Barbara Hall MBE (3 February 1923 – 18 April 2022) was an English crossword compiler, advice columnist and writer. From the early 1980s until her retirement in 2010 she was the Crossword Puzzles Editor for the Sunday Times. In a career spanning seven decades she edited, created and set puzzles for The Daily MailThe Yorkshire PostThe Sunday Times and The Observer, as well as many other newspapers, making her Britain’s longest serving crossword compiler.

Barbara Hall was born in Derby, England, and grew up in the village of Aston-on-Trent. Her father Lawrence Shelton Taylor served during World War I as a radio operator and air navigator before becoming an accountant on the railways. During World War II he re-joined the RAF as a reservist and trainer. Her mother Olive Taylor (nee Bradbury) served in World War I on the Western Front in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and worked during World War II as a Braille teacher.After gaining a scholarship to attend Parkfield Cedars Grammar School in Derby, Barbara Hall had her first crossword published, when she was 15 years old, in the Northern edition of the Daily Mail in 1938. This was as a result of winning a competition, for which she was paid 2 guineas. She intended to become an elocution teacher, having been accepted to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. However, her plans were disrupted by the Second World War. From 1941 until 1945 she served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service, working as a coder, preparing orders for ships of the North Sea Coastal Command. After the war, and her marriage to the journalist Richard Seymour Hall, she developed her career as a crossword compiler and writer


The Hall family moved to Africa in 1955, where she worked part time on the Central African Mail newspaper, a publication edited by her husband, which later become the Zambia Daily Mail. During her 12 years living in Northern Rhodesia, later Zambia when it became an independent country in 1964, she wrote numerous feature articles. Her advice column, Tell me Josephine, was one of the paper’s most popular features, and resulted in a book, including a foreword by Dr Kenneth Kaunda, first President of Zambia, which was translated into over 19 languages. Barbara Hall continued to support her husband’s work and write articles and puzzles both before and after he became the editor of the Times of Zambia. Whilst working in the newspaper industry in Zambia she met many eminent people including Jomo Kenyatta, Indira Gandhi and Chiang Kai-shek. She had a deep love of Zambia, worked constantly to promote its independence, was a founder of The Zambia Society, and stayed close friends with Dr Kenneth Kaunda and his family.After returning to the United Kingdom in 1967 she continued to compile crosswords and puzzles, alongside articles, reviews and features, which appeared in a wide range of publications. She made a specialty of themed puzzles and produced scores of these on a wide variety of subjects including railways, yachting, wine, food and gardening. She developed a loyal following for her Bookwise quiz in the Sunday Times, and her crosswords were syndicated across the globe. She was regularly interviewed or spoke about her life as a crossword compiler on the BBC and other broadcast media.She received an MBE in 2007 for services to the newspaper industry.She retired from the Sunday Times in 2010, at the age of 87, though continued to compile crosswords for The Australian newspaper weekend edition until late 2011, and on a voluntary basis for local charities for some years.

Personal life and death

During her 30-year marriage to Richard Seymour Hall she had five children, all boys. They divorced in around 1976 and never remarried. Hall lived out her brief retirement in Camberwell, South London, before dying suddenly at home on 18 April 2022, at the age of 99.

She was a very good friend to me at Wapping and she is deeply missed. David Akenhead, former Crossword Consultant to The Times.

Visits: 314