Crossword News March 2019

The February Prize Puzzle was Side to Side by Nod. A hidden message gave CHANGE HANDS TO THE APPROPRIATE SIDE OF THE GRID. All the letters R and L had to change places to give new words.

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

I have to say that I found this to be an absorbing struggle and I still do not understand how one or two of the clues work.  I was not helped by my determination to have TASSELS where DOSSELS (which morphed to DOSSERS) should have been.  That said, the puzzle did allow a little working backwards once the grid was near completion.  Great fun.  Thank you Nod.

I waited until I had solved most of the clues before I tried to work out the instruction given by the first letters of the extra words, and I didn't understand the instruction until I had solved the rest of them. I generally think it is annoying to have to reorder letters produced by the clues to make sense of them, but I liked that I had completed the grid before I noticed that each of R and L only appears on the 'wrong' side of the grid and each down answer outside of the two central columns contains exactly one R or L.  It seemed obvious that every R must become and L and vice versa, even when I discovered that KALAS and RASS don't appear in Chambers. Any doubts I felt were allayed by finding they are both words in ODE, and an online search revealed they are also surnames.

Thanks very much for this puzzle.  I enjoyed it very much.  I have to admit that once I had initially filled the grid, I then used a spreadsheet to the grunt-work of arranging the letters to arrive at the instruction.  All in all a very satisfying denouement!  Please convey my thanks to Nod.

There were 40 entries of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked form the electronic hat was Eddie Looby who will soon be receiving a copy of Chambers Complete Crossword Lists. I am delighted that Chambers will be continuing their sponsorship of our prizes this year. However, there may be some delay in receiving the books due to reprinting.

A full solution to Side to Side is available at

You still have lots of time to complete the March puzzle, Round Robin XI, before the 8th April.

The April Prize Puzzle will be 12 AC by Apt.
The 2019 Listener Crossword Setters’ Dinner was held in the Gimcrack suite at York Racecourse. Jane Teather read out obituaries to Dave Crossland, Don Bradley, Geoffrey Kay, Paul Taylor, Stephen Rice and Frank Pasterczyk before proposing a toast to Absent Friends.

The guests enjoyed an excellent meal before Shane Shabankareh started the speeches with a toast to the organisers, John Henderson and Jane Teather.

In memory of Roddy Forman, the Radix Auditorum Jar is awarded to the best newcomer solver. For 2018 it was mother and daughter twosome, Meredith Topliss and Denise Wilks.

The Solver’s Silver Salver is awarded to the longest unbroken run of all-correct solutions, with the understanding that winners will defer to the best solver whose name has not appeared on the salver. At the moment Neil Talbott is still going strong with 267 all-correct, with Shirley and Charles Curran second with 237. The winner this year was Richard Foden with 138.

Richard explained how the voting for puzzle of the year was arranged. There were 18 all-correct out of the 1000 people who attempted the Listener crossword in 2018. Each could vote for their favourites, using the prime voting points scheme, 11, 7, 5, 3 or 2. In the end, 27 of the 52 puzzles got at least one vote, with 16 getting at least one 1st or 2nd vote. In reverse order the final vote was –

5th Translate into Spanish by Cagey

4th Disappearances by ‘Eck

3rd Putting the World to Rights by Charybdis

2nd Quads III by Shark

1st Doing a Sort by Elgin

So Glen Mullineux (Elgin) was awarded the Ascot Gold Cup.

All through the meal guests were attempting to solve a devious quiz, compiled by John Henderson. On our table there was myself, Lois McLaren, Peter Harrison, John Minter, Stephanie Perks, Andy Mullins and Alf Mullins. We worked out that the quiz was based on four historical characters who had inspired Carry On films. The final task was to write a clue to Dick Turpin. Alf hurriedly wrote a clue which was to win our table the coveted Bronze Casket. His clue –

Putin (Russia’s leader) upset following idiot robber on horseback

Jane Teather has put the table quiz on her website at

Finally, John Henderson awarded the trophy for the best Inquisitor puzzle of 2018. For the second year running it went to Harribobs, Peter Harrison. Next year’s dinner will be in the south of the UK. I think that John and Jane deserve congratulations for organising such a marvellous event.
On Saturday the 16th of March a new grid-based word puzzle, Square Routes, was launched in The Times. Square Routes is the brainchild of Ian Simpson and Richard Heald, and will be appearing in The Times each Saturday. The puzzle requires seven or more thematically linked words to be fitted into a 5x5 grid by meandering from cell to cell according to a novel set of rules, and should appeal to a range of puzzle fans.

Solvers are given the words to be entered, and are told which cells  contain vowels, and which cells contain the first letter of a word. Most puzzles should take average solvers around 5 to 15 minutes to complete.
John Grimshaw has been setting the Times concise crossword for many years and on the 2nd March, he published his 5000th puzzle. As usual there was a special message hidden in the Saturday crossword. Moreover, in February he achieved the milestone of 1000 jumbo crosswords. He was interviewed in an article in the Times.
Steve Barrett is taking on the job of editor of the Enigmatic Variations puzzles in the Sunday Telegraph. Steve already sets puzzles for the Telegraph and is well known for his thematic crosswords under the pseudonym eXternal.
Very sadly the death was announced of John Harrington, the setter Schadenfreude whose engaging puzzles challenged solvers since his first publication in 1998. His puzzles have appeared in the Listener, the Inquisitor, the EV and the Magpie. Born in 1944, he described his life, in the A to Z of Crosswords, as “largely reclusive, spending most of his time walking the footpaths, setting more crosswords and keeping an extensive garden under some sort of control”.  Our condolences go out to his friends and family.
For any Francophiles trying to solve a crossword in French, I have noticed that Quinapalus has recently added a French word search engine to his marvellous QAT.
The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be taking place on the 22 to 24 March this year. Check out what is going on at this link.
The Clue-writing competition - Your challenge for March is a STANDARD CRYPTIC clue to NARCISSUS (9) by the closing date of MIDNIGHT BST SUNDAY 31st MARCH.

Best wishes