Crossword News September 2018

Last month our Prize Puzzle was The Unusual Suspects by Phylax. The words removed are CAPON (15a), RED (16a), RED (26a), RED (29a), KIPPER (33a), RED (2d), SILD (4d), BUCKLING (32d), RED (40d) and BRIT (41d). These suggest 'The Five Red Herrings', a detective novel by Dorothy L Sayers. The names to be found in the completed grid are SARAH, CRAIG, SIR ALEX, STACY, JOHN and HARRY; the killer in the book is JOHN Ferguson, so the other five Fergusons (The Unusual Suspects) are 'red herrings' and should therefore be highlighted in that colour. Solvers should be aware that other colours were marked correct.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

As a big reader of detective fiction I had to give it a go and I was really pleased that I did. I thought the clues were all of an excellent standard (I think ‘ISLE’ is my favourite) and whilst the 10 ‘special’ clues were a bit trickier I got there in the end. The endgame held me up for a while - I was convinced that the 6 first names had to have the 6 surnames of the 6 suspects from the book attached to them. ’Sir Alex’ had so obviously to be ‘Ferguson’ that I discounted this from the others and spent quite some time on the internet looking for famous ‘Farrens’, ’Strachans’ etc! I think ‘Sarah Waters’ was the best I could find.  The penny finally dropped when I thought of ’Sarah Ferguson’ and then wondered if they could all be ‘Fergusons’ - et voila!  So I’ve highlighted the 5 ‘red herrings’ - and hopefully that’s correct. My only criticism is I’ve never read the book - and now I know whodunit it seems like I never will!

I thought The Unusual Suspects was of an even higher standard than normal.  I have scribbled at the top of my page "some cracking clues", mainly due to the perfect and perfectly misleading surface readings.  If I had to pick out one, it would be 39a => TROUSER; it made me giggle.  Maybe of interest to Phylax: before I realised that the theme was D L Sayers's novel, 10d had me going for ages. When I saw SETTER as part of the answer, I immediately jumped to RED (because of RED HERRINGS) and then spent fruitless hours searching for other red SOMETHINGs in the clue constructions or answers !!!!  My only slight reservation is about the final highlighting. I did scour the grid trying to find a phrase or combination of words to indicate that JOHN was the culprit, but then reverted to the more obvious (but somehow slightly less satisfying) solution of highlighting all but one of the already-discovered six names.

This was one of the Crossword Centre's easier puzzles - and very welcome too! I enjoyed the solve with a PDM at just about the right time. It's a long time since I'd read the work in question but still have my copy for which I paid 40p in 1974. I resorted to Wikipedia for a list of characters to enable identification of the 'Usual suspect'. A nice set of clues, some quite tricky. I did wonder if, in 22D, 'Flares' should be 'Flakes'.  Thanks to Phylax.

There were 36 entries of which 2 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Geoff Telfer, who will soon be receiving a prize of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists which is donated by Chambers.

A full solution and notes is available at

You still have time to complete the September Prize Puzzle DEORR by Rebus.

The October Prize Puzzle will be Flowers by Flowerman.

There are puzzles in the pipeline for November and December but nothing for 2019.
I was saddened to hear of the death of Steve Mann. He was part of the Mango setting team, along with Roddy Forman and John Guiver, and also set puzzles under the pseudonym Seth Mould. I only met him once but we exchanged emails over many years. He had an original way of thinking and natural sense of humour. His witty posts on our message board often had the moderators in a rage. A talented musician, he regularly sent me videos of his guitar and keyboard skills. Sadly, after the breakdown of his marriage he was beset by financial and health problems. May he rest in peace.

He submitted one puzzle to the Crossword Centre in 2008 and you can try it at

Tributes to Steve were posted on our message board

There are changes afoot on the Telegraph crossword site. A new modern layout allows you to access interactive puzzles on a full range of devices and see your progress on the leaderboards. You can get more information here
Subscriptions for the Telegraph crossword site range from £4.99 per month or an annual subscription for £35.88. It is possible to get a free 7-day trial.
I am looking forward to attending next month’s autumn S&B weekend get-together in York, on Friday evening 26th October to Sunday lunchtime 28th October with the main event at the Fox and Roman during the day on Saturday 27th. I was there last year and enjoyed tackling one of John Henderson’s convoluted quizzes and meeting up with crossword friends. You can get more information and details of accommodation at

Note that on the following Saturday, the 3 November, the Times Crossword Championship will be taking place in London.
I have come across a fascinating site dedicated to mechanical puzzles. It certainly is worth having a look at The Metagrobologist
If you are trying to explain cryptic clues to someone you might find this short BBC video useful. Clues by Boatman are explained in an amusing animated cartoon.

Last Tuesday the talented setter Anax, Dean Mayer, created a crossword in real-time and streamed the whole process. It was a fascinating insight into how a setter’s mind operates and how he uses a whole array of software to get the job done. You can catch up on this unique video on YouTube at
The CWC Clue-writing Competition this month is to write a clue to JOANNA LUMLEY. The closing date is 30 September. More information here

Best wishes