Crossword News October 2019

Last month’s Prize Puzzle was Fish Boxes by Urchin. By a process of deduction, solvers had to fill a blank grid in which each box contained the name of two fishes. The bottom lines in the completed grid gave – Say! What a lot of fish there are! Doctor Seuss. Unfortunately, a flaw in the puzzle gave alternative correct solutions, all of which were marked correct.

Several solvers commented on the flaws but here are some of the comments.

Another great puzzle. Plenty of names of fish that I had never come across before and my Chambers complete crossword lists was helpful (but not totally sufficient!). The source for the quotation came relatively easily after boxes 1 and 6 had been completed. Finding out the fish names and rearranging the entries created some interesting hints for solving, and challenges.  A very enjoyable solve. Many thanks indeed.

Wow, what a great construction, amazing to get so much thematic material in the fish boxes with no barred entries. Pretty tough, with box number 2 proving my most difficult. Bravo to Urchin. 

I would note that the puzzle appears to have 12 distinct solutions. This is owing to 6 acceptable arrangements in the upper left block (resulting from the interchangeability of ADNATE, AGILAS, and ALEVIN, which provide the As in ANABAS) and 2 acceptable arrangements in the lower left block (resulting in the interchangeability of ADDING and PIGSNY, which provide the Ns in INANGA).  I'm glad I finished this puzzle in under 72 hours because, as everyone knows, fish (like visitors) stink after 3 days!

Terrific puzzle, ingeniously constructed, and a brilliant idea - thank you, Urchin!  It was extremely tough in several respects - for instance, lots of unfamiliar words, some tricky (but totally fair) clues, having to jumble the down answers etc.  Lovely dash of humour too, with the contrast between the puzzle's level of difficulty and the simply worded quotation from a children's book!  Took me a while to figure out how to go about this.  I had to concentrate hard and maintain focus in order to deduce what went where in each box, using the process of elimination and all the logical thinking power I could muster -  and that was especially challenging in the boxes where I didn't initially have many answers!  My Chambers Crossword Lists came in handy for the fish.

There were 40 entries of which only one was marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Brian Betker, who will soon be receiving a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists.

You still have time to complete the October challenge, Couples by Hoot.

The November Prize Puzzle will be Esso by Vismut. I had the chance to interview Vismut and it went like this.

Where were you born?
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Where do you live?  
North Devon

Where were you at school? 
Tiverton Grammar School, Devon

Any well-known contemporaries there?
Not a contemporary, but yes Don Manley or “Duck”

Did you go to university?    
Warwick, I studied M.O.R.S.E. (Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics)

Did you have a career?
Yes, I was a Chartered Accountant in public practice. I loathed it and gave it up as soon as I possibly could.

Anything else?          
I was finance manager for a charity for a few years.

Anything else?          
I am now an artist and paint oils of the beautiful area I live in (and others), should have done this in the first place, I was never meant to be an accountant.

Do you have any hobbies?  
I played squash for a long time until my legs and lungs wore out.

Any others?  
Reading and gardening, but mostly I have horses. They produce something very good for the roses as well.

Is that it?      
Not quite I am the bell captain at the local church and teach people how to ring the bells. From the horses I already knew about unpredictable things on the end of a rope.

When did you first start writing crosswords?      
About two years ago I submitted a few EV’s and very quickly came to learn about unches and Ximenes. They were all rejected of course, except for one which was published at that time with a great deal of help from Chris Lancaster.

Have you had anymore published?
Yes. Two IQs, Two EVs and one Listener.

I expect you’ve had a lot of help.    
Yes lots, the cruciverbalist community has been extremely generous with its time and very supportive, amazingly so. Going to Grammar school certainly didn’t make me good at grammar that’s for sure.

Why Vismut?                                                
He was my first horse, a beautiful Russian trotter.
The Times Crossword Championship will take place on the 7 December at the News Building in London. Unlike previous years competitors will not have to do preliminary puzzles. Another change is that competitors will be ranked into leagues so that the prizes will be shared, allowing lower ranked solvers to come away with a prize. There is £2500 in prizes spread across three ability ranges. Anyone can enter for a fee of £35 or £30 if you are a Times subscriber. You can get full details here
A year ago, when Mark Goodliffe and Simon Anthony were starting their YouTube channel, Cracking the Cryptic, they had 1000 subscribers, Currently, maybe thanks to their Sudoku videos and the Sandwich Sudoku app, there are over 44,000 subscribers. what a success!
The York Sloggers and Betters meet will take place from the 25th to 27th October. It is always an enjoyable extravaganza of puzzles and quizzes. I am planning to attend the Saturday event at the Fox and Roman. In preparation for a house move I am having to downsize my book collections. With the permission of John Henderson, I will be bringing a box of dictionaries and reference books which I hope to give away, perhaps asking for a small donation towards the running of the Crossword Centre.

You can get all the information at
In London on the 26 October there will be the quarterly meeting of Listener solvers, setters and editors, from about midday onwards at the Sir John Oldcastle in Farringdon.
Alan Connor discusses crossword clues in Nick Hornby’s novella, State of the Union in a recent blog.
In the Crossword Clue Writing Competition, Your challenge for October is a STANDARD CRYPTIC clue to GULES(5) by the closing date of MIDNIGHT BST MONDAY 28th OCTOBER.

Get more information at

Best wishes