Sounds like something a happy couple has never had (9 letters)*

Memorable extracts from an article by Edmund Akenhead, former Crossword Editor, Saturday, August 22nd 1981

There is no published Crossword Code to which all composers of crosswords adhere. Perhaps there should be, though I would oppose the rigidity of the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, preferring a system which is more capable of development as the years go by. The crossword, ever since it hit the streets of New York in 1913, the brainchild of emigrant Lancastrian Arthur Wynne, has just “grow’d” like Topsy, though there have been landmarks during its evolution.

The greatest landmark, if only it could be identified, would be the first cryptic clue, which deserves a stone commemorating the exploit of its compiler “who, with a fine disregard of the rules of crosswords as made in his time, first took a clue in his hands and played tricks with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the modern cryptic crossword” ‒ with acknowledgments to the William Webb Ellis tablet in the Close at Rugby School.

I would define a cryptic clue as one which hides its true meaning under an apparent one (“the cylinder’s jammed” by the late Adrian Bell being a good example ‒ answer “Swiss roll”): Ximenes described it as a clue “which is not a plain definition but can lead the solver to the answer by disguised, and more entertaining, means”.

It is a great pity that Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword published in 1966 by Methuen, has been out of print for a number of years. As many crossword enthusiasts will know, The Times crossword does not follow all the Ximenes rules, but the general principles and standards explained in that book have, I am sure, had a great influence on makers of cryptic crosswords.

One Ximenean rule which I propose to follow in future relates to the use of an initial capital for a common noun in mid-clue. This is permissible, but a proper name should not appear in a clue without its capital. Thus “Hamlet” in mid-clue could mean a small village, but “hamlet” should not be used to mean the Prince of Denmark.

The admissibility of alternative forms of words has been queried several times recently. One solver groans whenever he sees a clue with answer nonagon, which is a hybrid; purists will naturally prefer enneagon. I have one letter praising the crossword for containing extravert but several from the many more who prefer the commoner extrovert, which has appeared in other puzzles.

Though Hazlitt said “Rules and models destroy genius and art” there should clearly be a rule covering the admissibility of words which make up the daily Times crossword. We are not all advanced etymologists and a dictionary is an impartial referee. My regular dictionaries are the Concise Oxford (which has nonagon but not enneagon) and Chambers Twentieth Century (which has both). If an alternative spelling is given without condemnation in a dictionary then it may be used in the Crossword Game.

So if you feel the urge to rebuke me on a choice made between Laisser-faire and Laissez-faire, please save us both a stamp by consulting a dictionary first. Alternative forms of proper names (eg, Saints Swithin-Swithun of Winchester and Teresa-Theresa of Avila) will not be used without reputable authority.

* NINELIVES – in any doubt, consult Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword! – DA