Home Crosswords Archive The Times 50th Anniversary Crosswords 1930-1980

The Times 50th Anniversary Crosswords 1930-1980

The Times 50th Anniversary Crosswords 1930-1980 -
      • Across
      • Down
      This is the clue one
      if exist then display the clue two


      The Times 50th Anniversary Crosswords

      This book celebrates the Golden Jubilee of what has been described as ‘The World’s Most Famous Crossword’. It contains a Foreword
      by Adrian Bell, who composed not only The Times Crossword Puzzle No. 1, which appeared on 1 February 1930, but also the
      Golden Jubilee Puzzle scheduled for 1 February 1980. He continues to be a regular contributor of Times puzzles as he has been
      throughout the intervening half-century, thus establishing a record of resource, sagacity and endurance which is unlikely to be equalled by
      any other composer of crosswords.

      There is also a second Foreword by Edmund Akenhead, The Times Crossword Editor since 1965, who has guided the crossword
      through its most recent developments, notably the annual CuttySark/Times National Crossword Championships.
      The puzzles themselves, fifty-one in number, have been chosenone from each February over the fifty years, beginning of course
      with the first puzzle of the daily series and ending with the before-mentioned Golden Jubilee Puzzle.

      If solvers bear in mind the dates of the different puzzles and various changes over the years (such as
      £.s.d. being replaced by £ and p) there will be very few clues which they will find difficulty in solving today. Not everyone will know
      that the quotation from Calverley referred to in 18 Down in the first puzzle comes from Gemini and Virgo, a poem not mentioned in the
      Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, or that F.S. Jackson mentioned in 26 Across in the 1945 puzzle was a well-known cricketer and a
      former president of the MCC.

      Also perhaps the rising generation is not familiar with the (historically questionable?) poem
      ‘Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Jews, sold his wife for a pair of shoes. . .’ which is the key to 4 Down in the same puzzle.

      For 1936, byway of change, a puzzle has been chosen which consists entirely of quotations, which will delight some if it infuriates others ‒ and not
      all the answers are to be found in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

      Apart from the last-mentioned puzzle, there is only one which might be described as untypical of the daily fare provided for Times

      Edmund Akenhead in his Foreword explains why, once a year, there appears a particularly fiendish puzzle designed to reduce
      the annual crossword championship qualifiers to the numbers for whom accommodation is available. For the benefit of those experts
      who rattle through a puzzle in about ten minutes, one of the more effective of these so-called Eliminator puzzles has been included as
      the offering for 1978. Any solver who completes this puzzle in twenty minutes, even using reference books, is in line to become a
      future Crossword Champion. It was in fact correctly solved by less than three hundred of the competitors who attempted it.

      Foreword 1

      Birth of The Times Crossword Puzzle
      by Adrian Bell

      To say that on 1 February 1930 The Times started a crossword puzzle seems a simple statement. But in fact it was by no means
      simple. The Times of fifty years ago had about it still the aura of ‘The Thunderer’. The usual crossword was still a toy for vacant
      minds; a simple guessing game, the clues being bare synonyms. There was only one significantly different, and that appeared in the
      other quality daily at the same price, then 2d. But that paper had not inherited the reputation of being ‘The Thunderer’. Yet in 1929 it was
      found to be making inroads on The Thunderer’s circulation. Market research about why traced it to its crossword puzzle.

      But how would the readership of The Times react to a crossword puzzle? Would it rise up in execration as at a debauch of
      its high thinking, and the reputation of its leaders as the conscience of the nation? The Times of 1929 had no wish to import a crossword
      as a feature. But the circulation leakage continued. In the late autumn of 1929, at one of their weekly lunches
      together, Barrington-Ward, The Times assistant editor, soon to become editor, said to my father, whose colleague he had been on
      the Observer: ‘Bell, we’ve got to start a crossword puzzle in The Times.’ ‘We’ve got to’ were the words reported to me by my father.

      Barrington-Ward knew that my father, besides being the Observer’s News Editor, shaping it, sitting up most of Saturday nights with it,
      also wrote for it and composed a crossword puzzle for it, which he himself had introduced as a feature, with that sixth sense he had for
      what the intelligent public was going to want. Less abstruse than Torquemada’s, his he called the ‘Everyman Puzzle’. My father
      enjoyed making up crossword puzzles and tacking jolly, rather daringly inexact clues to them, e.g. ‘Funniest face in the garden’ for
      Pansy (take a good look at a pansy and you see Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill).

      ‘Do you know anyone who can compose them for us?’ Barrington-Ward asked him. ‘My son can,’ he replied with a promptness which staggers me
      a little even to this day ‒ meaning, I rather suspect, himself as my tutelary familiar spirit.

      And so he came home where I was week-ending from my small farm, wondering how I, and my neighbours, and all of us, were
      going to see our way through the continuing Depression. I had no idea what an ideal occupation for dreaming up clues was harrowing
      ten acres of clods behind a horse that stumbles and nods. I was commissioned to produce within a month six crossword
      puzzles of a type that should not affront the dignity of The Times readership, or belittle the presumably well-stocked mind of the
      literary heritage of our ruling class.

      Really the germ of it was the friendship of Robert BarringtonWard with my father Robert Bell. The two Robbies.
      But to unload daily a crossword puzzle upon, say, the Athenaeum Club, the Reform Club, the Carlton Club and all the
      august establishments of St James’s, was too big a dare. My six puzzles were composed simply for The Times Weekly Edition, which
      went to all the outposts of Empire around the globe. Thus the reverberation of ‘What! A crossword puzzle in The Times?’ would
      filter slowly back home in muted shock waves ‒ sort of underground test, so to speak.

      The very first crossword puzzle to be born under the aegis of The Times was not that one termed ‘Crossword Puzzle  No. 1’, but my puzzle in The Times Weekly Edition of 2 January
      1930. This was followed a week later by another on 9 January. By then reactions were coming in. I received a not unfriendly postcard
      of what looked like a couple of spectres perched over an Alpine precipice inscribed: ‘Picture of solvers pondering your clue for Tantamount’.

      Another card came from solvers foxed by my clue ‘Qualification targets’, followed next day by another; ‘Got it!’ Ablebodied, of course, (which tar gets).

      An appreciative overseas correspondent on 16 January suggested to the Editor that it might add to the gaiety of nations if
      the Weekly Edition puzzle were published simultaneously on its day of issue in the daily Times. This was conceded. So my puzzle of 23
      January and that of 30 January were seen on those dates also in the daily edition of The Times. That uncorked the deluge ‒ of
      denouncements, of ‘hurrahs’.

      Miss Elsie Davies, of Frodsham, Cheshire, wrote: ‘I am a young woman, but I hate to see a great
      newspaper pandering to the modern craze for passing the time in all sorts of stupid ways’.

      But Mrs Blanche Hulton of Olney, Bucks wrote:
      ‘These clever puzzles are an enjoyment second only to the best programmes of the BBC’. The plunge was taken. Two days
      after my puzzle of 30 January, ‘The Times Crossword Puzzle No. 1’ appeared.

      In the course of a few years a myth was born. The Provost of Eton was rumoured to time his boiled egg every morning by the time
      it took him to solve The Times crossword puzzle ‒ and he did not like his egg hard-boiled, it was added. At this distance of time I
      think it was probably a bit of one-upmanship of the Provost’s. But it set correspondents boasting of their solving speeds.

      Cabinet ministers entered the lists. I began to wonder what went on in that Cabinet Room, which was supposed to be governing the country.
      P.G. Wodehouse did not boast: he set up a wall of frustration that itwas ‘g. and wormwood to a man who has been beating his head on
      the wall for 20 minutes over a single anagram to read that about the provost of Eton and the eggs.’

      So The Times Crossword Puzzle was launched, and with quite a splash. Ronald Carton, a member of the staff who had filled many
      roles on the paper, was given the task of editing the puzzles and recruiting a team of setters. A man of brilliant wit, and a creative
      ability amounting to almost a genius with words, he composed a  number of the puzzles himself. His wife Jane, also on the staff, had
      the job of replying to letters from solvers or frustrated solvers. He and she were an ideal nucleus.

      Quickly the fame ‒ notoriety ‒ of the daily puzzle spread under Ronnie. And to this day, when a character in a novel is discovered at
      breakfast engaged on a crossword puzzle, it is always The Times crossword puzzle that is identified in so many words. But for Ronald
      Carton’s individual style, The Times puzzle would not have been accorded the supremacy in the general mind. When Ronald died in
      1960, his wife Jane carried on as editor. The loss to us was poignant, but the generality of solvers would have detected no difference,
      Ronnie had so impressed the stamp of his mind on the puzzle.

      The crossword puzzle-maker never shuts the door on his work, of course. When he travels, people are working on his puzzle in front of his eyes.
      He longs to prompt the hovering pencil, but refrains. Sitting in a bar he overhears:
      ‘The fellow who sets these puzzles is a sadist.’ Then, as one sees a pun and tells his friend, a cocerted groan.
      A man remarked to me, sitting beside me in awaiting-room, ‘I’d like to meet the chap that makes these puzzles.’
      ‘So should I!’ I said.

      My first recollection as a Times crossword puzzle-maker? My wife and I coming down to breakfast in a hotel and hearing an
      elderly resident bawling down the telephone to a crony who was obviously deaf: ‘It’s swastika! I tell you the word is swastika!’ twas from my puzzle and my clue.

      It was the first morning of our honeymoon, and swastika was as yet an utterly innocent word.

      Adrian Bell

      Foreword 2 with extracts from:

      The Crossword in the Sixties and Seventies
      by Edmund Akenhead, Crossword Editor of The Times

      One of the advantages of living in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), in 1953, was that we had no television and so tended to
      make our own amusements.

      The coming coronation of Her Majesty the Queen inspired me one evening to put together a crossword with an E II R design
      blacked in across the middle and with fifteen letter phrases such as ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Elizabeth Regina’ and
      ‘Red, White and Blue’ included. After a good deal of battling, I succeeded in completing the puzzle (I remember that the solitary
      square above the ‘R’ in the design was clued ‘Circular letter’ ‒ no prizes offered for the answer), and I took it along to Ossie Blake, the
      editor of The Tanganyika Standard, who was kind enough to accept it for publication.

      About a month later HMS Newfoundland visited Dar es Salaam, and the fact that the ship’s name contained 15 letters
      encouraged me to make an HMS crossword with HMS Newfoundland as the answer to 1 Across. This puzzle was also accepted,
      and it was while we were enjoying sundowner drinks on the after-deck of HMS Newfoundland that the paper’s manager asked me
      if I would like to contribute a crossword every week ‒ a new departure for The Tanganyika Standard. I said that I would have a go
      but without any guarantee that I could keep it up.

      In fact I kept it up for twelve years, by the end of which time I was back in the UK working with a firm of solicitors on the Essex outskirts of London,
      where I heard that The Times was looking for a new crossword editor. I applied and to my surprise was given the post in September 1965.

      Ronald Carton, the first crossword editor, whose merits Adrian Bell has extolled and whom unfortunately I never had the
      pleasure of knowing, had been on the staff of The Times for twenty years (and his wife Jane for twelve years) before the first crossword
      appeared in The Times, and it was with some trepidation that I, as a complete newcomer to The Times, undertook this ‘spare-time job’
      (or so it was represented to me).

      However, my task was greatly alleviated by the numerous contributions from those experts in their craft, Adrian Bell, and my predecessor Jane Carton,
      who had taken over the editorship from her husband on his death in 1960 and who gave me constant advice and assistance until her own sad death in 1971.

      If the reputation of The Times Crossword has been maintained since the death of Ronald Carton, this is due to a very great extent to Jane Carton.

      I remember in particular the case made by her for the quotation clue, which has been discarded by several crosswords of
      other publications on the grounds that a clue should be solvable through exercise of the solver’s ingenuity alone, and should not
      depend on literary knowledge. Her argument was that many readers enjoy recognizing a quotation and, provided that obscure quotations
      are avoided, the occasional quotation clue causes more pleasure than dissatisfaction.

      I personally never use a quotation that I do not already know and regard such clues almost as give-aways ‒ as Jane used to say
      ‘You’ve got to let the dog see the rabbit’ and the inclusion of a certain number of easy clues is desirable which is designed to entertain
      rather than to baffle the reader. For the benefit of those who particularly enjoy quotation clues, the puzzle chosen for the year
      1936 is a special one consisting entirely of quotations.

      It was early in 1967 that the British Broadcasting Corporation approached The Times with the idea of a series of crossword
      television programmes, with teams of three matched against each other in solving a crossword shown on an illuminated board. This
      idea bore fruit in the programme Crossword on Two, a series which appeared over three three-month periods in 1967 and 1968, most of
      the puzzles being supplied by contributors to The Times and the Daily Telegraph (with the addition of some puzzles from other
      sources), the puzzles being arranged and edited by the crossword editors of the two papers.

      I believe that this was the first time The Times Crossword had entered the arena of public combat.

      A development much longer-lasting was the annual Cutty Sark/Times National Crossword Championship. In late 1969, Cutty Sark
      (UK Scotch Whisky) Ltd suggested an annual crossword championship to be sponsored by their company with the puzzles to be provided by
      The Times crossword team. The Times agreed to cooperate, and Times readers in May 1970 were invited to qualify by solving
      any one of five specified puzzles published in the course of that month.

      When over 20,000 readers qualified in this way, drastic action had to be taken, since no more than 300 could be accommodated. A first ‘Eliminator’
      reduced the field considerably but not sufficiently, and a second eliminator proved so difficult that only forty-two all-correct solutions were submitted.

      I regard one of the clues in this second eliminator as perfectly fair, yet quite the most sadistic I have ever inflicted on our loyal solvers. The clue, 3
      Down, was ‘They hang from trees in the book of Jeremiah (6)’: letters from Across words left the solver with A-E-T-. Some solvers,
      baffled by this, but eager to qualify for the Championship, actually read through the entire book of Jeremiah in the Bible without
      discovering any arboreal dependants.

      They would have saved themselves enormous labour had they only considered that words in a Times crossword clue should not always be taken
      at face value and that the Book of Jeremiah is not the only book of Jeremiah; there is also the book known as (the) Lamentations of Jeremiah
      and in Lamentations may be found the word Amenta, which a dictionary will show to be the plural of ‘amentum’, which means a catkin.

      The best of the competitors, numbering 302, took part in the final of the 1970 Cutty Sark/Times National Crossword
      Championship, which was a marathon affair never since repeated. There were four puzzles to be solved in the morning, of normal
      Times standard, a half-hour period being allowed for each puzzle and no reference-book being permitted. Gluttons for punishment, the
      competitors then tackled four more puzzles in the afternoon.

      Competitors scored one ‘puzzle point’ for every clue correctly solved plus ‘time bonus points’ for every minute saved out of the
      thirty minutes allowed for solving, these time bonus points being earned only for all-correct solutions. I remember that the very first solution,
      all-correct one, was handed in (in under ten minutes if my memory serves me right) by a young man who later became the successor
      to the great Ximenes and is now known to crossword enthusiasts as Azed of the Observer.

      The thirty best-scoring competitors reassembled the next morning and did battle with four more puzzles, the ultimate winner being Mr Roy Dean, a Foreign
      Office diplomat, who survived all twelve puzzles with only one error. The runner-up was Mr James Atkins, a singing teacher, who
      won the Championship the following year. The Champion burst into the news again with his letter to The Times, dated 17 December 1970,
      in which he claimed a record, having solved that day’s crossword in four and a half minutes.

      The letter appeared in The Times on Saturday, 19 December and was spotted at a very early hour by the ever-vigilant BBC, who whisked Mr Dean at crack
      of dawn to their Today studio and gave him that day’s Times crossword and was spotted at a very early hour by the ever-vigilant BBC, who whisked Mr Dean at crack
      of dawn as the Today programme proceeded. To my discomfiture, since it happened to be one of my own, the BBC certified as correct the solution of the puzzle by Mr Dean …

      … in the incredibly short time of three and three-quarter minutes, a record (to be found in The Guinness Book of Records) which I expect and hope
      will never be broken and which puts in the shade all previous claimants with the possible exception of the legendary Provost of
      Eton (mentioned earlier by Adrian Bell), who incidentally does not appear to have made the claim himself, but whose reputed speed was
      mentioned in a letter to The Times from Sir Austen Chamberlain in August 1934.

      Speed records in solving crosswords interest some readers but annoy others. In the early days of the Championship it was my
      practice, when championship puzzles subsequently appeared in The Times, to give the speed of the fastest all-correct solver.

      Before long, however, it became apparent that for every reader interested in the information there were not a few who found it quite
      exasperating as they battled for half an hour or more to make some progress with a puzzle, to be told that some crossword whizz-kid
      had whipped through the whole thing in seven minutes flat. The publication of fastest times was therefore dropped, the headnote to
      each puzzle merely giving the percentage of successful solvers within the thirty minutes allowed.

      Roy Dean’s feat apart, solving times of seven minutes are not uncommon in these championships, and when in 1973 Dr John
      Sykes, the most successful Times Crossword solver ever, who had just won the Championship for the second time (and he has won it
      again on several subsequent occasions), accepted a challenge by BBC’s Nationwide TV programme to solve a Times crossword on
      the programme, he did so in seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds by my stop-watch.

      However, a crossword should be a leisurely form of mental exercise and there are many readers who would feel cheated if they
      could rush through a Times crossword in ten minutes.

      This point of view is well expressed in Mr James Elliott’s verse at the end of this Foreword.

      More new ground was broken in 1970 by the appearance on the Saturday before Christmas of the first Times Jumbo Crossword
      of 27 squares by 27, designed to entertain readers over the Christmas holiday. This proved so popular that it has been repeated four times
      yearly (at holiday weekends) ever since.

      Many twenty-seven-letter phrases have been used over the years, though only one twentyseven-letter word has been used.

      This was 1 Across in the second Jumbo, which appeared for Easter 1971, the clue being very simply: ‘__ (Love’s Labour’s Lost) (27)’.
      This will naturally infuriate those who abominate quotation clues, but to avoid the losing of a much
      loving labour by others, who might otherwise plough through almost the whole play, I suggest they start at Act 5, Scene 1.
      There need be no limit to the size of a crossword of course, but the present-size Jumbo is quite large enough for me.

      I reckon that it takes a sevenday week to construct one, complete with clues ‒ and if anyone would like to compose a mammoth fifty-eight squares by fifty-eight
      to accommodate the name of a certain place in Anglesey, he or she has my blessing and admiration (you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din) …

      but is advised not to ask The Times to publish it.

      The number of crossword contributors has varied over the years. My joining the team in 1965 brought the number up from four
      to five, but since then the number has reached as high a figure as eleven, and it is now very rarely that the puzzles for one week
      include more than one by the same hand. It has always been Times Crossword policy to preserve the anonymity of the contributors, the
      only exceptions being the writers of these two Forewords.

      One might expect the team to consist of retired masters of Oxbridge colleges, but in fact only two of the team belong to the scholastic profession,
      neither of them having retired: we boast an author, a lady secretary, a bank manager, a solicitor, and a major-general and it may
      be significant that one of the team is a member of the Magic Circle. I mention this because every cryptic crossword compiler is
      constantly exercising a kind of mental sleight-of-hand, the chief weapon in his (or her) armoury being misdirection, as it is with a conjurer.

      This book provides ample evidence of the way the cryptic crossword has progressed over the years. The tendency, as I see it,
      has been getting more into the clues and to increase the proportion of ‘double clues’. Not every clue provides two routes to the answer,
      the quotation clue (once much commoner in Times crosswords than it is today) being one with only one route, but there are today many
      more ‘build-up clues than there were in the early days, pointing not only to the meaning of the word but showing how the word can be

      The devices used as the bricks in this building-up process have tended to multiply and the patient solver is expected to
      know that ‘direction’, ‘point’ or ‘quarter’ in a clue is likely to indicate, N, E, S or W, and ‘note’ can mean any letter from A to G or
      perhaps a note in the tonic sol-fa (do, re, mi, etc.) One is also expected to know the chemical abbreviations used for some of the
      better-known elements, such as Ag for silver, Fe for iron and Cu for copper, and to have a knowledge of the definite and indefinite
      articles and other very simple words in French, German, Italian and Spanish (even Russian entered into a clue for OUIDA in the 1978
      Championship Final).

      I would however mention one bit of sophistication which is commoner today than it used to be ‒ the acronym, and allied types of
      clue. The war-time device ‘Pluto’ was an acronym of ‘Pipe Line Under The Ocean’. Thus the clue:’ “Noses” equals by sense,
      “leading features” (4)’ invites the solver to take the leading features, or first letters, of the first four words to make the answer ‘Nebs’
      which means ‘noses’ or for that matter ‘leading features’.

      A similar type of clue is ‘What odd parts to give a girl! (5)’ ‒ the solver takes the odd letters (or parts) of ‘What’, getting ‘W and A’ making the
      answer ‘Wanda’. Or even craftier was ‘Damage by fire headquarters of Scottish orthodox churches (6)’ ‒ a solver will, it is hoped, spot that
      each of the last three words contains eight letters, so that taking the ‘head quarter’ (or first two letters) of each he or she arrives at SC-OR-CH.

      Clues of this kind do not abound in the puzzles to be found in this book, but they are mentioned by way of teaching some of
      the older dogs among our faithful solvers a new trick in solving puzzles yet to come.

      One piece of advice a newcomer to The Times Crossword should heed above all else is that he should distrust the apparent
      meaning of each clue, bearing in mind that it is the setter’s intention to mislead wherever he can.

      For instance ‘Die of cold (3-4)’ appears to mean ‘Perish from cold’ but ‘Die’ can be a substantive as well as a verb,
      and the practised solver will turn over (as a computer would) all the possible meanings of the various words in a clue until
      the penny drops as satisfyingly as, in this case, an ice-cube into his or her gin and tonic.

      (Further devices can be found in my father’s concluding article – DA).

      On the occasion of its Golden Jubilee The Times Crossword may be forgiven for blowing its own trumpet, but it would be
      overdoing it to quote many of the unsolicited testimonials sent to The Times by the famous and many others, whether commenting on
      the excellence of the puzzle or simply (in one case) recommending it  to prevent sea-sickness.

      I shall content myself with two such testimonials.

      The opening of the crossword competition season in January 1976 inspired Mr James Elliott of Upminster, Essex to write:

      I cannot guess how many puzzles
      In a year
      You may assemble
      But humble
      As a part-time addict wish to thank
      You for an hour of pleasure
      Each weekday morning on the train
      Lunchtime in a pub
      And dreaming in between
      Your competition season
      Starts again
      But speaking simply for myself
      I deem half done a pass
      And once a week completion
      Rare success.
      If ever
      But it’s most unlikely
      The Puzzle solves me in ten minutes
      I shall take up embroidery
      Or knitting
      And muse to the needle click
      Of happier times
      So thank you sir for this engendering
      Of hours of gentle cogitation
      Dulcet pleasures
      Quite innocent of agitation
      A puzzle
      With no competition

      I leave to the last the least solicited and perhaps the most telling of all the tributes to be found among my stack of clippings. I shall not
      give the name of the person concerned, who is no doubt today a thoroughly reformed character. The clipping in question is a news
      item from The Times of 24 September 1934. The scene is the SouthWestern Police Court, where Mr X of Sugden Road, Battersea, was
      summoned ‘for damaging a copy of The Times displayed in the reading room of the Battersea Free Library, Lavender Hill, S.W.’

      The report continued:
      Mr M.S. Freeman, prosecuting for the borough council, said that in consequence of the repeated mutilation of the newspaper a special
      watch was kept by officials and the defendant seen to cut out that bit comprising the crossword puzzle.
      ‘The defendant has written pleading Guilty,’ said Mr Pope, the North London Magistrate, who presided at the court temporarily.
      Mr Cooper, the deputy librarian, produced the damaged pageand said that in the course of 22 days the number of copies cut in
      that fashion was 18.
      The Magistrate – ‘Was any other paper damaged?’ – ‘No, sir, only The Times.
      ‘What is the penalty provided?’ – ‘Two months, or a penalty not exceeding £5.’
      The Magistrate fixed the penalty on this occasion at 9s with 21s costs.

      In these days a cheap price to pay for eighteen Times crosswords, one might think, but I would beg faithful Times subscribers not to
      follow this dangerous precedent. Penalties are no doubt much higher today, and anyhow we cannot afford to lose your subscriptions.
      It would be pleasant to think that all Times crossword solvers could have continued enjoyment for a further fifty years.

      Edmund Akenhead


      Cryptic crossword compiling is a deceptive art. Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ sums it up when he says, “When I use a word…. It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

      May I recommend, particularly to newcomers to the crossword, a simple approach taught me by my father, which is to study the solution and then examine the clue to work out how all the pieces came together to mean what the compiler chose them to mean! The method is particularly apt here because the solver is spared the agony of waiting for the next day’s paper.

      Here are a few sample clues to give you a flavour of what lies in store, followed by an appropriate introduction penned by my late father.

      Grateful acknowledgment to former crossword editors: – Richard Browne, Mike Laws, Brian Greer, John Grant, Edmund Akenhead, Jane Carton, Ronald Carton, and never to be forgotten our founding father, Adrian Bell.


      David Akenhead, Author of the Computer Crosswords

      September 2020


      Often does badly but gets decorated (9) FESTOONED

      Convention: anagram of “often does”. Indicator: “badly”

      Unlike Dogberry’s comparisons, not to be sniffed at (9) ODOURLESS

      Convention: antonym. In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing “Comparisons are odorous”. The opposite of odorous is odourless

      “Whist, brother”, one need not say to him (8) TRAPPIST

      Convention: association – silent order of monks

      He may stop playing! (8) ORGANIST

      Convention: cryptic definition – obvious when understood

      But can these cakes sell like hot ones? (4) ICED

      Convention: conundrum (or riddle)

      Plain spoken guide (6) DIRECT

      Convention: double meaning or two meanings

      Policeman calls at the theatre (9) INSPECTOR

      Convention: dramatic assoc – refers Priestley’s The Inspector Calls

      Telephone about the duck – dry and going bad (7) ROTTING

      Convention: envelope – O (duck) and TT (teetotal or dry) inside RING

      Champion golfer’s casual request to caddie? (3,3,4) ANY OLD IRON

      Convention: familiar – iron as in scrap and iron as in golf; song of music hall comedian, Harry Champion

      Hair in distressing condition (5) TRESS

      Convention: hidden – disTRESSing

      Time and relative dimension in space vehicle. Who told you? (6) TARDIS

      Conventions: initials or acronym – refers Dr Who, fictional time traveller

      Last of the girls named as story-teller (8) TUSITALA

      Conventions: lit. and surgery – “last of the girls” reveals RLS, initials Robert Louis Stevenson, alias Tusitala, “story-teller” of the South Seas

      One might be the sum of two equal squares (9) RECTANGLE

      Conventions: logic or conundrum

      Artist’s punishment of careless kittens (4) OPIE

      Conventions: nursery rhyme and word division – refers Three Little Kittens – “they shall have no pie” read O/PIE

      A drinking man upset about a heroine of opera (5) TOSCA

      Conventions: opera, word division, reversal – “A drinking man” is a sot, “upset” it becomes TOS plus C (about) plus A

      Even both ways (5) LEVEL

      Convention: palindrome – reads both ways (also double meaning)

      Jane is heard to offer a wider view (7) SEYMOUR

      Convention: pun or sound – Jane Seymour (third wife of Henry VIII) sounds like “see more”

      Roman dictator given total American backing (5) SULLA

      Convention: reversal – ALL US for “total American”. Indicator: “backing”

      Changed a hundred to six hundred (9) RECTIFIED

      Convention: Roman numerals – read instead AC to DC (alternating current to direct current)

      A bardic spelling of the last saint (8) CRISPIAN

      Shakespeare – in Henry V this is the Bard’s spelling of the patron saint of shoemakers (last saint)

      He painted Miss Martin topless (4) ETTY

      Convention: surgery – the painter is BETTY minus B (All my eye and Betty Martin)

      Sad outcome of rent reduction (8) TEARDROP

      Convention: word division – TEAR/DROP read “rent reduction”

      Strain to find way about the ship (6) STRESS

      Convention: word division – ST (way) plus RE (about) plus SS (ship)

      Transport as is right and fitting by river (7) RAPTURE

      Convention: word division – R (right) plus APT (fitting) plus URE (river)

      Inset paragraph or it has a divisive effect (9) SEPARATOR

      Conventions: word div/envelope – SET plus PARA (inset – in set) plus OR

      The state of one had rejected love (5) IDAHO

      Conventions: word div/reversal – I (one) plus DAH (had, rejected) plus O (love)

      Maybe either state is unorthodox (9) HERETICAL

      Conventions: word div/anag – HERETI (anagram of “either”; indicator, “maybe”) plus CAL (state – California)

      Eating corn, perhaps, each appears to transgress (8) ENCROACH

      Conventions: envelope/anag – EACH envelopes (indicator, “eating”) an anagram of CORN (indicator, “perhaps”)


      Introduction to The Times crossword (and others of that ilk)

      By Edmund Akenhead, Times Crossword Editor, 1965-83

      The devices used by a cryptic crossword compiler are so many and varied that an introduction such as this can only give the beginner a glimpse of them. Experience will prove the best teacher, but I hope that the following tips will help the beginner in his or her first steps towards mastering ‘The Times’ (and similar) crosswords.

      The best known device is the anagram. “Terribly angered” is a definition of the answer “enraged”, which is also an anagram of “angered”, the word “Terribly” being used in the clue as an anagram indicator. The solver should always be on the look-out for words suggesting arrangement, change, wrongness, confusion, strangeness and the like which may point to anagrams in the clue: “new” is sometimes used, also “sort” and “out” (in the sense of “wrong”), while “perhaps”, “maybe”, and “possibly” will probably indicate anagrams.

      Then there are words which have different meanings: “refuse” in a clue may appear to be a verb meaning “decline”, but it may really mean the noun describing “rubbish”: “tent” may mean not a canvas shelter, but a Spanish wine: “saw” or “gnome” may mean a maxim. Solving crosswords certainly helps to enlarge one’s vocabulary. All sorts of words have hidden meanings in crosswords with “do” clued as a party, “letter” as a landlord, “number” as an anaesthetic (that which numbs) and so ad infinitum, the oldest chestnut being “flower” as a river, while “sewer” may mean a sempstress and “cover for a sewer” will mean not a manhole but a thimble, and “tour de France” is not a cycle race but the Eiffel Tower.

      Many a crossword answer is made up of other words indicated by the clue. “Loudly disapprove royal skating display? Some reservations here (7-5)” is solved by joining up Boo-king off-ice, while Mild-red is well known as a girl with slightly communist sympathies. A word may consist of one word containing another (Envelope), and there are many other ways in which words (including abbreviations) may be combined either in their normal, or in anagrammatic or reversed forms to make the answer. In such “build-ups” the word “river” may refer to one of the compiler’s favourite British waterways – Dee, Exe, Fal or Ure (tributary of the Yorkshire Ouse).

      Solvers should be familiar with many common abbreviations, such as e.g., i.e., the points of the compass N.S.E.W. (sometimes clued as bridge players), musical notes A to G (or doh, re, mi etc) and Roman numerals M, D, C, L, X, V, I. The clue ” 1,200 less 200 (10)” needs conversion into Roman numerals “MCC less CC” and anyone interested in cricket will know that the M in MCC stands for Marylebone. Chemical abbreviations for elements are sometimes used such as “au” (gold), “ag” (silver), “fe” (iron) etcetera. The letter L could be clued as money (pound sign), 50, lake, or as student, tyro, novice or learner (driver with L Plates. Solvers are also expected to know simple words in the more familiar foreign languages, particularly the articles, e.g. el (clued as “the Spanish), der (“the German”) un (“a French”) etc.

      Finally, to mention four other types of clue:

      (a) Hidden answer clue “Something more in the next race (5)”, here the answer EXTRA appears in consecutive letters in the clue (nEXT RAce”).

      (b) Surgery, which requires a certain amount of doctoring of words to produce the desired effect. Associated words like “beheaded”, “curtailed”, “reduced”, often indicate this type of clue: “Humperdinck in turn to some extent a singer (6)” answer TREBLE is one of my favourites. Engelbert (“in turn”) gives in reverse form TREBLEGNE and “to some extent” indicates a need for surgery or reduction.

      (c) “Sound” clues with sound-indicators such as “say”, “we hear”, “it’s said”, or “sound” telling the solver to look to the sound of the words used. “Some measure of spirit? I say! (5) gives the answer OPTIC (optic measures used in bars). “Say” in the clue tells the solver to look to the sound of “I”, that is “eye” revealing an alternative meaning.

      (d) The acronym or word made up from the initial letters of other words. “Paddy as the normal agriculture initially here (5) PATNA.

      An ounce of practical demonstration being worth a pound of theory I leave the rest up to you.