Crossword News January 2019

Our Christmas puzzle was Seasons Greetings X by Eclogue. With a grid in the shape of a Christmas tree the solver had to guess 5 unclued seasonal entries and highlight one down entry. Eclogue used the X in the title to give a tribute to Ximenes and the down light was his full name – Derrick Somerset Mcnutt. Here are some of the comments from solvers.

What a lovely puzzle!  It has kept me enthralled, off and on, all week.  I found the cold solving (with no clue lengths) to be a challenge and could not fathom them all.  However, working with the three clued nine-letter answers, I found that there was only one possible arrangement for them.  This gave me the start that I was fearful of ever making. Completion of the grid then followed fairly swiftly, along with the answers that had previously eluded me.  A great sense of satisfaction. Thank you for a first-class puzzle.

I found it quite tough to get started (lack of answer lengths makes such a difference!) but gradually I made a start on filling the grid. I suspected that the longest entries would be unclued - and so it proved. It took a while to get the ‘trunk’ of the tree (and it’s only now that I realise that it’s Ximenes’ real name - presumably in reference to the ‘X’ of the title). All in all good fun - and looking forward to 2019’s offering!

This was a really fun solve. Totally tough, and easier as things started coming together in the grid. Then totally stumped by the word pattern for Ximenes’ real name, until inspiration struck! I was led to your website by your hosting of the 3d crossword for December. I shall be returning.

This proved to be one of Eclogue’s toughest Christmas puzzles with only 32 entries, of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Jack Nichols, who will soon be receiving a prize of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists, which was donated by Chambers.

A full solution is available at

You still have plenty time to complete the January Prize Puzzle, One to Ten by Chalicea.

The February Prize Puzzle will be Side to Side by Nod.

The pipeline is quite bare so any submissions would be welcomed.
We also ran one of Eric Westbrook’s 3D puzzles. Here is his report.

‘In Search of a Hero’ by Sirius

 The CWC November Special with a prize of £100 was won by Peter Cargill of Kirkcaldy, Fife. Excellent solving!! The £100 was provided by generous backgammon opponents and not from our charitable fundraising.

The puzzle was reasonably accessible in the early stages, with acceleration when the theme was discovered, and then tough to complete. Very well done to those solvers with full solutions.

Feedback included:

Some great clues, I love Seven Dials (grids), and the conventional clueing envelope pushed back from time to time. AC

A very interesting compilation. Ingenious, difficult, but ultimately satisfying. Many thanks to Sirius for a very clever puzzle. EL

Thanks again for a wonderful puzzle, (which) I enjoyed immensely!......

 …. that Namibia idiom (‘old women with clubs’) had me scratching my head for the longest time...... J

Most enjoyable with some very clever and devious clues. PD

Once I realised what was going on, I loved the asterisked clues particularly 15di “Loving Shepherd” changing to "Shoving leopard" and hence PAROLED: and 4d Put away butterfly with “toe nail” leading to "no tail" and then SWALLOW(tail). AJR

 I am grateful for this considered review:

The title tells us that we are ‘In Search of a Hero’ and we are invited to highlight the hero as he appears in the grid. Unlike most 3D puzzles in the BBC Children in Need Appeal 3D puzzle calendar, clues are not presented in alphabetical order of their solutions. Also, seven asterisked clues require thematic adjustment before they can be solved fully and correctly.


 I am a great fan of Sirius and his sometimes quirky cluing. So, I was very much looking forward to this solve. Where to start? A look through the clues showed that six of them made reference to the solution to clue 42 - so well worth some early solving effort. I managed to get the two L’s and this plus the first word of the clue ‘Tell of desire ….’ led me to think of William Tell and together with Descartes famous I think therefore ‘I am’ confirmed WILLIAM as the 42 in question. Shakespeare, I presumed? Wrongly it turned out. Tackling the axis of the discs led to NOO and SPUR which seemed very ordinary!

After making progress generally but not with the asterisks, nor the ’42’s’, I made a big effort with Clue 19 and the anagram of ‘orphan airing wit’ which led to “ROARING WITH PAIN” and there and then, and truly rewarding it was, the penny dropped! POURING WITH RAIN, so we have spoonerisms. Our unlikely hero is William Spooner himself and the axis is a Spooner spoonerism, NOOSPUR, and not at all ordinary. Thus inspired, back to the asterisked clues; Clue 4 is a likely contender “put away butterfly with toe nail” Clearly ‘no tail’ replaces toe nail which leads to SWALLOW(tail) which is ‘put away’. Thereafter, relatively straightforward but not without difficulty; some of both the asterisked and ’42’ clues were really quite testing. My favourite asterisked clue was Clue 41 ‘forwards a pack of lies (lack of pies) in many a harsh ferment’ - SCRUM(pies).

 And so to two delightful and quirky clues to finish with: Clue 33 ‘No circuit breaker. That’s handy!’ leading to OF USE - zero fuse! and Clue 1 ‘Pull plug on runt’ leading to TURN OFF - telling us to anagram turn to get runt.  AG

Why not come and join us in this fascinating 3D crossword project? Puzzles are actually free to download and we will mark your solutions in prize competitions. We will also invite you to consider investing in young people in need by buying our virtual calendar of twelve monthly puzzles. It would be great to have you with us.

Eric Westbrook

A solution is available at

Eric was interviewed by Alan Connor in a recent Guardian blog

Friends of Eric will be pleased to learn that his recent treatment has been effective and the prostate cancer is in remission.
John Nicholson is managing our next Round Robin crossword. He posted this on the message board.

If you would like to take part in the next round robin please drop me an email ( All clues are normal and answers will be allocated in the order that I have them on a list.

I put names in the credits unless told otherwise, so please say if you would rather that I use your setter’s pseudonym.

Since then the response has been wonderful as usual and already three-quarters of the clues have been allocated. If you would like to take part do drop John an email.
On a sad note, Colin Gumbrell has announced on Twitter that he is retiring from crossword setting due to ill health. Colin has been entertaining solvers of the Observer’s Everyman crossword in recent years. He has set puzzles in other publications but notably, as Columba in the Spectator. We send him good wishes. His clever puzzles will be missed.
The new edition of Cain’s Jawbone by Torquemada is entering its final stages. The cover drawing has been revealed and subscribers will be receiving their copy in a box. As the book was published with the pages in random order, with a competition and a prize for the first person to find the correct order, the box will contain 100 separate pages. Subscribers will have their name printed in the box but the list of names will close on 20 January.
Our increasingly popular clue-writing competition has a new word to clue for January. Write a clue to PINK and enter at Everyone who receives this email has the right to enter. If you have never entered before it may take a day or so before your name is added to the list of members.

Best wishes