Crossword News April 2018

Crossword News April 2018

The March puzzle was Pie Crust by Flowerman. The title hinted at moving pictures and residual letters in clues gave FORTIES ACTRESSES. Four film actresses from the forties filled the unclued lights.

Here are some of the comments.

Well here is my entry to the enjoyably straightforward puzzle by Flowerman (although it did take me a while to work out that 12A required ENCROACH from which EN was removed leaving the extra letter as R.)  I am relieved that I was not required to decipher the title.  Other than acknowledging that the four forties actresses were around the edge, like a crust, I could think of nothing else.  Unless it was simply an anagram of pictures?  Hey ho.  I was around in the forties but not of an age where I took an interest in the likes of film stars although their names were known to me.  I do remember Lucille Ball in the television programme, “I Love Lucy” but that must have been in the fifties. I look forward to another puzzle from Flowerman, perhaps with Jayne Russell and Jean Simmons (just to give you a start) who came along later and definitely attracted my attention 🙂 Thanks Flowerman.

Thanks to Flowerman.  Clever to find four names that fitted symmetrically around the sides of the grid. We were flummoxed by the title until we decided to anagram it at the end of our solve. Doh!

Another fine puzzle from the CC. Many thanks to Flowerman. Some very clever clues: Utopia, Day-to-Day, Haler, etc.

There were 50 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Paul Dendy, from Wales, who will soon be receiving a book donated by Chambers.

A full solution is available at

This month’s Prize Puzzle is our tenth Round Robin, Dynasty and you have until the 8th May to send in your entry.

In May we will be publishing Old Titles by Curmudgeon.

As I write there is no puzzle ready for June.
The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament took place in March. The winner, Erik ‘Slicks’ Agard, beat the champion Dan Feyer. Jon Delfin came 12th and still ties with Feyer for the most wins in the tournament. Full results can be seen here

A photo of the winner and event organiser Will Shortz is available here

You can read the NY Times account of the tournament here.

The Wee Stinker has been a popular crossword in Scotland for the past 38 years, composed by Myops, John McKie. Now that it is moving from its traditional Monday spot to the Saturday the Herald has published a very interesting article about the man.

The crowd-funding for a republication of Torquemada’s mystery novel Cain’s Jawbone is now complete. The funding rose from 84% to 149% after novelist Neil Gaiman backed the project in a tweet. This is great news for everyone who has been waiting to get their hands on a copy. The book will now go to the printers.
Jane Teather has produced a very useful site for puzzles and quizzes. You can find out when and where meetings take place and there are links to quiz and crossword sites. Currently you can download the table quiz from the Listener Dinner in Paris.
The Telegraph Toughie marked its 2000th appearance with a special puzzle with clues written by all its setters. More information here –
If you want to see how it can be tackled you can watch Mark Goodliffe solve it at
The first Qualifier for the 2018 Crossword Championship will appear in The Times on April 18. With a second, vintage puzzle from the 1960s to accompany it online.
And finally, here is a romantic tale of a proposal of marriage in a crossword.

Best wishes


Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle April 2018

Round Robin X


Round Robin X – Puzzle

Films: ……………………………………………………………………………….



Six answers require a word to be extracted before entry. These words can form three sets of three hints to three films, each film involving a member of an acting dynasty. In the final grid, three cells containing the initial letters of each film should be changed to other letters to help reveal the members, who must be highlighted (21 cells in total). The three film titles must be written below the grid. Entry lengths are shown.

The Chambers 13th edition is the primary reference.

1 In need of support, perhaps, having passed 21? (6)
5 What Reginald Dwight did about mane going astray? (6)
9 Love this lie swallowed by vampire slayer — it could be buffoonery (4)
10 They cool off by canals, making temperature bearable, on vacation (8, 2 words)
12 Basic and organic ingredient of fairness (6)
13 Besmeared bed with lard playfully to frame bachelor (4)
14 The German lay? Preposterously more than one (6)
15 Beach sport including wooden stave (5)
16 Sharpen weapon – a knife? (8, 2 words)
19 Christmas tree, perhaps, returned by female composing repetitive tune (4)
20 Cutesy women captivated by shrine’s finial (4)
21 Some Africans wrap ducks in dough (4)
22 Disposition to threaten intimacy at sea (4)
26 Meerkat is infant’s first pet, kept in of course (8)
27 Bishop enters Rwandan city to replace girl’s old stick from Durban (5)
28 Yesteryear’s fashion’ article is in Vogue, dismissing the very old (6)
30 Creature from a little round egg (4)
31 In makeover hell, patio covering most of open ground is used for some bodies in the garden (6)
32 Bottle shown by Democratic candidate essentially opposing McCain? (8)
33 Old enemies of counsel appearing regularly (4)
34 Nervous of a date with George? Extremely! (6, 2 words)
35 Arsenal doesn’t have a relative attraction (6)

1 When a maiden is this might someone hope to score ? Yes and no ! (6, 2 words)
2 Public nuisance being broken into by resurgent crooks (4)
3 Picture frames are goods being tested? (6, 2 words)
4 ‘Up long before rising sun’, state those with vivid recall (8)
5 Censure priest failing to give shelter again (6)
6 Not being something you’ll think about when out of hospital and OK ((7)
7 Acting man quits Breaking Bad to take in local parts (5)
8 Coarseness ends up catching old sect member (6)
11 Most prickly pears finally die and get rotten (7)
17 Secret service is after the philosopher’s stone (7)
18 Literary heavyweight exalting one character from The Trial? (8)
19 Smashing crime drama I contrived on run (7)
21 I am taken aback – Ko-Ko having beheaded son not acceptable! (6)
22 Weapon made for export, initially (6)
23 Follow men’s fashion (6)
24 Little Jimmy Number One! (6)
25 Spit right into a ball of hot water – sign you’re getting sick (5)
29 Traitor whose son has moved up to fence before throwing sticks (4)


To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format giving the final entries to before 8th May 2018. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book from the Chambers range, which has been donated by Chambers.


You may vote for your favourite clue with your entry. You can just nominate one clue, which will be awarded 3 points, or your top three which will be awarded 3, 2 and 1 points. The person whose clue accumulates the most points will receive a prize, which has been donated by Crossword Centre.


Theme and grid by eXternal.

Clues by: Steve Bartlett, Rod Beards, Rod Bell, Ben Bush, Shirley Curran, Richard Foden, Ali Gascoigne, Derek Harrison, David Hogg, Chris Lancaster, Eddie Looby, Dean Mayer, David McKie, Alf Mullins, Nebuchadnezzar, John Nicholson, Mark Oshin, Frank Pasterczyk, Bhalchandra Pasupathy, Phylax, Chris Poole, Ed Powles, Cormac Purtil, Rainmon, Steve Randall, Wil Ransome, Kishore Rao, John Reardon, Rishikesh C G, Simon Shaw, Ian Simpson, Aakash Sridhar, Andy Stewart, Hamish Symington, Paul Taylor, Dave Tilley, Vinit Wankhede, Luciano Ward, Nick Warne and Keith Williams.


Crossword News March 2018

Crossword News March 2018

The February Prize Puzzle was Celebrity Squares by NOx. This was a fun puzzle where solvers had to find the names of celebrities with missing letters to be arranged to give the name of Brian Cant, the children’s entertainer who came to fame in the TV series Play School, who died last year.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

An enjoyable and clever puzzle. It took a while to ‘get into’ NOx’s clueing style but the payoff was worth it. Thanks!

My initial reaction which turned out to be correct was: I can probably work out most of the actors and the players of sport (Roger Federer was the only one I got just from the preamble), I doubt I’ll know the singers, and the children’s TV presenters are probably all British so I won’t know any of them. I did know that First Doctor companion Peter Purves was also on Blue Peter, but neither of his names was in the other halves. I initially looked for all the actors I could find, so I had Christopher LEE or LORNE Greene as potential celebrities in the top right square.

I thought it was pretty fun finding all the names, but it felt a little like cheating to search Wikipedia’s lists of UK number one singles and Blue Peter presenters to find those eight names. I didn’t expect the celebrities in each pair to be of the same type which helped a little.

Second attempt at this type of puzzle, and seem to be getting there, though this was a lot tougher.  Very creative wordplay and hardly any anagrams.  Liked PREGNANT, NILL, AT IT, CREEP and LOIN in particular, the penny drop moments were great.  Doubt if I would have got the names of all the celebrities barring a few obvious ones without help from Google, but the discovery process was an interesting journey. Arrangement of the missing letters in the central squares seemed to require a ‘best fit’ based on trial and error, couldn’t see those entries having a direct link with the celebrity, so not entirely sure if some other combinations aren’t possible, though I think unlikely.  Thanks NOx for a challenging and fun workout.

There were 41 entries, of which 4 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Peter D Smith who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers. A full solution and notes can be found at

This month you have lots of time to send in your entry for Pie Crust by Flower man which is proving to be very popular.

The April Prize Puzzle will be our tenth Round Robin and I think that this will be a real challenge. Dynasty is a clever grid designed by eXternal, edited by Wan and the clues written by our volunteer clue-writers. Remember to vote for your favourite clues.
The Listener Setters’ Dinner in Paris was a huge success, thanks to the excellent organisation of Sylvie Vanston. A good number of solvers and setters had made their way to the event, with some notable exceptions. John Henderson had to abandon the trip for lack of a dog-sitter and John Green could not make it.

Saturday began with heavy rain and low cloud, changing in the afternoon to heavy snow and a freezing wind.

The 1930s grandeur of the Salons du Relais was an exceptional venue and we were welcomed with champagne and tasty amuse-bouches. Individual beer glasses specially designed for the event were on the table and there was a fine blonde beer available to fill them.

The menu was –
Feuilleté d’oeufs brouillés aux girolles
Magret de Canard, sauce aux poivres, et écrasée de pommes de terre aux cresson.
Duo de fromage et salade.
Sablé de figues, glace vanilla et coulis de fruits rouges.
café et chocolats.

After the meal Shane proposed a toast to absent friends and announced the winner of the Radix Auditorum. This year’s winner, Peter Blayney, was not only a first-time solver but achieved an all-correct record in his first year.

In the list of all-correct solvers, Richard England is still leading with 259 correct entries with Neil Talbott second on 209. However, with their names already on the Solver’s Silver Salver, they, as is the custom, deferred to the new winner. This was Shirley Curran, who with her husband Charles, had achieved a run of 185 correct solutions.

So it was Shirley who announced the results of the voting for the Ascot Gold Cup, awarded for the best puzzle of 2017. There were 51 setters, of which 6 had won the Salver, 3 had won the AGC, 10 were new and there were only two ladies.

23 all-correct solvers voted for their favourite puzzles and 11 puzzles received at least one top vote. Here are the votes in reverse order.

15= Aragon                 Clear-Up Operation                10 votes
Harribobs             Follow-my-leader
14   Flying Tortoise      What Can the Matter be?        12
13   Hedge-sparrow     Where falls the axe                 16
12   Elap                      Word Squares                         18
11   Sabre                    For and a Half?                       20
10   Chalicea               Difficulty                                26
9     Handyman           Food for Thought                   33
8     Ifor                       Hit and Run                            37
7     Phi                        Squares                                   38
6     Nemo                   Get me out of here                  40
5     Somniloquist         X XX XXX                             42
3=   Nebuchadnezzar  His                                          43
Piccadilly             The Properties of Numbers II
2     Artix                    Follow the Directions             62
1     Shackleton           Army and Wavy                     104

The winner of the AGC by a huge margin was previous champion John Guiver who received the cup for his superb Swallow and Amazons crossword.

It is worth noting that three of the top ten, Nebuchnadezzar, Somniloquist and Nemo, were debutant Listener setters.

Finally, Jago announced that next year’s dinner would be arranged by John Henderson and Jane Teather and will probably be near York.

I will try to publish some of my photos this week and I expect we will get a chance to see those of Shirley Curran and Patrick Phair.

Throughout the dinner we had been working our way through a devious quiz designed by John Henderson. Loosely based on the NATO alphabet, the solution to the last section was Oscar Wilde and each table had to write a clue. The bronze casket was presented for this clue, which, as Jane said, most editors would ban.

Is Noel Coward buggered? No, no, he was jailed for it!

The real ale organisation CAMRA had to apologise when some offensive words appeared in a crossword in the magazine published by their Derby branch.

Congratulations to the Mephisto crossword in the Sunday Times on reaching their 3000th publication. A collaboration between the three setters (Tim Moorey, Paul McKenna and Don Manley) made for an interesting puzzle where Roman numerals extracted from each row added up to 3000.

In the same week the Times Concise Crossword celebrated 30 years since its debut in 1988.
The first Qualifier for the 2018 Crossword Championship will appear in The Times on April 18. With a second, vintage puzzle from the 1960s to accompany it online.

Best wishes



Solution to March 2018 Prize Puzzle

Celebrity Squares by NOx Solution

A tribute to Brian Cant.

Across: 1 MATE + LOT, &lit, 7 Two defs, 12 (WEL(l) around (A TERM)) + ON , 13 (ER + (k)AR(im))<, 14 P + REGNANT, 15 HARROGATE’S – H, 17 STY + LUS(t), 19 PROM + PT, 21 STOOL – S(ecret), 23 N(iff) + ILL, 27 (gru)B + (COYER – C), 28 ATILT – L(ively), 29 RAYS around EP; ‘ray’ = ‘a look or glance’, 33 SPRAG around (argenti)N(a), 37 PHONE around MORE<, 39 AS around (BET + (FLAT – F(our))<); ‘fail’ = ‘to desert’, 40 Two defs, 41 (I in RACA) + LISTS; ‘bill’ = ‘a list of performers etc’, 42 DURESS – U, 43 DIE around (SEA + S).

Down: 1 A in MARS, 2 G in (AA + R(um)), 3 ERR in (emp)TY(ing), 4 DALLYING* around (b)U(rgers), 5 (STRETCH – CH)<, 6 RE in CEP, 8 LENT + O, 9 (A + LIST) around ARM; ‘arm’ = ‘power’, 10 (s)TONE, 11 TIT in (EN LE), 16 O(f) + ALL<, 18 Two defs, 20 R(ak)E + (PORT in SEX*), 22 O + ((E + P) in NIECE); ‘niece’ = euphemistically, a priest’s daughter, 24 BODY with LO IN = BLOODY, 25 FOR + WARD, 26 W + (HARM – H), 30 (AGAINST – A G)*, &lit; ‘cut’ = ‘to stay away from’, 31 SHALLOW – OW, 32 GELD around I, 34 A after (A OR T), 35 GEE around (N + R(ussell)), 36 (erec)T BAR(gain), 38 NANSEN – EN.

The celebrity pairs are (clockwise from top left) ROGER Federer/Shane WAR[N]E, PETER Duncan/Christopher TRA[C]E, LEONA Lewis/Jackie TREN[T], TI[N]A Charles/Jackie WILSON, S[I]MON Callow/Hugh GRANT, SAR[A]H Greene/Janet ELLIS, B[R]ITT Ekland/Michael CAINE and AL[A]N Shearer/Wayne ROONEY, the missing letters therefore being N, C, T, N, I, A, R and A.

The ninth missing letter has been omitted from 27ac, BOYER being entered as OYER. The letter B is indicated in the clue by ‘Grub ultimately’, an allusion to the roll-call of the Trumpton Fire Brigade.

The lost letters can be rearranged to form the name of the inimitable BRIAN CANT, which should be entered as above to complete the words BRIE, DANCE and LANT.


Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle March 2018

Pie Crust by Flowerman

Pie Crust by Flowerman printable document

In all across clues, solving the wordplay yields the answer plus a residual letter. In clue order, these letters specify the theme. Four unclued lights provide examples of this theme.

3    Unclued (2 words)
9    Knocked out by famous singer’s old work (6)
10    Not satisfied about some state monuments (5)
12    Cross border hiding in French vehicle (5)
13    Face staff with courage (7)
15    Three associate to describe small child’s bones (6)
17    Slight doctor gentle and extremely capable (7)
19    Local serjeant-at-law wanting County Alderman to hang (4)
20    Twice a year dad resolved to hold to routine (8)
22    European down on spirit after he lost condition (8)
24    Eccentric person ignoring graduate’s knock (4)
25    Mountain peak completely in cloud (7)
30    Insect about to consume drug notice (6)
31    Liaises with cricket side coming in for afternoon fete (7)
32    Freely at first, American singer described life in Brazil (5)
33    Physicist in French city given wreath (5)
34    Attractive woman contracted to distribute test (6)
35    Unclued (2 words)

1 Unclued (2 words)
2 Son too clumsy to manage instrument (8)
3 Unwilling to take time off for cold fish (5)
4 Zip around US state achieving nothing (5)
5 Natives welcoming brief look at birds (7)
6 4 supporting universal operating system (4)
7 Call for guards after political leaders left stranded (6)
8 Complain when top two fail to impress (4)
11 Unclued (2 words)
14 Musical comedy abridged – one line chopped (7)
16 Troublemaker putting male cat in lake? On the contrary (7)
18 American 4 keeping iodine in container (8)
21 First-rate Australian assuming prince has a condition affecting speech (7)
23 4 hiding in drain started raid (6)
26 Somersaulting aerialist occasionally wanting headgear (5)
27 European ready to listen to one calling from afar (5)
28 Sing an easy thing to stay positive (4)
29 Plant badly placed at foot of elm (4)

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

Crossword News February 2018

Crossword News February 2018

The first Prize Puzzle of 2018 was Emperors by Vernon. Answers had to be entered in rectangles and in the completed grid THE SHELDONIAN THEATRE and SIR CHRISTOPHER WREN had to be highlighted. The title refers to the busts of emperors that surround the building in Oxford. A full solution and notes can be found at

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

This was a nice one to start the year.  Most of the clues were fairly straightforward but fitting the answers into the grid did require a bit of trial and error (mostly the latter) with one or two surprises.  I liked this variation.  As for the theme, as is often the case for me, at first I could not see the answer staring me in the face.  Thank goodness it was fairly prominent because whilst I knew of the great man, I did not know of the theatre and its emperors.  Thanks to Google I do know now and I can stop going through lists of Chinese/Japanese/Roman/Ethiopian etc. emperors. (Sometimes you can have too much information.)

Must confess that as this was the first time I was attempting a prize puzzle of this nature, I had some initial trepidations.  But the clues seemed to gradually yield even to cold solving one by one, so the real problem came only in fitting the answers into the grid.  Got stuck a bit there, not having truly understood the positioning of the numbers in the individual squares, but got the hang of it after a couple of false starts.  Though fairly straightforward, particularly liked WRITER, ERRATA and THRENODE.  Still haven’t got to the bottom of the ‘Emperors’ connection in the title, will leave that for later. Thanks to the setter and organisers for a nice start to the New Year.  Greetings of the season and warm regards.

What a superb start to 2018! I can only marvel at Vernon’s expertise in constructing such an ingenious puzzle.

There were 51 entries, of which 8 were marked incorrect. The main error was POTSHARD for POTSHERD. The lucky winner picked from the electronic hat was Donald Macleod, who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers.

You still have lots of time to complete and email your entry to the February puzzle, Celebrity Squares by NOx.

The March Prize Puzzle will be Pie Crust by Flowerman.

We are now looking for puzzles to fill the summer months. The Crossword Centre is a stepping stone for new setters and a way to get your name known. Many of our best compilers had their first puzzles published here.
The UK premiere of the American play 2 Across by Jerry Mayer is being staged at the Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City, from 4th to 7th April. Described as ‘a comedy of crosswords and romance’, this witty Studio two-hander has two strangers sharing a 4am shuttle train with nothing in common other than the New York Times crossword they’re both tackling. Their differing attitudes to crosswords and life in general mean that by the end of their 90-minute journey they’re solving a lot more than crossword clues…

This delightful and hilarious play, by one of America’s top sitcom writers, has been described by critics as ‘smart, witty and poignant’. Tickets are on sale now.
Arvin Ahmadi has written a novel with a crossword theme. Down Across has just been released in the USA.
Some of you may remember that, last year, Steve Pemberton included a crossword in Riddle of the Sphinx, an episode of Inside No. 9. That puzzle was published in the Guardian under the setter’s name Sphinx. He has now brought out another Sphinx puzzle which you can try at

The solution is available here

A fascinating interview with Dan Feyer, champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, is published in the NY Times. You can read it here

I was interested in the fact that he is a musician and mentions that former winner, Jon Delfin, is also a professional musician. I wonder whether there is a link between musical prowess and solving crosswords.
Next month I shall be in Paris to attend the Listener Crossword Setters’ Dinner which is being held in the Salons du Relais, on the 1st floor of the historic Gare de l’Est, Lois and I will be arriving on the Thursday and hoping to get in some tourisme during our stay. Hopefully, we can meet up with others while we are there and places to meet may be posted on our website.

Because of the event, next month’s newsletter will be later so that I can include a report.

Best wishes

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle February 2018

Celebrity Squares by NOx

Each of the eight outer shaded squares contains the jumbled letters of the first name of one celebrity (living or dead) and the surname of another, with a single letter omitted from one of them. They comprise 4 actors, 4 singers (all of whom had UK number one singles), 4 players of sport and 4 children’s TV presenters, their ‘other halves’ being Hugh Callow, Jackie Charles, Christopher Duncan, Michael Ekland, Shane Federer, Janet Greene, Jackie Lewis and Wayne Shearer. In addition, one solution must have a single letter removed before entry in the grid. Solvers should arrange the nine missing letters within the central shaded square in order to complete the three unclued and unnumbered entries and reveal the name of the celebrity to whose memory this puzzle is dedicated.

Celebrity Squares PDF version

1 Fellow with crew? (7)
7 Dull dark blue carpet (5)
12 Not quite comfortable checking a label attached to a large fruit (10)
13 Dench recalled Queen and Karim taking off Kipling hero (4)
14 Piano dominating in club (8)
15 Assumes spa’s not hot (9)
17 Pen where you’d find pig with reduced appetite (6)
19 Suggest dance exercises (6)
21 Stand clear of opening for secret weapon (4)
23 Discarded refuse beginning to niff badly (4)
27 Grub ultimately rather modest cold leaves for film star Charles (4)
28 Inclined to forgo a bit of lively bonking (4, two words)
29 Looks to secure record returns (6)
33 Prop biting Argentina’s No. 8 is let off (6)
37 Means to call round again returning stuff that’s secreted (9)
39 Spurs like taking gamble – flat back four originally fails (8)
40 Mussolini’s great aunt’s mother? (4)
41 One plugging worthless bills – they favour particular stocks (10)
42 Compulsion to shed posh frock (5)
43 Peter out embracing marine with special affection (7)

1 Large rodents are found in bar (5)
2 Good to stop reformed alcoholics heading for rum jelly (4)
3 Slip up in the middle of emptying nappy (5)
4 Cook dallying over second of burgers without relish (9)
5 Continue popping out children, lying about being solvent (5)
6 Shudder about getting covered in fungus (5)
8 Advanced zip slowly (5)
9 One with choice pins might jitterbug (8)
10 Sharon perhaps losing initial bodily firmness (4)
11 Diminutive singer opening up in the French style (7)
16 A little of everything served up in a pot (4)
18 Dated Nelly Robinson? (4)
20 Exhausted rake left enthralled by kinky sex puts back out (9)
22 Old English priest wearing his daughter’s swimsuit? (8)
24 Body could become covered in gore with this cut (4)
25 Wanting to have large room ready (7)
26 Amorous wife wrong to be shy of husband (4)
30 We’re against American Government cuts, possibly (5)
31 May come to surface emitting cry of pain (5)
32 Doctor catching one’s cold (5)
34 Advanced, following either side of assault vessel (5)
35 My inspiring new tip for Russell Brand (5)
36 Something that helps those on slopes erect barrier fences (4)
38 Type of passport with no space at the back for relatives (4)

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


Crossword News January 2018

Crossword News January 2018

Our traditional Christmas puzzle was Seasons Greetings IX by Eclogue. The theme was the 12 days of Christmas, with words relating to each day crammed into a cell. The instructions read REPLACE WITH DOTS, JOIN DOTS IN NUMERICAL ORDER, THEN BACK TO PEAR, to form the closed polygon of a six-pointed STAR. 31A should therefore be highlighted to indicate a “star in the East”

Here are some of the comments.

In the ~5 years I’ve been solving Crossword Centre Prize Puzzles, this may be my favourite thus far. I fear words can’t do justice to the setter’s ingenuity (and brilliant execution). Truly a star turn by Eclogue!  NB: The first clash I encountered was “DY/LA” in 40a/42d. The N in the square below that suggested DYLAN, which made me think of Dylan Thomas and wonder if the theme had something to do with “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I encountered PER/PI, which set me on the right track.

A wonderful idea brilliantly executed.  Finding definitions which provide the desired misprints and produce the entries necessary for thematic material is an arduous job.  To do that for all the clues, rather than some, must have taken much work.  Eclogue’s reward is the even greater delight solvers derived from tackling the puzzle.  I especially liked MALIS/MALES, MAYO/MAYA and MATHS/MATES. Many thanks and a Happy New Year to Eclogue.

What a lovely Christmas present from Eclogue.  I’d figured out the star, but almost missed the brilliant song theme, by trying to use a K instead of an R as the final corrected letter – but then I saw it, and the 12 words all fell into place!  Thank you Eclogue.

There were 41 entries, of which 4 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was MP Young who will soon be receiving a prize from the Chambers range of books.

A full solution with notes is available at

This month the Prize Puzzle is Emperors by Vernon. You have until the 8th February to send in your entry.

The February Prize Puzzle will be Celebrity Squares by NOx.
The Crowther Cup is awarded to the best solver of the year. In 2017 there were three solvers maintaining an all-correct record. Matthew Auger was awarded the cup last year so was ineligible to win again. It took a long count back to decide that the winner of the Crowther Cup this year is Keith Williams in a close tussle with second-placed Brian Betker. Robert Teuton is finalising the annual statistics today and they will be made available soon.

A fantastic puzzle appeared in the on-line Independent crosswords on New Years Day. The cryptic by Maize outdid his 2016 quadruple pangram to produce an incredible quintuple! Try it here!201801

You can watch how Simon Anthony solved it at
My best wishes to Chris Lancaster in his new appointment as editor of the Telegraph crosswords.

Roger Squires, the prolific crossword setter retired last month. Better known as Rufus in the Guardian, Roger was a regular feature of Mondays in the traditional broadsheets and kept up a phenomenal output since his debut in 1982. I wish him well in his retirement. There is more information about Roger that he wrote for the Crossword Centre at

And the Guardian wished him farewell in this article.

People often ask me what the best book is to teach new solvers the intricacies of cryptic crosswords. I have just heard about an app which promises to be an aid to learning how to solve cryptic crosswords. Here is the press release.

Many are intrigued by cryptic crosswords and would like to learn how to solve them. Now they can on their iPhone or iPad using Teazel’s interactive Learn Cryptic Crosswords app, available from the Apple App Store and launched on 20 December 2017. Solving cryptic crosswords is an enjoyable pastime that gives the brain a good work out. James Brook, Teazel’s Technical Director, said: “People have their mobile devices to hand these days, so an app is a convenient way to learn the skill of solving cryptic clues.” Teazel are specialists in developing mobile apps for the puzzle market and turned to crossword teacher and author Henry Howarth to provide the learning content. The app starts with the simplest types of clue and builds step by step to the advanced aspects of solving, making it easy for learners to build their knowledge and understanding. Henry Howarth said: “We learn best by doing, and every theory topic is followed by exercises and practice clues to reinforce key learning points, with practice puzzles to integrate learning at each stage of the process. All of the practical activity in the app is interactive and this enhances the learning experience.” Learn Cryptic Crosswords covers all aspects of solving standard cryptic crosswords, including how to solve harder clues and the ongoing development of crossword skills. It ends with a selection of newspaper puzzles at different levels of difficulty and this is followed by a set of reference tools to use when solving. Anyone interested in the app can download the first chapter free of charge and upgrade to the full 7 chapters for 1 £4.99. Teazel’s Marketing Director, Richard Taylor, said: “We have had very positive feedback from trials of Learn Cryptic Crosswords on Apple mobile devices, and we are now planning to release an Android version for phones and tablets early in 2018.”

You can learn more on their website
In the early 80s my son and I became engrossed by the Rubik’s Cube. We learned ways of solving it and we both could do it very quickly. At one point I wrote a set of instructions on a single sheet. This week I found that old crib sheet in a drawer and it got me to solving the cube again. By popular demand I have put a pdf version on the internet. You can try it here
Our crossword message board at is working really well with lots of threads and comments. Because I get the statistics I know that there are a dozen visitors viewing the board every hour. Most of them are not registered and are not able to post comments. I would urge you to register. It is a very easy formality to register and then you can make comments and vote in the polls.

I have set up a poll this week to see if there is a need for us to accept competition entries in list format. Nowadays almost everyone has a scanner or a camera on their phone. Often a solution has a finale which cannot easily be shown in a list of answers. Also, it is much more difficult to check a solution in list format. If you have an opinion on this please vote or let me know.


Best wishes