Crossword News May 2016

The March Prize Puzzle was Exchange IV by Regson. The theme of the puzzle is the 1983 movie, “Trading Places”. Extra letters in 13 clues give MURPHY and AYKROYD. Exchanging the symmetrical cells, H in TORAHS and N in SNOOTS results in new words, with the roles of MURPHY and AYKROYD, VALENTINE and WINTHORPE, running diagonally in parallel through the puzzle.There is a full solution at

Here are some of the comments on a highly rated puzzle. 

Thanks to Regson for an enjoyable puzzle that fell into place quite quickly, though the theme held out until almost the very end. There were a couple of clues where minor subsidiary indications (like archaic words) looked like they could be indicating an extra letter, but everything parsed satisfactorily in the end. The ‘Trading Places’ theme makes nice use of the ‘exchange’ idea.

While there were a good number of easy clues, there were enough trickier ones and some uncommon words among the answers, making this a decent challenge. I actually spotted the potential for Valentine and from that the symmetrically placed Winthorpe before getting the Murphy/Aykroyd pairing so it was Wiki to the rescue. Now reading of the parallels with the Prince and the Pauper, Twain should have been a clue. Thanks to Regson

The puzzle was very enjoyable and I am pleased that there was not too much grid-staring to do in order to complete it.  I have to say that I am not familiar with the film but the names provided by the extra letters (and Wikipedia) helped enormously.  Thank you.  I enjoyed it very much. 

There were 50 entries of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Dale Johannesen from Saratoga CA who will be receiving a prize from Chambers. 

The Prize Puzzle for April was Wild Goose Chase by Harribobs. This was a tough chase but in the end there only remained four letters in the grid, spelling NENE, a type of goose! 

Here are some of the comments. 

What an amazing masterpiece!  If we had a puzzle of the year, this would almost certainly be it.  I found many of the clues very hard to solve, but got enough information to understand the theme, so that there was no need to solve the remaining clues.  But then I did manage to complete the initial grid because of the extra information now available.  Many thanks and congratulations to all concerned.

 I expected an April Fool to be the last message but got just a goose). The clue solving and starting of the grid fill were very difficult and took a few hours but the long series of games at the end was highly amusing. To hide 25 words in the clues and solutions is quite an achievement. Bravo Harribobs!

 Following the instructions was a bit like ‘Pass the Parcel’, and I did wonder how many wrappings there were going to be, but it wasn’t too long before I reached the goose.

There were many good clues, not particularly hard in themselves, but cold-solving made them seem so.  The succession of hidden instructions in clue answers and clues must have created problems for grid construction and clue-writing, so congratulations to Harribobs on a very fine achievement.
There were 55 entries, of which 7 were marked incorrect mainly for selecting NANA as the goose. The winner, picked electronically, was Bob Chapman who will be receiving a prize donated by Chambers.

 There is a full solution at

 The maths special for April was Head Transplants by MatriX. This was a superb exercise in logical thinking. Although I have had many requests for more maths crosswords the entry was only 19 submissions, of which one was marked incorrect.

 Here are some of the comments.

 In its way another masterpiece, so cleverly constructed.  The information provided in the clues seemed to offer an enormous number of possibilities, suggesting hours of grappling with trials and errors, but after a while the solutions became unique or nearly so.  The main trouble, as with a numerical puzzle we had a while ago, was keeping a clear sight of the difference between the clue answers and the grid entries - a brain-teaser if ever there was one, nearly a brain-buster!  Many thanks again.

As I’ve said before, I’m pleased to see a numbers puzzle on the Crossword Centre web site.  Head Transplants was a first-class puzzle, an interesting theme making the puzzle quite challenging but with a clear, logical path through to a successful conclusion.  I’m always impressed by how setters like MatriX can design puzzles that are challenging but for which there is a logical path for completion.  Most enjoyable and satisfying; please pass my thanks on to MatriX for a fine puzzle (and I appreciated the phrase “anagrams differ from the number itself”).

Arithmetic crosswords can prompt groans, and it may be easy to forget the poor setter's lot.  Unlike cryptic puzzles, clues can't be written in isolation but have to work together and produce a unique solution (and goodness knows how much effort is expended on checking the latter).  Solvers also have to be given an entry into the puzzle.  Here, many clues (2d with 6a; 3a, 8a, 1d and 11d) yielded one solution for two entries: in Oyler's recent puzzles a combination of fewer clues produced a small set of possibilities.   The complication of head-swapping sounded daunting but ultimately helped the solver.    Many thanks to MatriX.

 The lucky winner was Matthew Auger who will soon be receiving a prize donated by the Crossword Centre.

 There is a full solution at

 The May Prize Puzzle is See Trevor's meaning of toil by Nudd. The PDF version was welcomed by many and I shall continue to make one available for future puzzles. Thank you for everyone who shared the link on FaceBook and Twitter, It meant that a lot more people accessed the puzzle.

The June puzzle will be A Short Time to Set by Wan. Wan was voted the top setter in the Magpie poll for 2015 so you will be in for a pleasurable test.

 We are approaching the end of our pipeline and would welcome new submissions from setters old and new. Maybe some of my friends who promised puzzles at the Listener dinner will oblige.

Statistics for our Prize Puzzles last year are now avaiable. Apologies for the delay in offering this, but if anybody would like details of their personal record for 2015, please email Robert Teuton,

Kathryn Friedlander has released the results of her research into crossword solving. Many of you have taken part in her surveys. She says,

"The article itself has two purposes: first to explain what cryptic crosswords are to a US audience (which always assumes that any reference to crosswords refers to their own definitional puzzle!); and secondly to try to establish a new methodological approach in the performance/expertise field. We’re suggesting that a good place to start is by characterizing the people engaged in a performance area, so you really get to know what ‘floats their boat’; surprisingly, this isn’t the normal approach.

Thanks to your help, we gathered a great deal of information about people who solve cryptic crosswords across the whole spectrum of solving achievement (whether casual hobbyist, speed solver, Listener solver or professional setter). The questions we asked covered a wide range of topics such as education, degree subject, occupation, hobbies and motivation for solving, so there’s lots to ponder.

You can read the full article Cryptic Crossword Research by Kathryn Friedlander and Philip Fine, at

where you also have the opportunity to download it as a PDF. It certainly is fascinating reading.

Paul Henderson has published the 2015 APEX puzzle and the results. Congratulations to Ross Beresford for his winning clue. If you want to try the puzzle or see the results try this link.


The story of plagiarism in US crosswords continue with an apology from the company involved and the suspension of their crossword editor for three months. Read more at

Now USA Today has permanently severed ties with the longtime editor of its crossword puzzle, Timothy Parker, after allegations of plagiarism by Parker were investigated by FiveThirtyEight.
Neither USA Today nor any publication owned by its parent company, Gannett, will run puzzles edited by Parker, the company said on Monday. Parker, a 56-year-old crossword constructor and editor, began editing the USA Today Crossword 13 years ago this month.

In the May edition of the CROSSWORD magazine, editor Brian Head has stated that in the next edition there will be more clarification on the issue and, perhaps, a way of maintaining the publication.

Chambers have given me a hint that there will not be a new edition of the dictionary until 2018 at the earliest.

Best wishes