Today, Thursday 30th March 2023, is the seventh National Indexing Day in the UK, commemorating the founding of the Society of Indexers (SI) by G. Norman Knight and colleagues in London on 30th March 1957. National Indexing Day (#IndexDay) was co-created by my SI colleague Ruth Ellis and me in 2017. SI has run annual events, online and in-person when possible, since then to promote and celebrate book indexes, indexers and indexing. The 2023 event is an online conference for publishers, introduced by SI honorary president Sam Leith and featuring presentations by four members of the SI Executive Board: Nicola King, Ruth Ellis, Tanya Izzard and Rachel Gee.
This year, as I have not been involved with the official SI event, I thought I would do something completely different for #IndexDay. I have recently started setting cryptic crosswords as an amateur and so for my latest I have set an indexing-themed puzzle. This has been posted publicly on the excellent MyCrossword site (built by the setter Raider aka Tom Blackwell), and if you’re ready to give it a solve now, you can find it at the link below.
MyCrossword Cryptic Crossword No 1077
You may have landed here knowing more about indexing than crosswording, more about crosswords than indexes, a lot about both, or not much about either, so I’ll give a few further details and suggested extra reading on the two.
National Indexing Day and SI: background about
The Society of Indexers is the professional body for indexers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and its aims are to promote indexing, the quality of indexes and the profession of indexing. It runs an online training course, leading to the qualification of Accredited Indexer, with experienced and trained members able to progress further to the grades of Advanced Professional Member and Fellow. It also hosts an online Directory of Professional Indexers so that authors and publishers can find the right indexer for each job. I have been an SI member for over 20 years and I am now pleased to be a Fellow of the Society.
The official SI event page for National Indexing Day 2023 is on the Society of Indexers website at National Indexing Day 2023.
I have written my own blog post for each year of National Indexing Day, which are all available here on my website. A few recent ones are below:
- An A to Z of Indexing (for National Indexing Day 2021)
- Meet 22 indexers for National Indexing Day 2022
- National Indexing Day 2020: some of the best and funniest index entries I know
The ‘A to Z of Indexing’ in particular may be useful for extra details on the crossword solve. Speaking of which…
Cryptic crosswords: further information on
Recently I have also started setting cryptic crosswords, just on an amateur basis as a newbie. I will write more about this in future, but it links back to learning to solve cryptics with my father in my younger years. I took an online crossword setting masterclass course with the setter Boatman (aka Ashley Knowles at Boatman Cryptics), a highly recommended, fascinating and enjoyable overview which spurred me on further into writing clues and constructing grids. I have now published three cryptic puzzles on the MyCrossword site, and I was also glad to be one of the 34 setters with a clue in the Platypus collective crossword for puzzle number 1000 on the site. My setter name is Pixie and my other crosswords so far are at:
- and as part of the Platypus 1000 puzzle at Cryptic Crossword Puzzle No 1000
If cryptic crosswords baffle you (and they will do to start with), here are a few brief tips:
- Cryptic clues give you more than one way to find the solution, usually definition plus wordplay (also called additional or subsidiary indication). The number of letters in the solution is shown at the end of the clue in parentheses.
- The definition is usually at the beginning or end of the clue, so a standard clue would be structured as definition + wordplay, or wordplay + definition. Each of these could be a phrase rather than one word. Alternatively, the whole clue could be a cryptic definition, or a double or multiple definition. Whatever the device, the definition will not be in the middle of a clue.
- Types of wordplay include anagrams (scrambled letters), acrostics (first letters of words forming the solution), hiddens (solution concealed within the word play), reverses (words backwards), deletions (letters removed), charades (one thing after another), containers (one thing inside another), cryptic definition (the whole clue is the definition) or multiple definitions.
For more on starting to solve cryptic crosswords, here are some useful links:
- ‘Learn how to solve cryptic crosswords with Denise Sutherland’ – Denise is also the author of the book Solving Cryptic Crosswords for Dummies and an indexer herself (see below).
- ‘Beginner’s guide to solving cryptic crosswords’ by Sandy Balfour and his book Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), whose title is itself a cryptic crossword clue. (Solution at bottom of page.)
- ‘How to solve cryptic crosswords’ and The Guardian crossword blog by Alan Connor – and see also his book below.
- Watching live solves can be good too, as you get to see someone else’s workings when solving a full crossword. My personal favourite is CrypticSunday hosted by Matt and Rachel (aka setter Angel) on Twitch, with a friendly chat-box crowd, which has played a big part in building my confidence and helping me to find my feet, so Pixie says thank you to them.
My thoughts on starting to set cryptic crosswords will be posts for another time, but it involves practice, background reading and many more reference books. So here’s a shelfie to be getting on with.
Crosswords see also indexes
Sometimes, as with my #IndexDay puzzle, crosswords and indexes may cross over.
Alan Connor’s book Two Girls, One On Each Knee (7) – this title also being a cryptic crossword clue – is a very entertaining guide to crosswords and how to solve them. Another bonus that I particularly like about the book is its excellent and funny index. The index was created by Australian indexer Denise Sutherland (mentioned above; see also Sutherland Studios) who is herself a crossword setter (aka Nixie – yes, we are Nixie and Pixie, and we’re both good with that). The author and the indexer took advantage of this dual knowledge in the index, with several comical entries including:
a rag man, see anagrams
aphid density, see hidden answer clues
bird watching, see spoonerisms
burn one from France, see charade clues
gegs, see scrambled eggs
home oaf owns, see homophone clues
‘I give up’, see frustration
marrowskies, see spoonerisms
not on, see palindromes
self-referential entries, 153, 177, see also Sutherland, Denise
tips of the slung, see spoonerisms
torturers, see setters
victims, see solvers
This index and indexer partly inspired me to want to set cryptic crosswords myself, and also influenced a few of the more peculiar entries to be found in my index to Dennis Duncan’s Index, A History of the (UK Allen Lane/Penguin edition) – plus now US (W. W. Norton), Italian (Indice, storia dell’; UTET) and German (Index, eine Geschichte des; Kunstmann) editions. Dennis knew I had done some crossword training, and there were a few crossword-related subjects in the book to be indexed (including discussions of acrostics and anagrams). So I put a few in this index too.
binaural cake pal (anagram) see a name in this index
nuns dance din (anagram) see a name in this index
And I added an acrostic in the index entry for my name, where the first letters of each subentry spell out my surname ‘Bain’.
Many other strange and playful things are going on in that index, as well as it being a serious finding tool for the reader, as per ongoing discussions and writings elsewhere.
I am certainly seeing some interesting parallels between composing index entries and setting crossword clues, so I plan to explore this further as my crossword setting develops. For now, I’ll leave you with one more clue and a cheery wish:
Annoyingly Pixie hadn’t a pad – out of sorts for timely greeting (5,8,8,3)
Post-#IndexDay links update
A thank you goes to writer Lev Parikian for posting an excellent and popular Twitter thread all about indexes on National Indexing Day, and then including indexes as ‘Thing 1’ in his ‘Six Things’ Substack newsletter the following day: see the Twitter thread and Six Things, Volume 13.
A summary of all the #IndexDay social media activity can be read in the Society of Indexers’ Wakelet story collection at National Indexing Day 2023 #indexday – Indexes and indexers: a celebration of.
Pretty girl in crimson rose (8) – Wordplay: pretty girl is BELLE, inside RED for crimson. Definition: rose can mean REBELLED.
Two girls, one on each knee (7) – Wordplay: PAT + ELLA are the names of two girls. Definition: you have one PATELLA on each knee.
Annoyingly Pixie hadn’t a pad – out of sorts for timely greeting (5,8,8,3) – Wordplay: anagram (out of sorts) of ANNOYINGLYPIXIEHADNTAPAD. Definition: a timely greeting today is HAPPY NATIONAL INDEXING DAY.
Paula Clarke Bain is a Fellow of the Society of Indexers, an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), and a new cryptic crossword setter (as Pixie). She tweets as @PC_Bain and her website (with comedy book indexes blog) is baindex.org. Find the Society of Indexers on Twitter @indexers and www.indexers.org.uk.
2 thoughts on “An #IndexDay-themed cryptic crossword for National Indexing Day 2023”
Very impressed with your word skills – as always! The second book I ever indexed was the fourth edition of Don Manley’s “Chambers Crossword Manual”. An added bonus was a book launch in Oxford. I still have the photos.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much, Rohan. What a great second commission to get. I knew somebody good must have done that index. I’ve been using it a lot while setting this very crossword, so as a reader I thank you for that too!