Crossword News July 2020

Last month our prize puzzle was That’s Life by Flowerman. Extra letters spell MACROMOLECULES followed by A HOMOPHONE OF THIRTY-FIVE and EG AN ENZYME. A homophone of JEANS is GENES, which are composed entirely of the biological macromolecule DNA, a nucleic acid. The other nucleic acid is RNA. Almost all enzymes are PROTEINs.

The CENTRAL DOGMA (of Molecular Biology) is a phrase coined by Francis CRICK. His colleague James WATSON subsequently associated this phrase with a two-step process.

DNA and RNA codons (CODONS obtained from initial letters of normal clues) code for amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. One of 61 different examples* is: AGT (DNA codon) yielding AGU (RNA codon) (by transcription) which induces addition of Serine (SER) (by translation) in the synthesis of a peptide/protein.

*There are 64 possible DNA codons; however, three (STOP codons) do not code for an amino acid.

The title suggests a biological theme. The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology is fundamental to all life on Earth.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Another terrific puzzle from Flowerman! Pretty complex, but so cleverly designed and executed, with the multiple aspects and assigned tasks seamlessly incorporated. And a top-notch set of clues - very witty, great surface readings. Many thanks, Flowerman.

As soon as I saw Flowerman’s name I knew I was in for a science lesson! What initially looked like quite a frightening preamble was actually not too bad in the end. I thought the clues were good with the extra letters in some cases not at all obvious to spot - and I really liked the ‘JEANS/GENES’ clue. The DNA/Crick & Watson theme seems to come up fairly regularly but ‘central dogma’ was new to me. The final part was a step too far for me - I did start looking up codons but it was all getting a bit too advanced for me so I’m glad it was left as an optional highlighting requirement.

This was a tricky solve! Clues were generally 'challenging' and I'm still not confident about my parsing of 24a and 30a and, as a result, I'm not sure what the two non-word elements given by initial letters are. I have lingering doubts about my highlighting of AGT/AGU/SER.......  That aside, the incorporation of a lot of thematic material is impressive in a 12x12 grid and I feel relieved at having arrived at some sort of conclusion!  Thanks to Flowerman for something of a tour de force.

This proved to be a difficult puzzle. There were 37 entries, of which 1 was marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Mark Roberts from Luxembourg. He will be receiving a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary, which was donated by Chambers.

A full solution is available at

You have until 8th August to submit your entry for the July puzzle, What's Here by Vismut

The August Prize Puzzle will be In the Chair by Phylax.
Good news for fans of the Enigma Variations puzzles. After receiving lots of complaints from solvers, the Sunday Telegraph has reversed their decision to stop the EV crosswords. They will now continue after August.
A fan of the Cracking the Cryptic YouTube channel has composed a rap in their honour.

Fans of Cracking the Cryptic can now but t-shirts and mugs at their store
Philip Fine and Kathryn Friedlander have just published a new article looking at the flexible problem-solving ability of solvers. There's a blog here which explains the research in a slightly more approachable style, and contains a link to the academic paper itself.
A video which is well worth watching is Peter Biddlecombe, crossword editor of the Sunday Times and former winner of the Times Crossword Championship, talking about himself and cryptic crosswords in a talk he gave to the Israeli Translators Association. It is now on YouTube -
On the Clue-Writing Competition your challenge for July is a STANDARD CRYPTIC clue to CAESAREAN (9) by the closing date of MIDNIGHT BST SUNDAY 26th JULY.

Hope you are safe and well.
Best wishes