Crossword News January 2019

Crossword News January 2019

Our Christmas puzzle was Seasons Greetings X by Eclogue. With a grid in the shape of a Christmas tree the solver had to guess 5 unclued seasonal entries and highlight one down entry. Eclogue used the X in the title to give a tribute to Ximenes and the down light was his full name – Derrick Somerset Mcnutt. Here are some of the comments from solvers.

What a lovely puzzle!  It has kept me enthralled, off and on, all week.  I found the cold solving (with no clue lengths) to be a challenge and could not fathom them all.  However, working with the three clued nine-letter answers, I found that there was only one possible arrangement for them.  This gave me the start that I was fearful of ever making. Completion of the grid then followed fairly swiftly, along with the answers that had previously eluded me.  A great sense of satisfaction. Thank you for a first-class puzzle.

I found it quite tough to get started (lack of answer lengths makes such a difference!) but gradually I made a start on filling the grid. I suspected that the longest entries would be unclued – and so it proved. It took a while to get the ‘trunk’ of the tree (and it’s only now that I realise that it’s Ximenes’ real name – presumably in reference to the ‘X’ of the title). All in all good fun – and looking forward to 2019’s offering!

This was a really fun solve. Totally tough, and easier as things started coming together in the grid. Then totally stumped by the word pattern for Ximenes’ real name, until inspiration struck! I was led to your website by your hosting of the 3d crossword for December. I shall be returning.

This proved to be one of Eclogue’s toughest Christmas puzzles with only 32 entries, of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Jack Nichols, who will soon be receiving a prize of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists, which was donated by Chambers.

A full solution is available at

You still have plenty time to complete the January Prize Puzzle, One to Ten by Chalicea.

The February Prize Puzzle will be Side to Side by Nod.

The pipeline is quite bare so any submissions would be welcomed.
We also ran one of Eric Westbrook’s 3D puzzles. Here is his report.

‘In Search of a Hero’ by Sirius

The CWC November Special with a prize of £100 was won by Peter Cargill of Kirkcaldy, Fife. Excellent solving!! The £100 was provided by generous backgammon opponents and not from our charitable fundraising.

The puzzle was reasonably accessible in the early stages, with acceleration when the theme was discovered, and then tough to complete. Very well done to those solvers with full solutions.

Feedback included:

Some great clues, I love Seven Dials (grids), and the conventional clueing envelope pushed back from time to time. AC

A very interesting compilation. Ingenious, difficult, but ultimately satisfying. Many thanks to Sirius for a very clever puzzle. EL

Thanks again for a wonderful puzzle, (which) I enjoyed immensely!……

…. that Namibia idiom (‘old women with clubs’) had me scratching my head for the longest time…… J

Most enjoyable with some very clever and devious clues. PD

Once I realised what was going on, I loved the asterisked clues particularly 15di “Loving Shepherd” changing to “Shoving leopard” and hence PAROLED: and 4d Put away butterfly with “toe nail” leading to “no tail” and then SWALLOW(tail). AJR

I am grateful for this considered review:

The title tells us that we are ‘In Search of a Hero’ and we are invited to highlight the hero as he appears in the grid. Unlike most 3D puzzles in the BBC Children in Need Appeal 3D puzzle calendar, clues are not presented in alphabetical order of their solutions. Also, seven asterisked clues require thematic adjustment before they can be solved fully and correctly.


I am a great fan of Sirius and his sometimes quirky cluing. So, I was very much looking forward to this solve. Where to start? A look through the clues showed that six of them made reference to the solution to clue 42 – so well worth some early solving effort. I managed to get the two L’s and this plus the first word of the clue ‘Tell of desire ….’ led me to think of William Tell and together with Descartes famous I think therefore ‘I am’ confirmed WILLIAM as the 42 in question. Shakespeare, I presumed? Wrongly it turned out. Tackling the axis of the discs led to NOO and SPUR which seemed very ordinary!

After making progress generally but not with the asterisks, nor the ’42’s’, I made a big effort with Clue 19 and the anagram of ‘orphan airing wit’ which led to “ROARING WITH PAIN” and there and then, and truly rewarding it was, the penny dropped! POURING WITH RAIN, so we have spoonerisms. Our unlikely hero is William Spooner himself and the axis is a Spooner spoonerism, NOOSPUR, and not at all ordinary. Thus inspired, back to the asterisked clues; Clue 4 is a likely contender “put away butterfly with toe nail” Clearly ‘no tail’ replaces toe nail which leads to SWALLOW(tail) which is ‘put away’. Thereafter, relatively straightforward but not without difficulty; some of both the asterisked and ’42’ clues were really quite testing. My favourite asterisked clue was Clue 41 ‘forwards a pack of lies (lack of pies) in many a harsh ferment’ – SCRUM(pies).

And so to two delightful and quirky clues to finish with: Clue 33 ‘No circuit breaker. That’s handy!’ leading to OF USE – zero fuse! and Clue 1 ‘Pull plug on runt’ leading to TURN OFF – telling us to anagram turn to get runt.  AG

Why not come and join us in this fascinating 3D crossword project? Puzzles are actually free to download and we will mark your solutions in prize competitions. We will also invite you to consider investing in young people in need by buying our virtual calendar of twelve monthly puzzles. It would be great to have you with us.

Eric Westbrook

A solution is available at

Eric was interviewed by Alan Connor in a recent Guardian blog

Friends of Eric will be pleased to learn that his recent treatment has been effective and the prostate cancer is in remission.
John Nicholson is managing our next Round Robin crossword. He posted this on the message board.

If you would like to take part in the next round robin please drop me an email ( All clues are normal and answers will be allocated in the order that I have them on a list.

I put names in the credits unless told otherwise, so please say if you would rather that I use your setter’s pseudonym.

Since then the response has been wonderful as usual and already three-quarters of the clues have been allocated. If you would like to take part do drop John an email.
On a sad note, Colin Gumbrell has announced on Twitter that he is retiring from crossword setting due to ill health. Colin has been entertaining solvers of the Observer’s Everyman crossword in recent years. He has set puzzles in other publications but notably, as Columba in the Spectator. We send him good wishes. His clever puzzles will be missed.
The new edition of Cain’s Jawbone by Torquemada is entering its final stages. The cover drawing has been revealed and subscribers will be receiving their copy in a box. As the book was published with the pages in random order, with a competition and a prize for the first person to find the correct order, the box will contain 100 separate pages. Subscribers will have their name printed in the box but the list of names will close on 20 January.
Our increasingly popular clue-writing competition has a new word to clue for January. Write a clue to PINK and enter at Everyone who receives this email has the right to enter. If you have never entered before it may take a day or so before your name is added to the list of members.

Best wishes



Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle January 2019

One to Ten by Chalicea

The unclued lights, each consisting of several words are not in Chambers but can be found in the ODQ. Wordplay leads to an extra letter in clues to 3, 4, and 5-letter entries; read in clue order these prompt solvers what to write below the grid. Read in clue order these prompt solvers what to enter below the grid (3,3,5)

One to Ten by Chalicea PDF

4 Intermediates a little in army regulation standards (10)
14 Biblical plant to make clinically clean cutting out exactly what is needed (5)
15 Greek independence on island on Aegean’s outskirts (6)
17 Refusals readily sent back (3)
20 Encouraging sounds of first of tiny young birds (7)
22 Receding curved street briefly dry (3)
23 Levy compulsory contribution on the French for support (4)
24 In Lanark grasps old coins from the Baltic (4)
26 Backs into a revolutionary (4)
29 Locally handle fermented litres (5)
30 Heated pool makes a comeback after direct current gently dips (4)
31 Supernatural beings’ time preceding events (4)
32 Set out at first a covered colonnade (4)
34 Given new colour encompassing navy unit (4)
35 Heartless deal with wives, giving very small amounts (5)
39 Problem affecting blood of US agents consuming the Moselle or frolicking (15)
41 Authentic Highland dance around start of autumn (4)
42 Tiny bird turned small amphibian circling river (4)
44 Top to toe, adopt way of treating Parkinson’s disease (4)
45 In Holyrood our fiasco finally over according to Scots (3)
46 Awful crises involving loud noises interfering with reception in White House (7)
47 With touch of riotous glee, regularly put one over on subordinate person (12, 2 words)
49 New migration for blue tit (3)
50 Doughnut-shaped object’s surprising distortion isn’t carelessly disregarded (6)
51 Female animals protecting essentially rangiest motherless calf in Nebraska (5)
1 Male employee hindered mounting special shelves (7)
3 Suspicious, unfriendly look – yes if he goes wrong (7)
5 Offensive smell surrounding island regime (5)
7 Discordant skirl vexes (4)
8 Believes time impairs by inactivity (6)
9 Climbing parties’ ordinary spree thrown into confusion (5)
10 To snare principally trapping active rodent climbing timber trees (7)
11 In Skye such onion-tasting herbs raised but not ultimately edible (3)
12 Be the most foolish of all; abscond with unglazed pottery (14, 3 words)
13 Removes from power corrupt US senate, lacking a modicum of efficiency (7)
16 For South African nothing at all new in Germany’s spiteful spirit (6)
19 Eccentric Cornish fop is a venomous creature (12, 2 words)
21 Old currency involved with drawn match (4)
25 National Trust supporting designation for spike of unisexual flowers (5)
28 Caustic concerning the bard’s urge to fight (5)
32 Sets of characters used in writing share certificates over time (7)
33 Unusual pallor for player selected for Boston’s team of top men (6)
34 Old coins I’d earn working with a bit of initiative (7)
36 Foster endless reward (4)
37 Make an impression on wicked spirit in midst of savageries (7)
38 Upset head wrongly sent delicate material (7)
40 Sin with essentially fatal mistakes (6)
42 Misery, see, following people living near the Senegal River (5)
43 Chunk of age-old eccentric rock (5)
46 Section to critically examine in review then primarily restore (4)
48 Openings central to photorealism (3)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format, to before 8th February 2019. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book donated by Chambers.


Crossword News December 2018

Crossword News December 2018

Our November Prize Puzzle was 481914 – 11111918 by Gnomie. This puzzle celebrated the centenary of the end of World War I, with a hidden quotation from Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was a FATAL CASUALTY of WWI. Applying the title alphanumerically to the clue letters (1 = first letter etc.) gives AUTHOR: HIS WORDS. Owen and his words describing his subject appeared diagonally in the grid. (These words and clue 27d are the first two Owen quotations in ODQ)

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Given the straightforward cluing I made much harder work of it than I should have done.  I think the quotation took me by surprise.  Not that it was not entirely predictable – even I expected something like that.  However, not being a lover of word searching at the end of a puzzle, I rather expected something very much shorter (along the lines of Dulce et Decorum …)  It was a tremendous achievement by the setter to create a grid around all those words.   At first I searched in vain for OWEN and it was only when I happened upon PITY in the SE corner that I realised where and how  I should look further.  Very fitting to the occasion and a very enjoyable solve, thank you.

Thanks to Gnomie. A WW1 related puzzle was fairly predictable, and the title did little to conceal that, but using the dates to show what to highlight was a clever touch, along with incorporating OWEN into a number of clues, though I did initially spend some  time trying to find the name in a single line.

What a beautiful commemoration.  I slipped back in time, and felt the power of Wilfred Owen’s poetry. Thank you on behalf of my brother, Ron McClellan, who works tirelessly to complete each puzzle, and gives him much joy and satisfaction upon doing so! Puzzle was incredible, just sayin” Thank You Gnomie and all the other setters and checkers and Derek. Merry Christmas to you all.

There were 35 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Eddie Looby, who will be receiving a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists.

There is a full solution at

This month you still have time to complete Seasons Greetings X by Eclogue. The £100 Prize 3D puzzle by Sirius is extended until the 16th January.

We will begin 2019 with another Prize Puzzle from Chalicea.

Hopefully we will have more free crosswords to offer next year. It seems incredible that we have been able to publish a monthly puzzle since 2001.
Some months ago I mentioned Lucy, a teenager with a fascination with cryptic crosswords. I said then that we should keep an eye on her progress. On the 24 November she had the honour of being the setter of the Telegraph cryptic. A couple of days later she was interviewed by Alan Connor in the Guardian.

Well done, Lucy!
Over the years we have come across a variety of reports on the how solving puzzles prevents mental decline. The BBC recently covered some research which gives an alternative view.

A shorter newsletter this month. Interestingly, I’m writing this on an Amtrak train en route to NYC.

I’d like to thank everyone who helps with checking, testing, managing the clue-writing competition and all those setters who have donated crosswords.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Best wishes

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle December 2018

Seasons Greetings X by Eclogue

Seasons Greetings X PDF

Clues are presented in alphabetical order of their solutions and must be entered jigsaw-wise wherever they will fit. Solvers must deduce the five unclued entries and highlight the whole of the four across lights along with the first letter of the one unclued down entry (a leading light) in the finished diagram to complete this year’s seasonal greetings card. One answer is in Collins/OED.

Section of tableau is clever
Ends when objection is admitted
Wild goat eating palm in pieces, restlessly
Distant relative dwelling in cave? On the contrary!
Not inclined to mix when ordinary non-professional comes round
Administrative trainee spilling salt in the end (two words)
France’s future variance to be readjusted without absolute constant
Old airline, mobile, to transmit to …
… passenger section about storage space
Small American wolf interminably poorly over poisonous shrub
Unclued (three words)
Unclued (three words)
Dead language, a very small amount accorded the highest note
Rage infusing French arsonist, say
Much Ado About Nothing in reference library round moulding
Forces carrying old devices
Unclued (three words)
Enormous cuddle by European
Driver of hackney coaches disposing of recreational vehicle for southern section wigs
Rapacious people with paunches up north
Talkative girl to sing lightly with Georgia
Masses of plant tissue film in Nunavut Territory and Long Island
Overcharge by scoundrel may come to mind
Watchmaker spending hour with someone examining range, perhaps
Oriental city primarily occupying situation around Kansei area
This small carnivore catching fish
Rowdy maître d’ let in once more
Dry Scots pines by rolling
Italian rocket dazzled ocular
Wind up circus, entering ring for all to see
Taoiseach in the main? Quite the opposite
Scraps take in drops
Dumb silence over little Mary
Peter, perhaps, having cider with kiss for wife
Pendant, note, taken by jackdaw in Edinburgh …
… its pair taking wife in too there
Old ox around popular water
Rank buttermilk bottles
In the north, the best choose timber
Cycling pack hots up
Most poor in the past lived with rule in time

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format with an explanation of the highlighting, to before 8th January 2019. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book donated by  Chambers.

Crossword News November 2018

Crossword News November 2018

Last month our Prize Puzzle was Flowers by Flowerman. The theme is the Murray-Darling Basin in south-eastern Australia, and the two main features are the rivers after which the basin is named. Mighty is the alliterative adjective for Murray. To depict the two rivers showing relative lengths (the Murray is about 70% longer than the Darling) as well as the broad-scale changes in their course, one line is to be drawn over MIGHTY MURRAY and another line over DARLING. This was one of our most difficult puzzles. Here are some of the comments from solvers.

This was a really nice puzzle, though if truth be told, the title and the instructions seemed to be a dead giveaway to the theme.  I think I had Murray, Darling and Basin figured out even before I started solving. (For which I am truly grateful to the setter, so please don’t get me wrong!).  High quality clues as well, so many to like, some favourites were TOGA/LOTH, SHUFTI, INTRANSIGENTS, PERFECTIVE, TICE.  Hope I’ve got the additional six cells right, think so, but my geography is not that great, however if I’ve solved it conceptually, I’m happy enough.  Thanks setter and CC team.

Enjoyed this, quite tough in places to find the extra letters. Finding mighty took ridiculously longer than it should have done. Monumental shin kicking when I finally spotted it.

A very enjoyable puzzle, thank you.  The theme, remarkably, I remember from my schooldays over fifty years ago (but please do not ask me what I did yesterday!” Thanks for a lovely puzzle.

There were 28 entries, of which 7 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Andie Johnson wh will soon be receiving a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists which was donated by the publishers.

A full solution is available at

You still have time to solve our November puzzle 481914 – 11111918 by Gnomie. The 3D puzzle with the £100 prize is also available and the deadline has been extended until January 15. Eric Westbrook is marking the entries but has an operation in December and will need time to recuperate. If you enjoyed this type of puzzle why not subscribe to a year of them at

The December puzzle will be the tenth in our series of traditional offerings from Eclogue, Seasons Greetings X.

I am still short of puzzles for next year so any submissions would be welcomed.
On the 3rd of November the Times Crossword Championship was held in London. In the final session there was a shock result when bookies’ favourite, Mark Goodliffe, was first to finish, in 24 minutes, but had made a mistake in one answer. Finishing 9 minutes later, Roger Crabtree was the winner, marginally ahead of Matthew Marcus and John McCabe. Tony Sever’s report is very interesting and gives the final results.

The clue that defeated Mark was –

Marshal calm when changing sides repeatedly (5)

Simon Anthony comments on it in this video.

The Times added this information.

Second place went to Matthew Marcus, 44, a software developer, also from London, and third place was taken by John McCabe, 47, an investor from Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire.

The inaugural award for the most successful newcomer was claimed by James McGaughey, of St Albans, who won a bottle of champagne.

The crosswords were said to be the most difficult in years, with only seven of 24 contestants finishing all puzzles correctly. The nine championship puzzles will appear in The Times on consecutive Wednesdays from November 14.

Mr Goodliffe’s run may have ended but he need not be too disappointed, having won this year’s Times National Sudoku Championship.

I found this article interesting and it explains why highly rated competitor, Neil Talbott, was an early casualty.

At the end of October the death was announced of Dave Crossland after a long battle with cancer. A teacher by profession (since retired) as well as a brilliant crossword setter, not just of over 800 puzzles for the Times, but hundreds for the Indie as Dac, and several Listener puzzles as Smokey. He also had puzzles published in The Spectator, and the EV in the Sunday Telegraph, as well as in puzzles magazines.

An obituary written by Mike Hutchinson was published in the Independent.

Dave was interviewed some years ago by Alan Connor in his Guardian blog.
Kathryn Friedlander is a research psychologist who has often examined the feelings and thoughts experienced by crossword solvers. In her latest paper she looks at the big question – Are cryptic crosswords really ‘better than sex’. It has been suggested that solving a clue to a puzzle can trigger a highly rewarding ‘Aha!’ (or ‘Eureka!’) insight moment, which releases dopamine into the brain. You can read more at

The Penny-dropping-moment that we experience in solving crosswords can also be felt in other activities. Gill Hill has researched this in Connect-4 and finds that as well as the positive ah-ha! there is also a negative uh-ho PDM. You might find her research interesting at
And finally, if you enjoy solving incalcitrant clues for words that aren’t in Chambers, cursing at sub-Araucaria clueing and, generally, banging your head against a brick wall, then you might enjoy this months Very Logical Prize Puzzle from John Nolan.

Best wishes



Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle November 2018

481914-11111918 by Gnomie

 The theme was a 42ac of 2d (5,8 of 1,1,1). The title applied to the clues will guide solvers with regard to what to highlight in the completed grid. One solution is in the ODE, not in Chambers.

481914-11111918 PDF version

1 Dreadful waste for common soldier (5)
5 Religious recluse’s ill-made trench coat, trimmed at both ends (8)
11 Transliterated from Greek, this comes at end of open hostility (3)
14 Fire-watching absorbs this old unit (3)
15 Original fatalities (men) in last approximate calculation (13, 2 words)
16 A mark, shot from regularly in anti-tank war (3)
18 Here, thematic character distinguished himself when securing damaged mine (6)
20 Involving people on the inside sheltering according to staff officer (13)
23 Storehouses preposterously separate; Royal Artillery excluded (6)
26 Whisky’s staple takes us out of hell and back (4)
27 Originally how fighters must assimilate IT, having ability to predict what will happen (13, 2 words)
30 Disintegration of a trial producing bright gaseous mass (6)
32 Dutiful thematic character if stirred up could give woe and pain (3)
34 Notes position after retreat (3)
36 Reactionary evil smear (3)
38 Disheartened, try pity, from time to time, with new very small foreign unit (5)
40 In a tumult initially losing nerve and denying ceaselessly (13)
42 See preamble (13, 2 words)
47 Harsh long-continued struggle backfiring (3)
48 General situation’s limitlessly irreconcilable (3)
49 Scenes of lively action surrounding first of operational sudden short attacks (6)
50 Weapons led astray, with troubled thematic character absent, passed into disuse (6)
1 It rises, surrounded by warring foes for a weak person (6)
2 See preamble (3)
3 One exceptionally long period (3)
4 Haplessly each pal advanced becoming class of dangerous creatures (8)
6 Distraught prisoner endlessly more offensively curious (6)
7 React chaotically to provide rations (5)
8 Units in the employ of the King? (4)
9 A-list once occasionally elevated such beings (5)
10 Without orderly aide, deliberate about the highest part (6)
12 Scottish rogues; male politicians (5)
13 Dying, shelled, in principle associated with earth, dark and cold (3)
17 Opposed to violent action, company leaving (4)
19 Unexcited night before main event for thematic character, possibly (3)
21 Replacement of equipment burnt ultimately after wild fire (5)
22 Funeral ceremonies with no time for exotic religious belief (3)
24 Miserably pitied, lacking independence and with little enthusiasm (5)
25 Unit’s occasionally past it (3)
27 All the thematic character can do in armed conflict situation finally (4)
28 Thematic character, OTT, swallowing this old rye could become noteworthy (3)
29 State of horror when top blown off explosive projectile (4)
31 Letter turns up in bits of veteran’s army tackle (3)
33 Record article on advance in northern lines (5)
35 Respectful form of address for example with less than half of language (6)
37 Fine French auberge more than half destroyed (4)
38 Irritable fellow employed to care for mechanical equipment (5)
39 Plants offensive to the sight, we hear; weeds finally (5)
41 Indian barbers regularly inhabit lowest bit of dugouts (4)
42 Young collectively in battle; adult absent (3)
43 Anything locally served up for what is said to be company (3)
44 Unit permitted absence from duty (three-fifths only!) (3)
45 Note of defeat mostly recollected (3)
46 Fruit’s terrific, it’s said, with 29 removed (3)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format with an explanation of the highlighting, to before 8th December 2018. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book donated by  Chambers.