid filled in Peter Biddlecombe's hand. His "o" marks around the grid indicate the thematic answers.
Many thanks to Peter for sharing the details about the Times crossword Nina of 1967.
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