Crossword News September 2016 

The August Prize Puzzle was Hacked Off by Nutmeg. The theme was the song The Slow Train by Flanders and Swann which was based on the railway stations destined to be closed by the Beecham cuts. Four of the stations were to be discovered in the perimeter and St Ives had to be highlighted.

 Here are some of the comments.

 A nice puzzle, fairly gentle in solving and grid entry but with some head scratching at the end.  Finally spotted Midsomer Norton as a possibility and assumed some murder theme, but a bit of Googling revealed the true source which I hadn’t come across before.  Thanks to Nutmeg for that discovery and the entertaining solve.

One feels sympathy for Mrs Beeching:  a man willing to close stations with such wonderful names as Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Cheslyn Hay and Midsomer Norton could hardly harbour any romantic feeling.  Hacking off the line to such a popular seaside town as St Ives must have come as a surprise.  A lovely idea from Nutmeg - many thanks

I was fortunate that the NW corner came together for me early, which gave me CH?RL... My first thought was something like "CHARLES," but the directions indicated that unchecked letter couldn't be A. So I started googling CHORL..., which led me to CHORLTON. Googling CHORLTON and LYRICS quickly led me to "Slow Train" by Flanders and Swann, with which I was not previously familiar. This made the rest of the solve much easier. Anyway, a clever theme for a puzzle.  One quibble: Even though St. Erth and St. Ives are both mentioned in "Slow Train," the plans to close that section of railway were canceled, so the puzzle directions are, technically, inaccurate, as the train can indeed be seen in both locations. See:

There were 53 entries, of which 7 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was Christine Thomas from Aberdare who will soon be receiving a prize donated by Chambers. 

There is a full solution and notes at

You still have lots of time to complete our September puzzle The Merchant's Tale by Dysart.


For October we have a real treat with our eighth Round Robin crossword. Every clue was written by a different volunteer for a grid by Towser and Wan. You may vote for your favourite clue with your entry. You can just nominate one clue, which will be awarded 3 points, or your top three which will be awarded 3, 2 and 1 points. The person whose clue accumulates the most points will receive a prize, which has been donated by the Crossword Centre. 

We are now looking for puzzles for 2017. We are very happy to edit, test and advise with sympathy. At present we have puzzles until December but nothing for the new year.

Zag and Oyler are in the final stages of producing a book entitled Challenging Crossnumber Puzzles. Also it is intended to have a quarterly newsletter entitled Crossnumbers Quarterly which will contain some puzzles. The launch issue in October is free and contains 10 new puzzles. Please go to the link below for more information.

Would you like to try a 4D crossword?
Eric Westbrook of 3D Crosswords is offering to donate to charity with a puzzle in memory of Ray Parry-Morris, who designed many of the 3D grids.

“Ray Parry-Morris amongst many other things was the most wonderful 3D grid designer. His BBC CiNA 3D Crossword entries were always perfect, but his Tie-Break grid designs took my breath away.

We are presenting the September 2016 puzzle with its 4D aspect in memory of Ray. I will donate £1 to Air Ambulance and £1 to John Radcliffe Hospital for every correct solution received by September 30th midnight, up to a limit of £1000.


Eric has kindly permitted me to post this beautiful puzzle on the Crossword Centre and you can print a copy from here.


In May I mentioned the research conducted by Kathryn Friedlander and Philip Fine into the make-up of a cryptic crossword solver. The article was recently revived in the Conversation and you may prefer to read this précis of the research which details the main points.


You may have come across the letters to the Guardian complaining about the difficulty of recent crosswords. They make interesting reading.

This subject was discussed in detail in a thread on Fifteen Squared.

Now you can read Guardian crosswords editor, Hugh Stephenson's opinions on this issue at -


Ben Tausig, US crossword constructor was very excited about his NY Times puzzle which had several correct solutions. Read about it here
You may have noticed more and more indie crosswords appearing. I personally have only noticed a couple but you may be interested in reading this article.

If you are going to the Cheltenham Literary Festival this year look out for Times Crossword editor Richard Rogan who will be there explaining clues from 10th to 14th October.

If you are looking for a fun present for a cruciverbal friend then Drunk Crosswords may be just the thing. It is a collection of over 50 crosswords with a twist by top US compilers Francis Heaney and Brendan Emmett Quigley.

The Guinness World Records 2017 has a section on crossword tournaments. The Times Crossword Championship names John Sykes with 10 wins and Mark Goodliffe as the winner of the most consecutive wins (8). In the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament Jon Delfin has the most wins (7) and Dan Freyer the most consecutive wins (6)


Best wishes