Solution to January 2018 Prize Puzzle

Emperors by Vernon Solution

Emperors by Vernon Solution and Notes 


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

Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle January 2018

Emperors by Vernon

Emperors by Vernon PDF

The numbers give the positions of the first letters of the answers, which are entered in rectangular form in the way indicated by the positions of the numbers within the squares. When the grid is filled highlight both a new entry with a university connection and also its creator.

All the answers, except the proper names and 12, which is in Collins, can be found in Chambers 2014, one of them as part of a phrase.

When the grid is filled highlight both a new entry with a university connection and also its creator. They are entered appropriately.

1 As a rule, queen precedes heavenly body (6)
2 Stay back and get together: maybe sharp fragment (8)
3 A little ditch (4)
4 Question interrupting swell is a bit naughty (6)
5 Brief hesitation for one who may have cramp (6)
6 With the latest systems, problem about Europe’s just beginning (6, hyphenated)
7 Is art a fancy for headdresses? (6)
8 Poet and artist stuck in unruly riots (8)
9 Strangely, not very nervous – is this a mental problem? (8)
10 Recently-grown resin may be regarded thus (8, hyphenated)
11 In Rochester, not old English but American Byzantine Cathedral (8)
12 After the end of elevenses, refill jam (6, two words)
13 Do plan on losing time (4)
14 “Inner coils” dresses? (10)
15 Name who in France is in a pickle? Give up? (10)
16 Representation with rectangles as right half of mosaic fanciful (10)
17 Disciples read about in Conrad’s Nostromo (4)
18 On the radio, empty image (4)
19 Standards contract is accommodating … (6)
20 … but French quarter accommodated soldiers (6)
21 Vast grotesque legs, with intricate lace hiding most of curvature (10, hyphenated)
22 Minus sign so easily lost initially, in retrospect (4)
23 Vigorous salute broadcast (4)
24 Sorted out tangle in rope (8)
25 Type of trap containing a net? (4)
26 Balm of this balsam fir is good, ideal possibly (6)
27 Seaman’s beginning to be entertained by sailor king (4)
28 Second course produced with no recipe ─ stew? (6)
29 Maybe pines for Nice sun — possibly (8)
30 Demolishing the New York Secretariat, maybe (10)
31 Perhaps tune that could be produced by grammar school (4)
32 He “got” revolutionary English poet (6)
33 Journalist associated with Edison strangely biased (8, hyphenated)
34 Time frame problematic for mathematician (6)
35 Rope leading husband to improve, perhaps (6)
36 In comparison university is limited if lively (10)
37 Monkey masquerading as a primate (not a sai) (6)
38 Mistakes about defector are reversed (6)
39 Solitary success includes topless period … (6)
40 … or the end might lead to this (8)
41 Titbit cut in two ─ in this shop? (4)
42 In ascent or descent stage luvvies return (4)
43 Tenor looks round and fades away (6)

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

Crossword News December 2017

Crossword News December 2017

Last month’s Prize Puzzle was A Setter’s Tragedy by Wan. The theme is based on the phrase DEUS EX MACHINA where in some old plays a god was brought on stage from a machine, either from above or below, to solve a problem in a plot. It was deemed so contrived that the phrase has come to mean a contrived solution. In the puzzle two D’s (Deus for god) are to be either dropped or raised from machines to resolve the clashes. Being that there are two from each machine DEI EX MACHINA has to be highlighted. The word ‘machine’ is missing from the definition of six clues.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Another superbly crafted, challenging and entertaining puzzle (with great clues) by Wan, who I think is one of the best setters out there.  Thank you, and best wishes.

Moving four gods to resolve the clashes was a neat trick.  Dei ex machina was spotted early on, but identifying ‘machine’ as the thematic word took time.  ON-DIT (rumour) with the E from EROTIC led me to ONE-ARMED BANDIT as a fruit machine.  I wonder how others got there.  Many thanks to Wan, I liked especially Butcher’s short of good blade.

In my opinion four non-words in the final grid make this a suspect puzzle and it remains a setter’s tragedy.

There were only 24 entries, of which one was marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Tony Harker of Oxford, who will soon be receiving a book from the Chambers range.

A full solution with notes is available at

You still have time to complete and post your entry for Eclogues Christmas teaser, Seasons Greetings IX.

We will start 2018 with a fascinating puzzle. Emperors by Vernon will be published at the end of the month. Our pipeline is desperately empty and it may be that there may be months without a prize puzzle in the new year. We have relied on the good will of setters for 17 years to maintain a series of free crosswords but, as Brian Head has also found, there seems to be a dearth of thematic crosswords at the moment.
Galen Fott has become obsessed with the crossword puzzles created by Stephen Sondheim in the New York Magazine in 1968 -69. He has meticulously tracked them down and collected them on his blog. These are superb puzzles and you can access them at
Eric Westbrook has kindly sent me some 3D calendars and these will be given out as prizes on the Crossword Centre and the Clue-Writing Competition. These are beautiful calendars with a puzzle for every month of 2018.

In memory of legendary grid constructor Ray Parry Morris (“45”), who died earlier this year, there is a £100 prize for December’s beautifully clued 3D Calendar crossword:

3D Crosswords

To download the puzzle, click ‘Dec’ in the first (‘Puzzle’) line of 2017.

To submit your entry, click click ‘Dec’ in the second (‘Answer Grid’) line of 2017.
The Guardian crosswords editor has news for fans of the late Araucaria.

Plans for a church plaque in John Graham’s honour are in train

As many of you will remember, our revered and self-effacing crossword setter Araucaria (John Graham) died four years ago in November 2013. For the last part of his life he lived in the Cambridgeshire village of Somersham, where he continued to play an active role as a priest whenever asked to do so. So it is hugely fitting that the Somersham Parochial Church Council has now given John’s family permission to put up a plaque in the village church to honour his memory.

The cost of making and erecting the plaque will be of the order of £1,000. If any of his friends and admirers would like to contribute to this project, they can do so by sending a cheque to John’s brother, Stephen Graham, at Flint Lodge, Barrow Hill, Goodworth Clatford, Andover, Hampshire SP11 7RF, marking the envelope ‘Araucaria’, or by sending money directly to Stephen at Lloyds Bank (sort code 30-90-21, account number 00920608), with the reference ‘Araucaria’.
An annual online Christmas quiz to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, set by Araucaria’s spritely younger brother (aged 90). The way it works is that, having gone to  you give online as indicated whatever sum you want to Alzheimer’s and then a free copy of the quiz will be sent to you, plus instructions on how to enter. There are some prizes and an entry deadline of 16 January, but the main point is to provide some gentle fun for you and yours over the festive period.
As we approach the end of 2017 I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to keeping the Crossword Centre running, in particular, my testers Frank and John and the managers of the Clue-writing competition, John and Robert.

I am looking forward to family get-togethers this Christmas and solving my favourite seasonal crosswords.

I shall be back in January with more news and, hopefully, the name of this year’s winner of the Crowther Cup.

Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


Crossword Centre Prize Puzzle December 2017

Seasons Greetings IX by Eclogue

Seasons Greetings IX by Eclogue PDF version

Each clue contains a misprint in the definition. Correct letters in clue order spell out how to resolve clashes along with further instructions. Solvers must complete these and highlight the clued light that identifies the outcome. Enumerations refer to grid entries.

1 Match probationary trial (7)
7 Mariner with attention to local fact (5)
12 With lugs cut up, pirate duel played out (9)
13 Senior citizen caught out after (5)
14 Decoy char for char that’s shy (4)
15 Recognise Kӧchel phase (4)
16 Makes rudd negotiate separate stream initially (7)
17 Leave together with present company leading (5)
18 Maybe guitarists clutch one for you we hear – males could improve edges with these (7)
20 See renegade escort burns aircraft (6)
24 Botswanan cast majority of influence on Australia (4)
27 Coper, perhaps, stuffing warehouse receipts (4)
28 Rack deposits in banks like annual return (4)
29 Idalian native, a poet after Solomon’s heart (5)
31 Fun shines, twinkles and radiates first and foremost (4)
33 Certainly succeeded in getting Turkish means of fudging measures (4)
35 Special mixture’s without current line (4)
36 Notice injury initially accidental for son? (6)
37 Knotted strong tie in grafting arrangement of ribbons (7)
40 Perhaps rundled dairy-maid returns after sex? (5)
43 Freedom of movement in strong adder (7)
44 Roll last of crapulent – dead drunk (4)
45 Fib in Mississippi, say, starts to become rife, easily repeated (4)
46 Tall nurse to do service no longer (5)
47 It may be set to turn over on daily transport (9, two words)
48 What could make twice Pepsi’s allowance in part? (5)
49 Pits in orbs, perhaps, with son developing herpes (7)


1 With little from the south, Spanish capo slaps Arab angrily (13, two words)
2 Euros (160) underneath porch (5)
3 Twee shrew laid over nurse-maid (6)
4 Stocks are deployed on these subsidiary reels (6, two words)
5 Carve roast cohos (4)
6 Armada to bless female fighter in corrido (7)
8 Makes dual set sob uncontrollably (6)
9 Perhap sign English study (4)
10 Expert runs mazes, perhaps (4)
11 Gorgon’s ballet inclines prince to cruel woman (13, two words)
12 Blast in Colombia aboard Bogota piragua (4)
19 Jock’s to order strange upturned cloak from Jonathan (5)
21 Painter of flag objects twice entering canal (5)
22 Mates referring to the whole of books in ciphers (4)
23 Quits with regard to Alabama (4)
25 Second hard Unionist poet’s affirmed (4)
26 Thin section of salsa, say, initially leaves avocados tasting hot (4)
30 Logos’ old bits of gold melted in sideroom (7)
32 Spanish aunt follows Rachel to old Roman tratt (6)
34 Exercise in living one’s own life obtained in ramshackle pier (6)
35 Ascent affected altitude (6)
38 Flag hard language of Maya, say (4)
39 One may note dropping aitch when ‘e first ordered menu (5)
41 Be out of it occasionally giving drunken hug (4)
42 Send eels mostly survive empty net within… (4)
43 … large snakes catching eels initially avoiding meetings (4)

To enter this competition, send your entry as an image or in list format giving the highlighted word and a clear description of the final grid to before 8th January 2018. The first correct entry drawn from the hat will receive a book donated by  Chambers.

Crossword News November 2017

Crossword News November 2017

Last month our Prize Puzzle was J MILTΘN by Flowerman. Theme: The theme is SI (Systeme International d’unités), ie, the International System of units. This is to be deduced by determining the four letter abbreviation BIPM, a body associated with SI and with confirmation coming from the presence of six of the 20 standard SI prefixes in the completed grid. To be highlighted for submission are the six prefixes, plus the symbols for all seven SI base units. Title: J MILTΘN is a listing, in no particular order, of the official symbols for the seven dimensions linked to the SI. (Nothing to do with the poet or any other person.) J = Luminous intensity, M = mass, I = electric current, L = length, T = Time, Θ = thermodynamic temperature, N = amount of substance.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

An interesting choice of subject from Flowerman. Familiarity with SI units and prefixes certainly helped. J, mil, and ton all units of one kind or another, so a hint to the theme – was the Ø there to indicate the theme wasn’t as simple as the poet? Some fun clues, like 21 down for URIC. Should 17 across have had a ? or a perhaps? The ‘bent’ NANO was a little clumsy, and I was nearly caught out by the ‘bent’ MOL under the block, fortunately I finally managed to count to 6 correctly. Overall a fun puzzle, thanks to Flowerman.

The six thematic elements I’ve highlighted are EXA, PETA, TERA, ATTO, PICO, and NANO (the latter appearing in an L-shaped form).  I’ve also highlighted the seven SI base units (mol, cd, kg, A, s, K, m), which the BIPM has a role in maintaining.  Nice theme for a puzzle, and enjoyable solving!

I felt a little strange solving a puzzle where something must be removed from 12 clues before solving but the other 50 are normal. Most of the time I assumed clues were normal and only realised that they weren’t when I had enough checking letters to guess the answer, and the two things being spelled out were so short and the clues producing the letters so spaced out that there wasn’t much opportunity to solve a clue knowing that it must produce a particular letter in a particular way.  I couldn’t have named the seven SI base units off the top of my head, but I think I had seen a list of them once. I could see mol,cd,kg in the grid easily enough but I had to consult a list to be confident about the single letter ones. I was more sure about the prefixes and found them all without help. I noticed that DECA can be traced (not in a straight line) starting from the cell numbered 29, but I think that NANO must be the intended one.  I bothered me for a long time that I couldn’t make sense of the title. How glad I was when I eventually read the ‘SI base unit’ article on Wikipedia. I had noticed earlier that the current director of BIPM is Martin J. T. Milton but I was sure there had to be a reason the title was all capitals and contained a theta.

The puzzle proved to be tricky with only 18 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Gron Roberts, who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers.

A full solution and explanation is available at

This month you still have lots of time to complete A Setter’s Tragedy by Wan.

For Decenber I am delighted to announce that we shall have the 9th Christmas special from Eclogue. Seasons Greetings IX will be published on 30 November.
In the Times Crossword Championship favourite Mark Goodliffe was the winner for a record 11th time. The final results are available here

An article in the Times gives more details.
It’s that time of the year when I ask you to give to charity by buying a 3D calendar. Eric Westbrook has sent me this reminder.

Thank you to the many CWC members who made a sound investment in young people last year by solving some 3D crosswords in our puzzle calendar for BBC Children in Need Appeal and RNIB. Your injection of enthusiasm and funds helped RNIB to open the new hydrotherapy facility at RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning. Thank you so much.

The BBC Children in Need Appeal World Championship 3D Crosswords Puzzle Calendar 2018 is not just a snappy title.

It’s an extremely posh calendar with beautiful photographs and art work.

It also has twelve delightful satisfying puzzles in a unique series of monthly three-dimensional prize crosswords set in the frame of a calendar. Eleven elite crossword setters plus one from another star system, have lent their genius to BBC CiNA and RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning, for nothing other than the crack of producing a world-class work of crossword art and to help youngsters in need.

Every single penny of the £12.99 investment in young people will be split equally between the two charities.

The 3D project is supported by at least monthly newsletters with competition results, solver feedback along with clues and explanations of puzzles. Newcomers are most welcome and will find the Hints & Tips for each puzzle reassuring whilst getting used to the new medium. More experienced solvers find them invaluable!

Come join us and help youngsters in need … at the expense of some fun for the grown-ups.

You could be the next 3D Crosswords World Champion.
The popular BBC quiz show, Only Connect, is looking for contestants for the next series. You can apply as a team of three or as an individual. Applications must be in by the 12th December. To request an application form you must email:
Richard Heald let me know about a new book that sounds interesting. He says –

Stuck for Xmas gift ideas? Look no further than THE ALAN TURING CODEBREAKER’S PUZZLE BOOK, a collection of well over 200 mostly word-based puzzles (many of them composed by crosswording folk, myself included), available now at The Works for the bargain price of £4 (normal price £9.99). It’s a charitable enterprise with profits going to The Turing Trust, which provides reconditioned computers for schools in Africa, so please support this worthy cause.
Another book which has been highly praised is the Cryptic Pub Quiz by Frank Paul. It certainly is on my wish list for Christmas.

Best wishes