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