Crossword News July 2016

 The Prize Puzzle for July was A Short Time to Set by Wan. This proved to be a tough nut to crack and it was obvious that some solvers did not realise the theme of the puzzle. Letters which moved up from clue to clue gave CONSTRUCT SUM OF MODIFIED ENTRIES, which was an instruction for solvers to rearrange the top row to show SPACE STATION. The entries that were modified were parts of the International Space Station.

 Here are some of the comments.

 Real quality from last year's top Magpie setter, thanks.  The solving was very tough indeed but there is no harm in that is there.  Thanks to Wan.

Evidently, a great deal of effort and ingenuity was devoted to setting the puzzle, not least in writing precise clues.  Many thanks to Wan. What was required in the submission was not quite clear.  The modified entries can be used to build a schematic of the International Space Station - with PIRS (the airlock) doing duty for its parent service module Zvesda (Star) which does not appear among the modified entries.  So, have a schematic, as well as a grid! Perhaps the rising letters were to be re-arranged to form SPACE (A Short Time) STATION (to Set)?  In which case, INTERNATIONAL is missing - perhaps appropriate given the EU Referendum result! No matter the requirement, a very clever idea indeed.

Wan's puzzle is brilliant and totally absorbing.  Very challenging though - it's taken me all month to complete it, with much trial and error, especially at first!  Not sure I would have figured out the significance of those 12 words without Google - I typed them in, and up popped the space station.

For me, a record was smashed in attempting this puzzle.  The time taken before the first answer was revealed - 2 hours!

There were 30 entries of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Andie Johnson who will be receiving a prize donated by Chambers. A full solution is available at

 We were also able to publish a referendum special, The Playing Fields of Eton by Shackleton. Cleverly devised, this puzzle had two solutions. You could either have DAVID CAMERON in the grid and highlight REMAIN or BORIS JOHNSON and highlight BREXIT.

Before the polls closed solvers were asked to show their preference. The results were:

BREXIT - 13 votes

REMAIN: 31 votes

Clearly our solvers did not reflect the opinions of the British electorate.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

I made this harder on myself by not realizing there was 2 possible answers for each of the nine. After filling in 5-6 of them I was stumped as to what word could be made from the letters I had. The penny didn't drop until a careful rereading of the preamble and the choosing of the letters line was read and understood. This helped my get 24D and subsequently 37A which I thought would the clues besting me. But the reveal beforehand of the centre line just had me in awe of the ability of Shackleton. To get so many words, with the correct alternative spellings so as to fit the same vague enough subsidiary definitions, was simply outstanding. Kudos and extremely well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the reveal was one of the most satisfying a-ha moments I've had in a long while.

Before I had worked out what was appearing the the central row I thought 23d was COCKNEY/MOCKNEY. I couldn't find JOCKNEY in Chambers and thought that maybe this is because I don't have the latest edition, but I looked in my older copies and it seems that it was removed between the 10th and 11th editions.

There were 59 entries of which 6 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner was Vicky Porter who will soon be receiving a prize supplied by the Crossword Centre. A full solution is available at

This month the Prize Puzzle is Pending Solution by Chalicea. You have until 8th August to send your entry.

 The August Prize Puzzle will be Hacked Off by Nutmeg, one of our most popular setters.

There is still a need for puzzles for the autumn. In the meantime, watch out for a possible Round Robin to be announced soon.

You may have seen this on our message board.

I am working for a small company in Cambridge (UK) that is looking to conduct informal one-to-one interviews (ideally face-to-face) with people who enjoy crosswords. Each session is expected to take 30 to 45 mins - you will be reimbursed up to £40 for your time.

The purpose of the research is for us to firstly understand users current behaviours with crosswords.

Secondly, we'll ask you for feedback on a new crossword-solving product, so that we can understand what needs to be improved.

The research session is expected to start mid-July.

If the above is of interest, can you please complete our short questionnaire so we can determine if the product would be suitable for you:

Best wishes