Crossword News September 2018

Crossword News September 2018

Last month our Prize Puzzle was The Unusual Suspects by Phylax. The words removed are CAPON (15a), RED (16a), RED (26a), RED (29a), KIPPER (33a), RED (2d), SILD (4d), BUCKLING (32d), RED (40d) and BRIT (41d). These suggest ‘The Five Red Herrings’, a detective novel by Dorothy L Sayers. The names to be found in the completed grid are SARAH, CRAIG, SIR ALEX, STACY, JOHN and HARRY; the killer in the book is JOHN Ferguson, so the other five Fergusons (The Unusual Suspects) are ‘red herrings’ and should therefore be highlighted in that colour. Solvers should be aware that other colours were marked correct.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

As a big reader of detective fiction I had to give it a go and I was really pleased that I did. I thought the clues were all of an excellent standard (I think ‘ISLE’ is my favourite) and whilst the 10 ‘special’ clues were a bit trickier I got there in the end. The endgame held me up for a while – I was convinced that the 6 first names had to have the 6 surnames of the 6 suspects from the book attached to them. ’Sir Alex’ had so obviously to be ‘Ferguson’ that I discounted this from the others and spent quite some time on the internet looking for famous ‘Farrens’, ’Strachans’ etc! I think ‘Sarah Waters’ was the best I could find.  The penny finally dropped when I thought of ’Sarah Ferguson’ and then wondered if they could all be ‘Fergusons’ – et voila!  So I’ve highlighted the 5 ‘red herrings’ – and hopefully that’s correct. My only criticism is I’ve never read the book – and now I know whodunit it seems like I never will!

I thought The Unusual Suspects was of an even higher standard than normal.  I have scribbled at the top of my page “some cracking clues”, mainly due to the perfect and perfectly misleading surface readings.  If I had to pick out one, it would be 39a => TROUSER; it made me giggle.  Maybe of interest to Phylax: before I realised that the theme was D L Sayers’s novel, 10d had me going for ages. When I saw SETTER as part of the answer, I immediately jumped to RED (because of RED HERRINGS) and then spent fruitless hours searching for other red SOMETHINGs in the clue constructions or answers !!!!  My only slight reservation is about the final highlighting. I did scour the grid trying to find a phrase or combination of words to indicate that JOHN was the culprit, but then reverted to the more obvious (but somehow slightly less satisfying) solution of highlighting all but one of the already-discovered six names.

This was one of the Crossword Centre’s easier puzzles – and very welcome too! I enjoyed the solve with a PDM at just about the right time. It’s a long time since I’d read the work in question but still have my copy for which I paid 40p in 1974. I resorted to Wikipedia for a list of characters to enable identification of the ‘Usual suspect’. A nice set of clues, some quite tricky. I did wonder if, in 22D, ‘Flares’ should be ‘Flakes’.  Thanks to Phylax.

There were 36 entries of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Geoff Telfer.

A full solution and notes is available at

You still have time to complete the September Prize Puzzle DEORR by Rebus.

The October Prize Puzzle will be Flowers by Flowerman.

There are puzzles in the pipeline for November and December but nothing for 2019.
I was saddened to hear of the death of Steve Mann. He was part of the Mango setting team, along with Roddy Forman and John Guiver, and also set puzzles under the pseudonym Seth Mould. I only met him once but we exchanged emails over many years. He had an original way of thinking and natural sense of humour. His witty posts on our message board often had the moderators in a rage. A talented musician, he regularly sent me videos of his guitar and keyboard skills. Sadly, after the breakdown of his marriage he was beset by financial and health problems. May he rest in peace.

He submitted one puzzle to the Crossword Centre in 2008 and you can try it at

Tributes to Steve were posted on our message board
There are changes afoot on the Telegraph crossword site. A new modern layout allows you to access interactive puzzles on a full range of devices and see your progress on the leaderboards. You can get more information here
Subscriptions for the Telegraph crossword site range from £4.99 per month or an annual subscription for £35.88. It is possible to get a free 7-day trial.
I am looking forward to attending next month’s autumn S&B weekend get-together in York, on Friday evening 26th October to Sunday lunchtime 28th October with the main event at the Fox and Roman during the day on Saturday 27th. I was there last year and enjoyed tackling one of John Henderson’s convoluted quizzes and meeting up with crossword friends. You can get more information and details of accommodation at

Note that on the following Saturday, the 3 November, the Times Crossword Championship will be taking place in London.
I have come across a fascinating site dedicated to mechanical puzzles. It certainly is worth having a look at The Metagrobologist
If you are trying to explain cryptic clues to someone you might find this short BBC video useful. Clues by Boatman are explained in an amusing animated cartoon.

Last Tuesday the talented setter Anax, Dean Mayer, created a crossword in real-time and streamed the whole process. It was a fascinating insight into how a setter’s mind operates and how he uses a whole array of software to get the job done. You can catch up on this unique video on YouTube at
The CWC Clue-writing Competition this month is to write a clue to JOANNA LUMLEY. The closing date is 30 September. More information here

Best wishes


Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle September 2018

DEORR by Rebus

DEORR by Rebus PDF

Clues are presented thematically. Eight thematic answers are clued without definition. Fit the answers where they will go.

Fish ladder top to bottom start to swim! (6)
A main artery going square like a pest. (7)
Got there but on leaving, was heartbroken. (5)
Loves dream is shattered. (7)
Assembly, one to try on gunners (5)
Stories from two articles. (3)
Imposingly sit across number one horse. (8)
Support him with alterations. (6)
Half dance and then three fifths make a fortune. (6)
Feature named Burmese troops. (7)
Shakespearean quote, “gold hillside.” (6)
Even scouts use a swearword. (4)
Small stream in icy-cold resort. (8)
With overhangs back to front Ian’s worry (5)
God of Paris without a farewell (4)
Old timer does portion and takes heart. (4)
Stretched Derek out, right out! (4)
Emile sprayed fragrant substance (5)
Unfortunate general dead, blown up! (8)
Bit unopened run (4)
Brother on steroids hides waders. (6)
Extravagant rice-cake finisher. (4)
A shining example of music once. (4)
Easily annoyed, CID ran university ragged. (7)
Double spirit cheers at heart, not available. (8)
Supports including a fortune recipient. (7)
Tile, gloomy, no good. (3)
Crazy and a dreadful shame to suppress hate (7)
In Dresden dark chant is horrible (5)
Niagara Falls endlessly. (6)
Black Italian expert drops nothing (4)
Unconventional time, combined centrally. (4)
Old school (4)
Old bird to copy moving one forward. (3)
Cope with thin arrangement. (8)
Sent message, roadside disaster gone south. (7)
King horribly maims logical system. (6)
Pancake flipped, it’s gold. (5)
Marsupial prison we’re told. (5)
Swordsman on horseback makes bus rear up! (7)
Partly wash each soap ingredient. (4)
Skip and jump, it’s a drag. (7)
Cosmetic firm featured in most of magazine (8)
Parties turned over and so may this be! (3)
Bomber returns holding thane’s head. It could be Macbeth’s title. (7)
Mineral water absorbed by this, whip up about fifty. (4)
Novice held back by authority. (4)
Dotty auntie is a member of a Christian community. (6)
Waste product is epicurean ingredient. (4)
Put out funny money, say. (5)

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

Crossword News August 2018

Crossword News August 2018

The July Prize Puzzle was No Coincidence by Stick Insect. This was a great puzzle based on a quote. Douglas Adams in the opening paragraphs of The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul tells us “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport’.”  The first part of this statement inspired the puzzle’s title, the second part formed the message revealed in the puzzle.   Clashing letters had to be arranged to show eleven US airport three-letter codes, positioned in roughly correct geographical position to each other.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Very unusual theme.  Perhaps it is original.  I wonder if there is any significance in the fact that all of the thematic items appear to be American?  Maybe not.  Anyway, I enjoyed this puzzle very much, so big thanks to Stick Insect.  I surprised myself with this one.  Normally, having solved a crossword, I do not relish much further work, especially if it involves Google.  Having completed this puzzle and worked out the theme, I understood what was required.  Thankfully the airports were geographically approximate and I stumbled on a website that made the rest a little easier.  It would not have been as easy if I had not guessed that they were all in the USA.  That said, it was an enjoyable puzzle to solve and an interesting theme.  Thank you, Stick Insect.

This was a most enjoyable puzzle and kudos to Stick Insect for conception of theme, grid, clues and twists.  Thought the collection of clues was a nice balance of easy and tough, most of them with enough of a challenge to keep it interesting and engaging.  As always the ‘overflow’ entries were the ticklish ones.  Particularly liked 50A leading to AS ONE MAN, a stand-out clue amongst many nice ones.  Thanks setter and organisers.

While I was a fan of the Hitchhiker series of books, the first Dirk Gently book just annoyed me and I failed to finish it, so I certainly wasn’t familiar with a quote from the second book in that series. Initially I was concerned that I might have to choose what order to put the groups of letters in, given the vast number of airport codes that exist, but I soon realised that putting across before down consistently produced major US airports. Thanks to Stick Insect.

There were 44 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Gron Roberts, who will shortly be receiving a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists donated by Chambers.

There is a full solution and notes at

You still have time to solve this month’s Prize Puzzle, The Unusual Suspects by Phylax. Entries close at midnight on the 8th September.

Next month our Prize Puzzle will be DEORR by Rebus. Susan and Patrick (Rebus) live North of Sydney. They met in London over 30 years ago and have been writing and solving cryptic crosswords together ever since. Patrick is a teacher ( he regularly plagues his students with puzzles) and Susan a designer. Both have run ‘How to do Cryptic Crosswords’ courses for adult education. They particularly enjoy The Listener and eagerly anticipate offerings by Kea and Schadenfreude.
The crossword setter Nuala Considine died at the end of July after a short illness. She compiled her first crossword at the age of 18 and her last recently at the age of 90. She set around 1000 puzzles for the Daily Telegraph and 830 for the Sunday Telegraph. In recent years she set Toughie puzzles under the pseudonym Excalibur. She also set puzzles for the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and Daily Express.

In Jonathan Crowther’s book, The A-Z of Crosswords, he notes-

Nuala also compiled a crossword called “The Stinker” for the Weekend Mail, which had a devoted following. One group who attempted regularly to solve it jointly, became so frustrated that they wrote to the paper asking for a photograph of the setter so that they could throw darts at it, a request that was politely refused on the grounds that the setter was a lady.

Her clues were often short and witty and there have been lots of comments on her style. Here are a few of them.

Ram home (5,3)

From this spring the clocks go back (8,2,5)

Having regrettable links with one’s work? (7,2,1,4)

Goodness gracious! This means we’re not flying upside down! (7,5)

Zen (3,3,4)

Why did the Japanese go to the bar? (Give up?) (7)

A new clue-writing competition has started with the task a Right/Left clue to FAIRY/POINT.
A cartoon that appeared in the New Yorker had President Trump saying to a reporter, “I’ll stop calling you ‘Enemy of the People’ when you start printing crossword puzzles that I can solve.” Guardian setter, Brian Greer, came up with a puzzle that might be suitable.

The cartoon is also commented on in the Guardian Crossword round-up at

And I can recommend Mark Goodliffe’s suggested puzzle at
Word Tips is a very useful website for checking words in Scrabble or crosswords. I have added a link on our Links page. You can test the site at and I would be pleased to hear any comments on it.
It is very encouraging to see a teenager being enthusiastic about cryptic crosswords. 16-year-old Lucy Evans has started compiling crosswords and has set up a website to show her first effort. I think she shows a lot of promise. You can see for yourself at and follow her on Twitter @navy_clues

Best wishes



Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle August 2018

The Unusual Suspects by Phylax

One word should be extracted from each of ten solutions to leave another word (the lengths of the original answers are given). One of each pair is to be entered in the grid, while the omitted words when taken together suggest the title of a detective novel. In the completed grid six names can be found running across or down from the shaded squares; taking both the storyline of the novel and the title of the puzzle into account, solvers must highlight 26 cells appropriately.

The Unusual Suspects PDF

1 Passage of soul music essentially in key (7)
6 Chopper a big one of its kind, women conceded (6)
11 Caught doctor gripping a Scotsman’s throat (5)
13 Judge correctly putting daughter away for a month (4)
14 Cracking on with a rude poem (7)
15 Trap one in California jail (9)
16 Got into shape to prevent grasping scoundrel returning (8)
19 Article covering trial repulsed legal profession (7, two words)
20 Reveal lecturer’s left college (4)
22 Suppose erotic activity is curtailed by cricketer’s protector (5)
24 Attractive young woman losing head after introduction to mobster? (4)
26 Heard criminal admitting ultimate in violent hostility (6)
27 End session with a backing group accorded godlike status (5)
28 Regular letters from Essex girl developing extensive vocabulary (5)
29 Assign another period to class taking English degree (6)
30 Very like elephant’s backside? (4)
31 Dishonestly inflates value of gold surrendered in contrived assault (5)
33 Leading sherpa’s middle secured by use of rope (10)
36 Glaswegian silent initially about his abundant swellings (7)
37 US eradicating a minute plant growing in open country (5)
38 Untraceable van carrying loot from Bulgaria (4)
39 Appropriate time to wake Queen (7)
42 Spending limits imposed upon May? (4)
43 Merkel’s content to shift extra capital from Swiss bank (5)
44 Agricultural implements not about in olden times (6)
45 State of one with will to stretch accepted bounds of criminality (7)

1 Fight leads to strongly contested criminal charge (5)
2 Send back money together with accompanying note (6)
3 Speeches in play offering hint of stabbing on March 15th (5)
4 Unwrapped oils rising French artist’s framed, collected, packed and stored (7)
5 Pavlov’s dogs (say) or cat involved in research (8)
7 Labour seem largely happy with Britain’s exit, showing signs of glorification (8)
8 Smoke coming from the mouth – first sign of curry-related upset? (5)
9 Long to include one burst of embryonic disc (10)
10 Favours someone like me turning up with very large piercing (8)
12 Mother’s tense, clutching back of seat in cars we can’t control ourselves (11)
13 One in tie is put out by hot office (4)
17 Animal cruelty: rare bats wanting a bit of relief (10)
18 Best to understand about protective headgear (6)
21 Yard shunning fresh tip from informant – it could be a hot one! (6)
22 Flares cover broken legs (8)
23 Nicked after lifting apparatus that helps cardiac dilation (8)
25 Fancy no soldier is shy of a little indecent language (8, two words)
32 Daring to hang around laundering money in the US (13)
33 Ignoring pressure to betray drug mule? (4)
34 Suspect utters no end of nonsense in custody (5)
35 Pointed weapon (not over-wide) will pierce skin of honey badger (5)
40 Takes another shot at female antelope in reserve (6)
41 Quick about crowding round opening in train carriage (7)

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

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