Crossword News July 2018

Crossword News July 2018

Last month the Prize Puzzle was 20/8 by Wan. It was published in June because its theme was the World Cup. Correct letter in misprints give SHIFTED BY WORLD CUPS. Unclued entries were seven of the 8 nations who have won the World Cup Caesar shifted by the number of cups they have won. The eighth nation to have won is of course England who have one, so FOHMBOE has to be written alongside the grid. The title refers to the 20 World Cups divided by the eight nations who have won it.

A full solution with notes is available at

Here are some of the comments from solvers, mostly complimentary.

I thought this was a fantastic puzzle with a most impressive construction.  Including the thematic elements in the grid in a number of Caesar Cipher shifts was nothing short of astonishing.  Big thanks and very well done to Wan.

A nice puzzle with a cleverly worked out theme.  Satisfying that the various winners produced a symmetrical pattern in the grid – with the exception of one team, which no doubt has some superstitious significance for this competition (written half an hour before the Panama game kicks off)!  Thanks to Wan for an enjoyable challenge.

Thanks to Wan for this take on a highly topical theme. I liked the use in the word play of less common meanings of common enough words, eg TEN for a large number, LIMB for mischievous child, KEN for house, SPIT for to spawn, SO for that will do.

However, one solver delivered a strong rebuke to both Wan and me ….’ 🙂

1 – seemed to be a few terrible clues, could have used some better editing

2 – will we never see an end to puzzles reminding us that England won once.

There were 38 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Mark Nichols, who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers.

As most solvers already have the Chambers Dictionary or use the Chambers app, I asked for an alternative prize. For the next 9 months winners will receive a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists which, I hope, will be a useful aid for both solvers and setters.

You still have time to solve another fantastic puzzle as No Coincidence by Stick Insect is the July Prize Puzzle, open until the 8th August.

Yet more delightful challenges for August when the Prize Puzzle is A Study in Scarlet by Phylax.
Friedlander and Fine have published an article in Frontiers in Psychology on the potential use of cryptic crosswords in research into insight problems. The article uses examples from puzzles published in the Magpie. I found some of it hard reading but if you skip to the section on cryptic clues there is a fascinating dissection of the mechanics of solving.

It is sad to announce the death of Guardian Crossword setter, Audrey Young, who was known by the name of Audreus. Her obituary was written by her son, John Young, who is also a Guardian setter under the pseudonym Shed.

Alan Connor has written a tribute to Audreus and her superb clue-writing skills.
In an exhibition on J R R Tolkien at the Bodleian Library there is a Times crossword solved by the writer and embellished with doodles.
I am indebted to Mark Thakkar who tracked down the puzzle as the 9th August 1960.
And finally, you may have missed that John Henderson mentioned me in the i-paper in his series on crossword twitter accounts.

All a-Twitter – 4:  A resourceful chap New to crosswords? Need the Chambers app? Looking for someone to set a special puzzle? Don’t understand a clue? Well, provided you aren’t about to break rules like, say, commenting on prize puzzles before deadline day, do visit Curated by self-confessed “crossword geek” Derek Harrison (@dzharrison), the Crossword Centre is hard to beat, cruciverbally speaking. You can post your questions on its messageboard, find links to other useful sites, buy bargain books and solve Inquisitor-style prize puzzles, some by setters you’ll know from this page, as well as get access to a monthly newsletter.

Best wishes


Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle July 2018

No Coincidence by Stick Insect

No Coincidence PDF version

A quotation is formed by one letter from each clue except the last, which is missing the two words to complete the quotation. The last letter of the clue answer indicates which clue letter to select, with A indicating the first, B the second etc. Some cells contain more than one letter due to overlong answers and clashes. Those letters must be correctly ordered to show thematic items, hinted at by the quotation. Numbers in brackets are the number of cells occupied by the entry. Chambers Dictionary (2016) is the primary reference.


1 Poet of no merit bringing back dull fish (8)
8 Agree for a while a pal only made up good (9, two words)
13 A producer of cow’s milk runs away from guiding principle (5)
15 Oratorio naturally concealed collection of stars (5)
17 Not on, getting absolute Anglo-Saxon ruler (4)
18 See, gold is dearer in Glasgow (4)
19 A guessing game relating to animals of a supposed fossil (6)
20 In short, Augustus entangles Jack in island fiddles (4)
21 Wronged miss ended up all bottomless and half-naked (7)
23 School revises Zero’s musical part (7)
24 Pitchers take in two points following partners (4)
25 Mathematician not at first associated with Caesar (6)
27 Statement of amazement when losing queen’s vehicle (4)
28 Simplify history of Sidney laid out with empty fantasy (8)
30 Reproved over spelling, he swore (8)
33 Nap at Holyrood once oldies suffer early starts (4)
34 Alternative technology is only half of nose making sneezing sound (6)
36 Not being holy, dismiss men in South African armed group (4)
37 Living in bondage excited Fred’s old master (7)
39 Reddish-brown coach is concealing topless broadcast (7)
42 An African gang heard (4)
43 “Very large growth” is a quote made up, lacking time (6)
44 Irish girl hidden by counter-intelligence (4)
46 Deserve each service (4)
47 Stop after translator’s turn (5)
48 Occur in recalling desirability (5)
49 Saint gets nod after a German writer (9)
50 A sound unit: soldier’s without dissension (8, three words)


1 Fan opening for ousted comic (4)
2 Goodbyes answer sign of the cross when following god (6)
3 I was guide around food shop (4)
4 Tribe first in indicating Indian tree (3)
5 Islands’ dialect found in Sweden or Norway (4)
6 In the past, grey Greek having income support … (4)
7 … manufactured epic woe for knight – a nasty person (10, three words)
8 Made light of journalist following bear twice (10)
9 Detoxed mostly after exposure in Scottish town (6)
10 Console one new prisoner (5)
11 Discordant and certainly very loud inside empty embassy (5)
12 Government fool with year of empty talk (5)
14 Writer in parliaments (4)
16 Six zoos expelled ducks and the French dog (6)
17 Monsters go back in triangular bits of land in the country (5)
22 Nuke’s out of order: seizing Maine is not peaceful (6)
26 Nine to one against king who offended Zeus (5)
27 To search for smuggled goods, Jeremiah queues on the left side (6)
29 Small carnivore of revolutionary America and South Africa (6)
30 Rides in swarms about Perth (5)
31 Wager time is lost for European reproductive body (5)
32 German city wine lacks mark of safety (5)
35 Hawaii catches satisfactory fish (4)
38 Thai and Burmese people adopt a monkey (4)
39 Dunstable’s county maybe places for dropping off (4)
40 Exchanging brake’s parts is concerning (4, two words)
41 When broadcast, spectacle is viewed (4)
45 This city tap ran badly for — (3)

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

Crossword News June 2018

Crossword News June 2018

Last Month our Prize Puzzle was Old Titles by Curmudgeon. O(ld) Titles is an anagram of T S Eliot, confirmed by the letters in circles, and the theme was his work, Four Quartets, which appeared in the leading diagonal. The titles of the four poems had to be highlighted, as well.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Many thanks for a very entertaining puzzle.  I thought the grid was very cleverly constructed and the setter not only managed to keep the theme’s component parts on the horizontal orientation but managed to make the circled cells read in order in the grid, top-to-bottom, left-to right.  Also, the work’s title fitted neatly into its diagonal location and the whole was very nicely clued too.  And then there was the puzzle’s title cryptically forming the author’s name.  Clever stuff all round.  My thanks indeed to Curmudgeon.

An interesting puzzle which proved to be easy enough but I guess one might have to spend a lot of time with the dictionary to sort out all the Scots references and the obscure words. At least I did.  The highlights were also fairly straightforward, did not pose any difficulty. Happy I could finish this early since I’m soon off for the next couple of months.  Thanks organisers and setter.

A very quick solve but entertaining. I wasn’t overly familiar with the theme so a bit of research was required at the end.

When I saw that the first two circled letters in grid order were TS I assumed that they weren’t meant to be read in this order. After I found all of the circled letters and saw that they almost spell TOILETS when read from the bottom, I realised that they should be read in normal order.  I mostly know about the thematic work from having seen it used in other crosswords and I couldn’t remember all of the titles.

There were 49 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Dale Johannesen, who will soon be receiving a prize.

A full solution with notes is available at

You still have lots of time to complete the June Prize Puzzle, 20/8 by Wan.

The July teaser will be No Coincidence by Stick Insect. I can certainly recommend it!

Chambers will continue to supply our prizes. However, to prevent the exchange of personal data under the GDPR, prizes will be sent to me and I shall post them to the winners. I hope it will work.
Our zetaboards message board has been taken over by another company, tapatalk. Everything works the same and, indeed, there are some advantages. The old links will still take you to the new board, however, if you want to make a note of the new address, it is

Remember that registration only takes a minute and then you can make comments, reply to comments, send messages and add an avatar.
Last month I mentioned the memorial service for Colin Dexter and Don Manley has added more information about how this was organised.

“I was the instigator of the memorial service and choreographed it, contacting the participants I had chosen, with help from the sub-dean at Christ Church. This involved choosing the music and the readings, based on my close knowledge of Colin’s preferences. A few calls to Australia were needed to bring Barrington Pheloung on board, but he needed no persuasion. Jackie Gray organised the civic reception with Sally Dexter, and her husband Sir Muir made some introductions. Sally helped with both events and was brilliant at contacting guests and very generous in funding the event.”
Our clue-writing competition is going from strength to strength. You have a week left to enter the June competition. Just write a normal clue to UNION. Full details at


Best wishes from Portugal.

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle June 2018

20/8 by Wan


Down clues contain a misprint in the definition; correct letters in clue order give a hint to the format of the unclued entries. Solvers must write the other one, similarly treated, beneath the grid. 20.8 by Wan – PDF version
The Chambers dictionary (2016) is the primary reference.


1 Bits of furniture with lids storing fashion that’s coming back (8)
7 Recipe in house; introduction to Greenland whale carcass (5)
11 A large number linked to trouble in a part of fortress (6)
12 Are bats seen in Quebec dead? (6)
13 Weak joint makes local unstable (6)
14 See mischievous child going up (5)
15 View fish by river in the sticks (4)
16 Plants that will do very well in Germany and Sweden (5)
19 Laid waste copper parts in ruins both ends of England (8)
20 Place in exotic East for turtle flesh (7)
21 First letters from Greece and UK say (5)
25 King has to hide spook in Will’s work (5)
28 Asian island tours hot to the east of capital (7)
30 Claw leaving a mark on way, close to cypress trees (8)
33 Composes music around ten intervals of five (5)
34 Country retreat in Qatar? No thanks! (4)
35 Bacteria, Charlie brought back from Greece once (5)
36 Corps in base fail to emerge (6)
37 Do up premium antique possessions to go West (6)
38 A silly mistake taking the pee out of wicketkeeper? (6)
39 Query on followed scriptures (5)
40 Soccer team oddly playing in part of cell (8)


2 Whip’s movement maybe, a day when almost cracked (7)
3 Fussy about Nebraska garden (6)
4 Debs in Asia pressed to drink spirit when brought up (5)
5 Two characters, each wanting 80 gram lighter suspension part? (7, 2 words)
6 Happen to go up in that free (6)
8 Iris stuck in her overturned glue (6)
9 One’s likely to rebate fine assuming it’s erroneous (7)
10 Followers heading up North to see old duo (4)
17 Maybe feed fills obsequious chap from Oz dropping over (6)
18 Fishes harm spawn on river that’s lacking potassium (6)
22 Rubbish alert! A Times thrown in gorse? (7)
23 Bigger than the West versus East question, in essence dreadful (7)
24 Perhaps tipped off, take one’s words are backing something (7)
26 Hindu got follower’s knife before being cut by associate (6)
27 Turn out to welcome the French paper family (6)
29 March around carrying old hoe (6)
31 A strand found on scale model’s rear is splitting more by second (5)
32 Carp at sea? Could be in this section of water or others (4)

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

Crossword News May 2018

Crossword News May 2018

The Prize Puzzle for April was our tenth Round Robin, Dynasty. Words removed from answers could be arranged in groups to give a hint to a film. MINA, DOVE, QUAIL for The Birds; DRAB, PRO, QUAIL for Working Girl; DRAB, ASH, DOVE for 50 Shades of Grey. The films were to be written beneath the grid. By altering the initial letter of each film in the grid the names of a remarkable family dynasty could be highlighted, (Tippi) HEDREN, (Melanie) GRIFFITH and (Dakota) JOHNSON.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Probably the best Round Robin puzzle to date!  Such an outstanding assortment of clues, it was hard to choose the best.

Thanks to all who set the clues, and particularly to eXternal for the theme and grid. I had no idea these actresses were from the same family. Actually Tippi Hedren is the only one I am really familiar with, showing my age no doubt. I felt some of the clue setters had tried a little too hard, and I favoured shorter simpler, not necessarily easier, clues.

I had found two of the hints (DRAB and MINA) when I noticed that changing two letters could make GRIFFITH and JOHNSON appear in the grid. Then I learnt that Melanie Griffith is Dakota Johnson’s mother and Tippi Hedren’s daughter and guessed that two of the films were The Birds and Fifty Shades of Grey, so I only had to look for a Melanie Griffith film that starts with W. This seemed to be much easier than it would have been to find all of the hints and use them to identify the films.  I thought it was a neat trick to have three hints that each hint at two of the films. I found a few of the hints pretty quickly, but 21a, 25d and 29d were pretty much the last clues I solved. I suppose the writers of these clues didn’t know that the full answers wouldn’t appear in the grid.

There were 32 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Gerry Murtagh, from Glasgow, who will be getting a prize awarded by Chambers.

Solvers were asked to vote for their favourite clues and the clue-writer who won the most votes was Mark Oshin for his clue to NULLITY.

Not being something you’ll think about when out of hospital and OK

Here are the results of the voting.

Top Clues
1st – NULLITY – Mark Oshin – 16pts
2nd – TOAD – Steve Randall – 12pts
3rd – ICE CUBES – Ed Powles – 11pts

Other clues that received points:
BUSTED – 3pts
ONER – 5pts
LIEDER – 1pt
MASHONA – 6pts
AGUISE – 2pts
SEA EGG – 9pts
REROOF – 1pt
ABEAR – 2ptS
EDGIEST – 10pts
MIKADO – 7pts
TAILOR – 7pts
PEEWEE (or WEEWEE!) – 10pts

There is a full solution at

You still have time to complete our May Prize Puzzle, Old Titles by Curmudgeon  The June Puzzle will be 20/8 by Wan, which I can thoroughly recommend.

Our pipe-line is looking very healthy now and I can promise you some superb puzzles for the summer months.
On the 26 April a memorial service for Colin Dexter was held in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Chris Sullivan has written a marvellous account of the day with some great photos, music and a fascinating video of Dexter’s cameo appearances in the TV programmes.
The Listener crossword has reached the round number 4500 and, in my opinion, is going from strength to strength. This milestone made me remember Listener 2500, almost 40 years ago, and I have written a short personal account. You can read it here –
Our Book of the Month is the Cryptic Pub Quiz written by Frank Paul. Frank has recently gained fame as a member of the Escapologists team that were champions of this year’s Only Connect. He was the one who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of mountweazels.

I have been skimming through this book for a month and it is lots of fun, a variety of original quizzes, puzzles and word games.
When lots of newspapers were talking about the “World’s Hardest Crossword” I thought I would give it a try. Marc Breman, who composes crosswords for the Daily Mirror, had created a jumbo blocked puzzle and offered prizes to the first ten correct entries. I sent my entry and won a prize of a copy of his novel, The Foggiest Notion. In retrospect, I realise that the puzzle was not that hard, but the fact that it was mentioned in so many newspapers gave his novel a lot of free advertising.

First to finish was Simon Anthony who is mentioned in this Telegraph article.

A faulty link on our Crossword Links page has meant that Henry Casson’s Crossword Utility has been unavailable. I have now fixed it and the Utility is downloadable. The software is free and allows you to create blocked or barred crosswords. It is very easy to get used to creating grids which can be copied into a word document or email. Fairly basic but well worth a try.

For a more complex crossword designer which is also free I can recommend Qxw, the very powerful crossword software created by Quinapalus.
And finally, do you get a lot of pleasure in solving crosswords? Do you enjoy the penny-drop-moment? Well, a Daily Mail article claims that solving a crossword is “better than sex” because of the release of dopamine!

Best wishes



Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle May 2018

Old Titles by Curmudgeon

Old Titles by Curmudgeon PDF

Solvers must highlight the name of a work and the titles of its component parts in the grid (57 cells in all). The letters appearing in circles will give a hint.

1 Consumed by fire without, in the past, involving the navy (5)
5 Part of an ordinary logic circuit (3)
8 Additional designation not for Scots in a book (6)
13 Unctuous, going round Australia in a slimy way (6)
14 Yankees dismiss preposterous name for rock guitarist (6)
15 The bard’s ‘about’, ‘at’, ‘on’ and ‘so’, misused (6, 2 words)
16 Father right to be of service to inferior (8)
17 Extremities of upper dome having points (4)
18 Lava fragments, erratically elliptical etc., violently ejected (7)
20 Theory ultimately good for nothing for Australia’s drought period (6, 2 words)
23 Saves from destruction bit of valuable silver in cut-rate selling events (8)
26 Good grief! Limitlessly dreary in Holyrood (5)
28 A tyro originally grasping tricky English craft produces object of cultural interest (8)
30 Small bridge’s poppy colour (7)
34 Support Amnesty International with series of steps (7)
35 Uncovered amateurish forged antique weapon (8)
36 In times gone by bring in immigrant (old woman excluded) (5)
38 A ‘No’ is French reaction introducing, for starters, periods with no sex (8)
40 Stone lining base, old earthenware container (6)
41 Gateshead area’s discordant treason (7)
43 Narcotic soft drink (4)
46 Drinkable drop of vino for new king able to be managed (8)
49 Young animal left after endlessly climbing tutu tree (6)
50 Openers of advocate’s brief dried up, the accused being absent (6, 2 words)
51 A French girl, disheartened by university, chose at last to become detached (6)
52 Small illuminated Ctrl key oddly removed (6)
53 Sheep disease leads to grave income depletion (3)
54 Wild dog’s racket and energy (5)

1 Detects submarine briefly rising in places to leave or join transport (8, 2 words)
2 Judge upset after rejection of our Scottish letter of thanks (6)
3 Unacceptable heartless trade association set up (4)
4 Historical title of organised partizans Spain sadly turfed out (4)
6 Greek vessels turning up in Lebanese plots (5)
7 Clyde port returned Swedish rug (3)
8 Act as informer about sailor (3)
9 Liven up removing top blemishes in Las Vegas (4)
10 Mixture of American seaweed mass (7)
11 Enrol workers lacking leader and inclination (6)
12 In Glasgow abandon form and hoof it endlessly, with energy (8)
18 Court of Session’s antiquated doctrine regularly appearing in legal process (4)
19 Scene of ritual slaughter encloses one bright star (6)
21 Fine words, in the past, that is, for extra seat in car (6)
22 Young ox, reared around start of spring suddenly refuses to move for Mac (6)
24 Dubiously divert Ed’s judicial decision (6)
25 Ardent American lover (6)
27 National society supporting quality assurance for irrigation tunnels (6)
29 Muslim Commander-in-Chief raised single young flowering plant (8)
31 Safe toilet demonstration that went awry (8)
32 Writer about love, with calamitous fiction leads to comical mortifications (7)
33 Short river feeding canal (4)
35 Disgraceful thing abandoning college footwear (6)
37 Place of trade with space for fur (6)
39 Coldness of manner in upset ancient tribe (5)
42 Field vole from time to time finally caught small amphibian (4)
44 Poet’s slaughtered young goat, securing bit of lunch (4)
45 Some private tuition for housewife (4)
47 Front half of insect, busy one it’s said (3)
48 Handle a sluggish worm (3)

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

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