Crossword News January 2020

The December Prize Puzzle was Seasons Greetings XI by Eclogue. This was based on the theme of the popular Christmas carol, The Holly (A) and the Ivy (B).

Variation one are words which can be added: 


Variation two are familial plant names:


Variation three replaces the roman numeral components of HO(LL)Y and (IV)Y to form new words.


V+I+V = 11 (or XI) to eliminate the possibility of LIVIDLY

Here are some of the comments from solvers.


Many thanks to Eclogue for another excellent crossword. Theme and Variations provided quite a tricky challenge.

I usually worry about my ability to solve a puzzle with so many unclued entries, but I didn't find it too hard to solve enough clues to work out what was going on. I managed to guess words that could be the '2' variations first, which led me to the theme words and then it wasn't too hard to work out the other variations, with the extra hint from the preamble that the '3' variations involved Roman numerals.  I initially thought that the '3' variations involved adding more Roman numerals to the theme word until I came to 6d. I used an electronic search to find other possible '3' variations which confirmed that those appearing in the puzzle plus the unused alternative are the longest possible for each theme word.

It's been ages since I was able to solve a Crossword Centre puzzle completely. I might have gotten something wrong on this one, but I enjoyed it so much that I had to send in my solution. A very pleasant romp on the theme of "The Holly and the Ivy". Happy Christmas!

Thanks to Eclogue for keeping this series going, and keeping it fresh.  I like the device of using the puzzle title to complete the final entry – a nice touch.

There were 51 entries, of which 5 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner, picked from the electronic hat was Roslyn Rougvie, who will soon be receiving her prize of a copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary.

There is a full solution and notes at

You still have time to solve our January puzzle, One Name is Key by Wan, and submit your solution before 8 February. The February puzzle will be Underdog by Chalicea.
The Round Robin crosswords are one of the highlights of the Crossword Centre. We are ready to create our twelfth puzzle in the series. John Nicholson announced it on our message board.

Ian Simpson has kindly given us a theme for this year’s Round Robin, so all we need now are some volunteer clue writers.  If you would like to take part please email me.

All clues are of the type ‘wordplay leads to an extra letter not forming part of the answer’. You will be given your word, or phrase, to clue and the letter that the wordplay must render as extra. As usual I have the answers on a list will allocate them in that order.

Solvers are invited to award points to their three favourite clues and there will be a prize for the setter of the clue that gains the most points.

Clues should be submitted by the end of the month. Thanks very much and good luck.

To take part contact John at
If you are a fan of Azed you will be interested in this message from Richard Heald.

As you know, in May this year Jonathan Crowther is due to set his 2,500th puzzle as Azed, and a celebratory lunch is being held in Oxford in honour of this remarkable achievement.  As one of the organisers of the event, I thought it might be rather nice to be able to present to him on the day greetings cards and personal messages of congratulations from as many of his celebrity fans and notable cruciverbal colleagues as possible - hence this email.  If you would like to send a card or message, then I think the best idea would be to mark it FAO Jonathan and post it to my home address - c/o 13 Eshton Court, Mapplewell, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S75 5QG - and I will ensure he receives it on the big day.
Crossword setter and quiz master, John Henderson was interviewed on BBC Radio York on 17 January. It is a fascinating interview and you can listen to it, about 1 hour 32 into the programme, at
2019 was another year of excellent crosswords from the i-paper. There is a full review of these puzzles on Fifteen Squared and you have a chance to vote for the puzzle of the year.
As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Mark Goodliffe won the 2019 Times Crossword Championship. In a fascinating video Simon Anthony interviewed Mark about his crossword skills.
In BBC’s Dracula, broadcast at Christmas, viewers caught a glimpse of a crossword in series 3. Now, thanks to Alan Connor, you can try the full puzzle -
Only Connect star, Frank Paul tweeted a clever little puzzle. It reminded me of those impossible crosswords that were published, I think, in the Daily Express. You had -USTARD and the clue was – Yellow food stuff. Hopefully this link will get you to it.

Best wishes