Crossword News March 2020

The February Puzzle was Underdog by Chalicea. The grid evoked the sawpit used by boat-builders on the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush. The 'underdog' amid the sawdust, came off worst. Solvers had to highlight the tool - the WHIPSAW.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Another fine crossword from Chalicea not too taxing but very interesting. Underdog meaning was completely new to me. The Bennett part I couldn't satisfactorily explain as Google did not help much. I look forward to explanation with solution.

Nothing too unpleasant, and I enjoyed the little constructed story. I did make it harder for my self by looking for the tool only in the bottom 3 lines, beneath Lhasa Apso, or “under the dog” if you will. I did eventually broaden my search and came up with the whipsaw.  Many thanks to Chalicea for the challenge.

Spent quite a lot of time searching for a tale about 2 boatbuilders before deciding it was just the sawpit Chalicea was seeking to educate us about. Good, as always. Thanks to her.

There were 56 entries, of which 17 were marked incorrect (often for entering COME instead of CAME). The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Tim King, who will shortly be receiving his prize of a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary, which was donated by the publishers.

A full solution is available at

You still have time to solve and submit your entry for the March Prize Puzzle, Rare Achievements by Hedge-sparrow.

The April Prize Puzzle will be our twelfth Round Robin crossword with a theme conceived by Ian Simpson, a grid perfected by John Nicholson and clues written by over 30 volunteers. As usual we ask solvers to vote for their favourite clue and there will be a prize for the writer of the winning clue.

For the first time in 20 years I had to miss the Listener Setter’s Dinner, due to fears about the Coronavirus pandemic. I am grateful to everyone who contacted me with details of the event in Ettington, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

 The winner of the Radix Auditorum claret jug was Jon Lewis, who first entered with #4557 and has submitted 25 of the last 30 puzzles, with 20 correct.

Currently top of the consecutive All-Correct rankings, on 319, is Neil Talbott (Elint); he’s followed by Richard Foden (Artix) on 190, Julian West (Arepo) on 165, Peter Blayney on 157 and Nigel Gavin on 152. The Solver Silver Salver passed from Richard Foden to Julian West, who gave a review of the year’s puzzles in the style of Oscar awards, before announcing the finalists for the Ascot Gold Cup for Best Puzzle.

The shortlisted puzzles, based on recommendations from all of the all-correct solvers, were: From Where I’m Standing by Emu, G by Xanthippe, Folio by Nebuchadnezzar, Bright Spark by Shark, Well-spoken by Miles, Striving by Twin and Transformers by Yorick. Julian whittled these down to Well-spoken and Folio, finally awarding the prize to Nebuchadnezzar.

It is hoped that the next dinner will be held in Scotland
The death of Guardian crossword setter, Gordius was announced this month. Gordius was the pseudonym of the Rev. David Moseley and you can read his obituary in the Guardian.
It is sad, also, to note the passing of John McKie, the brains behind the Wee Stinker, the ingenious crossword that appeared in Scotland’s Herald newspaper.
Mark Goodliffe and Simon Antony have had huge success with their YouTube channel Cracking the Cryptic since they started tackling sudokus. They now have over 75,000 subscribers. Following the huge success of their Sandwich Sudoku app they have recently created a Chess Sudoku app. Presented by Cracking The Cryptic, YouTube’s most popular Sudoku channel, comes a new game that connects two of the world’s biggest mind games: Chess and Sudoku! Simon describes the app as follows.

How does Chess Sudoku work? Well we’ve taken the classic sudoku game everyone knows and loves and created puzzles with chess-related twists! There are three different types of puzzles in the game: Knight Sudoku; King Sudoku and Queen Sudoku (coming after launch as a free update!). In Knight Sudoku, in addition to the normal rules of sudoku (no repeated digit in a row/column/3x3 box) a digit must not appear a chess knight’s move away from itself. This simple extra restriction introduces lots of clever additional logic that makes the puzzle even more interesting!

Simon Anthony is now giving a daily lesson in cracking the clue of the day from the Times crossword. It is a one-minute lesson every day. You can follow crackingthecryptic on Instagram
The Guardian has published a crossword app which gives subscribers access to 15000 puzzles, crosswords, sudokus and other brainteasers. Solvers will be able to join forces remotely to crack a puzzle with the app’s “play together” feature. They can also play against the clock, brag about their mental agility by sharing how quickly they solved a grid, and even cheat by revealing the answers (though not on prize puzzles). And all this for £3.49 a month (or £32.99 a year). Find out more at
Richard Heald informs me that there are still places available for the special lunch to mark Azed's 2,500th puzzle that's due to take place at Wolfson College, Oxford, however the date has been put forward provisionally to Saturday 26 September. The price is £55 per head, which will include a three-course meal plus wine, followed by afternoon tea at Azed's home close to the college.  Further details and a booking form can be obtained by emailing him at
Due to a problem with WordPress, I am experimenting with a new blog. Expect some changes soon.

Stay safe