Crossword News November 2020

The October Prize Crossword was Riddles by Gnomie. The riddles came from Puccini’s opera Turandot. Extra letters in the wordplay spelled SHADE FIVE LETTERS THAT CORRECTLY SOLVE THE FINAL RIDDLE. The final solution was the name of the unknown prince, which was CALAF. The first and last lines of Nessun Dorma could be discerned in the grid.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

I have been attempting crosswords for over fifty years but my love of opera has only developed since my retirement.  Turandot with it's famous "Nessum Dorma" is known even to me and I felt thoroughly at home with this puzzle.  That is not to say it was easy.  It was not and some clues were quite challenging but the cluing was always fair.  Thank you Gnomie, this was very enjoyable.

A lovely grid with the thematic clues neatly and relatively easily found, and some nice clueing. I’ve had a bit of a break this year so it is nice to come back to an accessible grid!  Best wishes and thanks as always for a great set of quality and entertaining puzzles

This puzzle let no-one sleep while it was being solved. An interesting theme, well-executed and supported by a well-constructed set of clues. Thanks to Gnomie.

There were 53 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner picked from the electronic hat was Gron Roberts from Neath, who will soon be receiving a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary which was donated by Chambers.

A full solution is available at

Our November challenge is Hoping for a Hat-trick by Yimin, and you have until 8 December to submit your solution.

The Prize Puzzle for December will be our traditional Christmas treat from Eclogue, Seasons Greetings XII.
Regarding the plans for future Listener Crossword dinners, John Henderson and Jane Teather have announced their decisions after comments from those invited.

1. The date for the dinner stays in March, to align with awarding of trophies. So fingers crossed for a dinner in March 2022, probably in Scotland.

2. We will hold an online event in March 2021 for the awards, preferably with winners displaying their trophies on screen (or maybe not — would it spoil the surprise?) and saying a  few words should they choose to do so. Platform to be determined — I (Jane) have been conducting a lot of interviews via Zoom, for example; there’s plenty of technical expertise among our number to suggest alternatives, and we can work out the exact format that will work best. We should be able to sort out the necessary engraving of trophies etc.

3. The online event will focus first on the awards, because some people prefer that and would prefer not to have other distractions. However, others (especially those who don’t live in the UK) would like to make an evening of it (though it may not be evening where they live) and have a quiz etc, maybe with the option of forming virtual teams. We can do that too, if there’s enough support for the idea. We have some experience now of online quizzing.

4. Of course, all this effectively excludes those who prefer not to participate online. So we suggest that this is all reported in something like newsletter format — something with photos of winners, as well as the usual report that is delivered about trends, successful submissions and (…all the bits I normally miss because I’m marking the quiz). No problem with doing that here; it will be circulated to you as a PDF, and mailed to the people who don’t participate online. We’ll welcome contributions, and encourage you to be involved.

5. There will be no formal event in autumn 2021. However, there are local options — we hope that our York Sloggers & Betters 2021 event will take place in October as ‘normal’; and the regular quarterly London Listener get-together continues when possible. We’ll publicise those to this list, as well as any other local events anyone chooses to organise.

The 2021 3D Crossword Calendar is available to order now at It contains puzzles by many Guardian setters: Arachne, Enigmatist, Imogen, Nutmeg, Pasquale, Puck, Qaos, Tramp, Vlad and is an excellent way of donating to charity. Quizmaster Frank Paul has added his illustrations to the calendar with his unique picture clues.
Alan Connor, who writes the weekly crossword blog for the Guardian, has recently published a puzzle book which might be a great gift for Christmas. “The Shipping Forecast Puzzle Book tests your general knowledge and lateral thinking through a series of fiendish puzzles, in which all the answers can be found on the maps as place names on the coasts or in the seas. As you trace out the shape of each journey, you will reveal the shapes of letters, which you use in an endgame that's a whole other level of puzzling.”
When Torquemada published his literary puzzle, Cain’s Jawbone, there were only two readers who solved it correctly. A novel of 100 pages was published with the pages in haphazard order and readers were asked to put them in the correct order to win a prize. A new edition was published last year and again there was a competition. Popular radio comedian, John Finnemore, was the only one to get it right. He is of course, also a crossword setter and has had two Listener crosswords published under the name Emu. The correct solution will not be made public so that others can continue the quest.

In the London Review of Books, Gill Partington, who submitted a solution, also writes about Cain’s Jawbone.

I have updated an article on Torquemada, Edward Powys Mathers, on the blog. You can read it here.
A reminder that on Saturday, November 21, three additional Times Crossword puzzles will go live on the Crossword Club at 10.30am GMT. Solvers will have 90 minutes to complete all three puzzles and will need to submit each puzzle upon completion, as if entering one of the weekend prize puzzles. The solver who completes all three puzzles most accurately and in the quickest time will become the inaugural Times Online Crossword Champion.
After a petition by equality campaigners the Oxford Union Press has edited its dictionary definitions to make them gender neutral and underlining offensive or dated terms.

In other dictionary news, Collins has announced that, unsurprisingly, the 2020 word of the year is “lockdown”.
Kathryn Friedlander has published the second part of her research into how psychology can explain the appeal of cryptic crosswords. You can read it here and at the end of the article there is a link to take part in her survey.
On the Clue-writing Competition the winner of the Printer’s Devilry clue to SEVEN was Andy Smith.

Large chests attract many in the mating game.


This month’s challenge is to compose a clue to SUBMARINE by the closing date of 29 November.

Best wishes