RIP Colin Dexter

The death of Colin Dexter sadly means the loss of another of the brightest lights in the clue writing world. He won first prize in Ximenes competitions on ten occasions, and lifted the Azed cup a remarkable thirty times. Our recent article Clues from the Woodstock Bus contains a number of fine clues from his fellow competitors, but here are a few of my favourites selected from Colin Dexter’s less well-known competition clues  (even after excluding his most famous ones there are still plenty of crackers from which to choose):

I could make Pat start to run? Yes! (7)
YAPSTER [=’a dog”; {PAT + R(un) + YES}*, &lit., ref: Postman Pat] – AZ1165
Tip for effective cure if one’s ill (10)
NOURICE-FEE [= ‘a payment for a nurse’; {(E)ffective + CURE IF ONE}*, &lit.] – AZ552
We’d be out of action if ends of cotton tangled (10)
FANTOCCINI [=’marionettes’; {ACTION IF + C(otto)N}*, &lit.] – AZ40
Having big feet, I’m an upholder of long dresses coming back into fashion (8)
MEGAPODE [=’a large-footed bird’; (PAGE< in MODE] – X451

…and finally a Printer’s Devilry clue of the highest class:

I ran into a tree first time; examiner expressed hope I’d run into forest (7)
MINARET [“…I’d run into form in a retest”] – AZ57

A master cluesmith indeed.

PS I can’t argue with Azed’s opinion that as a model of succinctness and wit (not to mention misdirection combined with a lovely surface reading), Dexter’s ‘Item gran arranged family slides in?‘ for MAGIC LANTERN (AZ1648) is superb, and it must surely rank as one of the finest &lit clues ever written.


These clues and many others by Colin Dexter can be found in the Ximenes/Azed archives at

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1 Response

  1. Hanni says:

    The top one is my absolute favourite of his! Heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.