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