Margaret Irvine: A Tribute to Nutmeg

Nutmeg (Margaret Irvine) has been a marvellous setter for the 3D Calendar from 2014 until 2023. Ten years of consistent brilliance. Three of your current 3D team have had their grids clued by her: Nora (Bozzy) once, Jos (Jolt) twice and myself (Mang) thrice, including this year’s June 2023 puzzle. We are so grateful to her, and of course all the other professional setters, who give their services free to support the calendar and with it our two charities. In my conversations with her she was always very constructive, willing pretty much to take on any topic and very friendly and supportive. I remember her chuckling warmly when I suggested she clued Bozzy’s ‘knitting’ puzzle remarking that “it was nice to get a women’s subject for a change”.

As a tribute to Nutmeg we shall be releasing an extra 3D crossword in either July or August. Bozzy has designed the grid and Shirley Curran, who sets for the calendar as Curmudgeon, has clued it.

Shirley, who was, along with Nutmeg and Arachne, a member of that small group of professional lady setters (all of them regulars for the calendar), has written, with input from Enigmatist and Vagans (a friend of both Shirley and Nutmeg) the following tribute to Nutmeg.

We met her twice – once at Doc’s birthday party and the second time at a gathering for the awarding of the annual Inquisitor of the Year shield. I remember how she was like a magnet. Just about everyone there, on hearing that she was there, longed to be introduced because we all regarded her crossword setting as top class. She was surrounded by admirers from start to finish. I think she was a favourite setter for enormous numbers of solvers, both for her delightful themes in the thematic crosswords (a favourite of mine appeared in 2013 in the Magpie— called Porkies—and it used the theme ‘The more he looked, the more Piglet wasn’t there’—referring to Pooh) and for her gifted clues. She was many people’s favourite Guardian setter. Ifor said to me “Wasn’t she the one who wrote that wonderful clue ‘One is so tired of editors’ (SO TIRED*)?”

She and I communicated quite a lot but mainly just to welcome each other’s crosswords as they appeared—in the Magpie or Listener, say. She would send a few warm, congratulatory words and knowing how ‘good’ she was, I would prompt her to compile for the ladies’ weeks and the 3D Calendar Puzzles series and she did so readily despite a fairly heavy compiling schedule.

A good church friend of Nutmeg’s writes: “I was very sad to hear that ‘Nutmeg’ aka Margaret had died. I was in touch with her when I started setting as I am a poor maker of grids and wanted to know if I could crib and alter one of hers. It turned out that we had quite a bit in common, both being church folk with (amazingly) some common acquaintances, and—she confessed—both preferring clueing to gridding, so that a number of hers also began life elsewhere. She of course was an acknowledged clue-mistress and she signed off by saying, perfectly, that ‘Basically I’m trying to entertain rather than baffle, and aim at providing the type of clue that I appreciate as a solver.’ We certainly did appreciate her puzzles and were well entertained by them. May she rest in peace and rise in glory”.

Oh Margaret, how we shall miss you!

Margaret’s friend Jean has set up a tribute page for Nutmeg at

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