Crossword News November 2015

Last month our prize puzzle was Substitution by Nutmeg. This was a hugely popular puzzle with a very original theme.

In the original grid you found Ernst Blofeld & Thunderball. According to Wikipedia, Blofeld was first mentioned in the books in Thunderball in, I think, 1962 - the film was released in 1965 but Blofeld made an earlier screen appearance, unfortunately, so it's not an appropriate 50th anniversary.

Final grid has Henry Blofeld (of Test Match Special fame) & cricket balls. He's been on quite a bit already this season and is for ever saying 'my dear old thing'. Aggers is Jonathan Agnew, also of TMS.

Misprint corrections spell out 'Aggers my dear old thing'. Engarland & Indira changed to England & India, test teams.

A full solution is available at

Here are some of the comments from solvers.

Thanks to Nutmeg for an entertaining little puzzle. From the first sentence of the preamble, I reckoned we were in James Bond territory and that was very quickly confirmed. Those unfamiliar with Test Match special, Aggers, Blowers etc might not have found the spelled out message all that helpful. However I spent sometime on 18across trying to make some connection with  a John Barry Bond theme, before realising we should be in the Welsh town, so that was a clever misdirection.

Thanks to Nutmeg for an entertaining diversion.  The theme seems to have been based on the sharing of a surname by Henry and Ernst:  not the most convincing raison d’etre for a crossword but fair enough.  I don’t see a thematic reason for the gaps inside the England and India (cricket teams).  Am I missing something?  Still, I’m a cricket fan so the theme was much preferable to e.g. an unfamiliar literary quote.  I enjoyed solving the clues , unravelling the phrase and seeing the consistent formation of new words from grid adjustments. 

Many thanks to Nutmeg for her challenging Substitution. I struggled to explain some clues, eg. Falser and Sian: raised a smile when I did! Nutmeg always entertains, her recent Listener, Aft, was brilliant.

There were 62 entries, of which 3 were marked incorrect. The lucky winner picked from the electronic hat was Don Thompson, who will soon receive a prize donated by Chambers.

You still have lots of time to solve this month's puzzle, The Naked Truth by Curmudgeon.

The September Prize Puzzle was Treasure Hunt by Harribobs. There were only 32 entries, of which 13 were incorrect. 11 of the errors incorrectly traced the spade – or omitted it altogether. The lucky winner out of the electronic hat was Glyn Watkins who should have received his prize, which was donated by Chambers.Here are some of the comments.

Congratulations to Harribobs on what must have been an extremely difficult crossword to set. Even to follow those instructions has taken me lots of struggling and I am amazed that he could work them out and fit them into the grid to produce such a clever endgame.

Took me some time to get round to finishing this one. A nice puzzle from a new name to me.

Some decent clues. I sort of knew what to look for at the end and where to find it, but as for the something useful, I was convinced I was going to be led on a random trail and end up at a literal SPADE in the grid - something which would be easy to put together.

However, I was delighted to find the illustration instead - which lifted the puzzle to a whole new level. Great construction to have all the clues contributing in the way they did.  Hearty congratulations and thanks to Harribobs.

Our Prize Puzzle for December will be the now traditional Christmas gift from Eclogue. I am sure that Seasons Greetings VII will send you crackers!

As a final test for the winner of our Crowther Cup we will also offer a Christmas maths special, One More or Less by Oyler.
Congratulations to Mark Goodliffe on winning the Times Crossword Championship 2015. This was his 8th victory in a row and earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. You can see the full results here
Sadly I have to report the death of another great American crossword compiler, Henry Hook.

Here is an obituary from the New York Times.

Alan Connor has also written a tribute on his Guardian blog.

The Times Listener Crossword Setters' Dinner is to be held on the 12th March next year at the Beaumont Estate Hotel, Old Windsor, Berkshire. Anyone expecting an invitation, who hasn't yet received one should contact Jim Coulson.
Following the recent death of our good friend Georgie Johnson, one solver contacted me and asked whether it would be possible to put one of her puzzles on the website. With great help from Michael Macdonald-Cooper and John Henderson I have been able to get a couple of her puzzles that first appeared in the Independent magazine. I have permission from the Independent as long as the newspaper is given credit. I am sure that you will have a lot of fun with the first of these, At The Mill by Morgan, at
I have received an invitation to appear on a TV quiz programme which seems to be ideal for a crossword enthusiast. Unfortunately, I have had to decline the invitation but you may be interested in reading their flyer.

We are looking for contestants for the next series of HIVE MINDS the brand new quiz series on BBC4. Do you have what it takes to solve the hive? 

Do you and your friends love brainteasers, cross-word puzzles and tough TV quizzes? Can you answer questions on Only Connect and University Challenge for fun?   
Then this is the quiz for you. 
We are looking for smart and interesting contestants for the next series of new BBC 4 quiz show that tests your general knowledge and mental agility skills. We are looking for individual players as well as teams of up to three players who have what it takes to take on the fiendish puzzles in this challenging word game.  
Age limit: Applicants must be 18 years of age and over. 
To request an application form please email: 
or write to: 
Hive Minds Applications, c/o Saltbeef TV, 
1st Floor, 25 Newman St, London, W1T 1PN 
All applicants must be a resident in the UK. Employees of Saltbeef 
TV, Green Inc, the BBC or close relations are ineligible to apply. Deadline for applications is December the 20th 2015

Best wishes