Crossword News January 2018

Our traditional Christmas puzzle was Seasons Greetings IX by Eclogue. The theme was the 12 days of Christmas, with words relating to each day crammed into a cell. The instructions read REPLACE WITH DOTS, JOIN DOTS IN NUMERICAL ORDER, THEN BACK TO PEAR, to form the closed polygon of a six-pointed STAR. 31A should therefore be highlighted to indicate a “star in the East”

Here are some of the comments.

In the ~5 years I've been solving Crossword Centre Prize Puzzles, this may be my favourite thus far. I fear words can't do justice to the setter's ingenuity (and brilliant execution). Truly a star turn by Eclogue!  NB: The first clash I encountered was "DY/LA" in 40a/42d. The N in the square below that suggested DYLAN, which made me think of Dylan Thomas and wonder if the theme had something to do with "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Fortunately, it wasn't long before I encountered PER/PI, which set me on the right track.


A wonderful idea brilliantly executed.  Finding definitions which provide the desired misprints and produce the entries necessary for thematic material is an arduous job.  To do that for all the clues, rather than some, must have taken much work.  Eclogue’s reward is the even greater delight solvers derived from tackling the puzzle.  I especially liked MALIS/MALES, MAYO/MAYA and MATHS/MATES. Many thanks and a Happy New Year to Eclogue.

What a lovely Christmas present from Eclogue.  I'd figured out the star, but almost missed the brilliant song theme, by trying to use a K instead of an R as the final corrected letter - but then I saw it, and the 12 words all fell into place!  Thank you Eclogue.

There were 41 entries, of which 4 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat, was MP Young who will soon be receiving a prize from the Chambers range of books.

A full solution with notes is available at

This month the Prize Puzzle is Emperors by Vernon. You have until the 8th February to send in your entry.

The February Prize Puzzle will be Celebrity Squares by NOx.
The Crowther Cup is awarded to the best solver of the year. In 2017 there were three solvers maintaining an all-correct record. Matthew Auger was awarded the cup last year so was ineligible to win again. It took a long count back to decide that the winner of the Crowther Cup this year is Keith Williams in a close tussle with second-placed Brian Betker. Robert Teuton is finalising the annual statistics today and they will be made available soon.

A fantastic puzzle appeared in the on-line Independent crosswords on New Years Day. The cryptic by Maize outdid his 2016 quadruple pangram to produce an incredible quintuple! Try it here!201801

You can watch how Simon Anthony solved it at
My best wishes to Chris Lancaster in his new appointment as editor of the Telegraph crosswords.

Roger Squires, the prolific crossword setter retired last month. Better known as Rufus in the Guardian, Roger was a regular feature of Mondays in the traditional broadsheets and kept up a phenomenal output since his debut in 1982. I wish him well in his retirement. There is more information about Roger that he wrote for the Crossword Centre at

And the Guardian wished him farewell in this article.

People often ask me what the best book is to teach new solvers the intricacies of cryptic crosswords. I have just heard about an app which promises to be an aid to learning how to solve cryptic crosswords. Here is the press release.

Many are intrigued by cryptic crosswords and would like to learn how to solve them. Now they can on their iPhone or iPad using Teazel’s interactive Learn Cryptic Crosswords app, available from the Apple App Store and launched on 20 December 2017. Solving cryptic crosswords is an enjoyable pastime that gives the brain a good work out. James Brook, Teazel’s Technical Director, said: “People have their mobile devices to hand these days, so an app is a convenient way to learn the skill of solving cryptic clues.” Teazel are specialists in developing mobile apps for the puzzle market and turned to crossword teacher and author Henry Howarth to provide the learning content. The app starts with the simplest types of clue and builds step by step to the advanced aspects of solving, making it easy for learners to build their knowledge and understanding. Henry Howarth said: “We learn best by doing, and every theory topic is followed by exercises and practice clues to reinforce key learning points, with practice puzzles to integrate learning at each stage of the process. All of the practical activity in the app is interactive and this enhances the learning experience.” Learn Cryptic Crosswords covers all aspects of solving standard cryptic crosswords, including how to solve harder clues and the ongoing development of crossword skills. It ends with a selection of newspaper puzzles at different levels of difficulty and this is followed by a set of reference tools to use when solving. Anyone interested in the app can download the first chapter free of charge and upgrade to the full 7 chapters for 1 £4.99. Teazel’s Marketing Director, Richard Taylor, said: “We have had very positive feedback from trials of Learn Cryptic Crosswords on Apple mobile devices, and we are now planning to release an Android version for phones and tablets early in 2018.”

You can learn more on their website
In the early 80s my son and I became engrossed by the Rubik’s Cube. We learned ways of solving it and we both could do it very quickly. At one point I wrote a set of instructions on a single sheet. This week I found that old crib sheet in a drawer and it got me to solving the cube again. By popular demand I have put a pdf version on the internet. You can try it here
Our crossword message board at is working really well with lots of threads and comments. Because I get the statistics I know that there are a dozen visitors viewing the board every hour. Most of them are not registered and are not able to post comments. I would urge you to register. It is a very easy formality to register and then you can make comments and vote in the polls.

I have set up a poll this week to see if there is a need for us to accept competition entries in list format. Nowadays almost everyone has a scanner or a camera on their phone. Often a solution has a finale which cannot easily be shown in a list of answers. Also, it is much more difficult to check a solution in list format. If you have an opinion on this please vote or let me know.


Best wishes