Welcome to my website www.crosswordsakenhead.com
My father was Edmund Akenhead, Crossword Editor of The Times from 1965 to 1983 and contributor from 1960 until he died in 1990 just before Christmas. In tribute to his loyal service to The Times, and doubtless in gratitude for his column in Not the Times during the Wapping Dispute (in which he advocated supporting the new proprietor if the journalists valued their jobs!), Mr Rupert Murdoch appointed Sir Edward Pickering, Chief Executive Times Newpapers Ltd, and the deputy Managing Editor of The Times, David Hopkinson, as his representatives at my father’s memorial service at St Andrews church in South Newton near Salisbury on a crisp, early New Year 1991 morn, as a mark of his appreciation and gratitude for EA’s lifetime’s loyal service to The Times.
My father was inventor of the renowned Times Jumbo crossword, crossword supplier extraordinary to BBC 2 for their pilot colour venture, Crossword on Two starring Panel supremos Frank Muir and Patrick Campbell and other contemporary associated memorable wits and wordsmiths, founder of the annual Times Crossword Championships, and the Times crossword archive with his successor, the late John Grant, former Managing Editor of The Times, and encouraged me as his apprentice to carry on where they left off, promoting further my father’s own internationally acclaimed achievements, and that of subsequent crossword editors of The Times with my own late twentieth century invention, The Times Computer crosswords, inspired by the thinking of two great mathematicians and scientists, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Stephen Hawking.
My original work, an exercise in Gestalt (and Fibonacci) and Leibnitzian calculus with Dr S. Ramdas was duly acknowledged by the National Extension College, Cambridge, for our individual contributions to the new medium, and in 1987, under the recommendation of both Times Books and The Times, under James Bishop, then Managing Editor of The Times, and after him, Peter Roberts, we launched our three prototype digital books of 60 crosswords each at the Acorn User Show for operation on home computers, the Acorn Electron and the BBC Micro.
Father and son’s combined efforts were a first and earned us immediate recognition, confounding our American competitors. True to assurances given to my late father, Peter Roberts, as the new managing editor of The Times and fellow managing editors, Roger Eglin for The Sunday Times, and Bill Newman for The Sun (all three dearly remembered), supported me with every assistance and Peter saw fit to confer on me my father’s honorary title of Crossword Consultant to The Times. I also found a lifetime friend in Alastair Brett, later Legal Manager of The Times, who acted as my mentor.
The Times, Sunday Times and Sun Computer crosswords became byword products, with versions for a whole range of operators including Amstrad, Atari, and Acorn in the 1980s, Microsoft in the 1990s, and with two very successful pre millennium publications, The Sunday Times Crossword Compendium, and The Times Ultimate Crossword Compendium, the former finding its way into the Moscow Computer Games Puzzles top ten forum for an entire year.
As with all inventions, there are inevitably setbacks. The proprietor of The Times rightly observed that the CD-Rom and DVD markets and later downloads themselves, were rife with exploitation and piracy, and called time on our products. Effectively it was back to the drawing board, back to the original program I wrote in BBC Basic with the subsequent blessing of the National Extension College, Cambridge. My efforts with former colleagues had been reduced to naught, my gratitude to them, but sadly our design platforms were not to prevail; in fact the only thing which has is my original program and a couple of highly gifted mathematicians from India, with a clear understanding of my aspirations in handling my data and a new cloud vision going forwards.
Today, the team is just myself and my brilliant companion from India, Sunil Kumar Mutaka, both of us on equal wavelengths on an ambitious project; result is that progress is rapid! I started on my new designs only in October 2017, thus consigning years of discord to the bin after finding inspiration from that wonderful movie with Eddie Redmayne as Professor Stephen Hawking, and that pencil- dropping moment. I could do something like that. Change course, and I have, dramatically! Here, we have no more downloads, and something for everyone. With my new crossword program, you have total control on how you wish to approach your challenge, much like Einstein’s ball, and Hawking’s parallel universes!
Here are a few bulleted firsts you will find on this website, courtesy of David Akenhead and Sunil Kumar Mutaka :
- On 6th April 2019 The Times Digital Jumbo crosswords produced on our WordPress platform, replicated from their book counterparts in their entirety and featuring both the original 27×27 and later 23×23 grids, adapted in a totally new format and apps friendly version to appeal to the modern user. Reaction to Edmund Akenhead’s original work was echoed throughout Fleet Street starting with the Observer‘s earlier review entitled THE EXPERT’S EXPERT ● CROSSWORD COMPILERS ● THE LAST WORD with interviews by CARRIE STOKES in the Observer Colour Supplement. The first book, compiled almost in its entirety by my father (one clue from yours truly), was described thus by The Guardian‘s Eric Chalkely (Apex) – ‘Although I am basically an Ximenian, I always enjoy solving the Times crosswords, but as they don’t name the setter I don’t know who to recommend. However, The Times Jumbo Book of Crosswords, by Edmund Akenhead, is a little masterpiece.’
- On 5th June 2019 we achieved a World First with the successful online publishing of Brian Greer’s mammoth Times Diamond Jubilee Puzzle published in The Times on Saturday 3rd February 1990 to commemorate 60 years on from the first Times crossword by Adrian Bell of Saturday 1st February 1930.
- On 1st September 2019 – The Times2 Jumbo, and The Times Jumbo Word Games were compacted to satiate crossword buffs from near and far with our regular practice models. I completed 100 of these in the first 5 months of operation, and adding 5 Times Concise, and 5 Sunday Times Concise crosswords games monthly to increase the overall appeal of the Games.
- On 22nd October 2019 we introduced a new interactive device enabling reader participation in ongoing projects, notably the gradual construction of a House entry to mark the forthcoming 90 year milestone for The Times crossword. This was followed by an invitation for individuals to vie for £2000 in prize money for a £5 outlay to create a 45 x 45 puzzle to rival or better Brian Greer’s earlier magnificent effort.
- On 1st January 2020 I brought in a small US$15 annual subscription to my extensive digital crossword archive and also included my Crossword games. Later, in the month, however, in an effort to encourage even more interest, I decided to promote the crossword games archive as a FREE attraction anew.
- On 6th January 2020 I introduced my new Crossword Challenge offering crossword buffs the opportunity of a free subscription to my crossword archive after cluing a vintage Times crossword to an acceptable standard as an ongoing activity, and offering successful applicants in addition to their free subscription, the joy of sharing their work with others for a full week, as well as being registered in our Hall of Fame, before starting the next Challenge, a bit like Wimbledon!
- On 1st February 2020 happy to announce a glorious response to the House competition in celebration of the 90th anniversary of The Times crossword marking exactly 90 Years to the day since the very first Times crossword produced by Adrian Bell for The Times on Saturday 1st February 1930. in delivering a product, as a fair reply to Brian Greer’s earlier Diamond Jubilee crossword, thanks to clueing contributions from three Times crossword aficionados to DA’s solutions.
- On 1st February 2020 we witnessed the first ever hybrid ongoing Crossword Challenge, allowing the public at large to vie for a free subscription to DA’s extensive digital crossword archive of The Times and The Sunday Times (going back to inception) by either clueing a vintage 1983 Times crossword to standard or solving a vintage 1938 Sunday Times crossword on-line.
- On 6th February 2020 saw an interchangeable bar system to the categories heading the website, enabling latitude of movement of appendages from category to category.
- On 10th February, subsequent to correspondence received from readers pointing out that the Hint facility, wasn’t really necessary in view of the wealth of information already available in the Introductions to titles, and it could be argued too that said products were being marginalised somewhat as a result, I decided to axe that facility from all the products, bringing them much more into line with their book counterparts whose interests I share equally. I too love a good book, but am mindful of the need to satisfy the digital market, as well.
- On 15th February 2020 the WordPress platform for the website enabled swift transfer of useful data from archives and sources generally to blend with ongoing crossword products.
- On 1st March 2020, the Games archive was expanded to include a new series of Times and Sunday Times crosswords with the introduction of the first five of each. On this day too, the subscription was reduced to US$10.
- On 24th April 2020, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Akenhead crosswords announced the suspension of the US$10 subscription with all titles FREE pending a one-size-fits-all app for mobiles and digital hand-held appliances scheduled for 1st May, and to be available for an annual rental at a very competitive price.
- On 1st May 2020, Akenhead crosswords announced their new mobile Crossword App in response to the leading crossword app, hosted by The New York Times, initially in the form of a FREE taster of items from David Akenhead’s extensive and up-to-date Crosswords and Crossword Games Digital archive courtesy of The Times and Sunday Times.
- On 24th May 2020, Prime Minister Modi of India announced an easing of their lockdown restrictions permitting me an opportunity to amend the new App to a taster version, in the hope that the inevitable delay we have encountered since May 1st will enable a degree of flexibility for both me and the new management at the Times and Sunday Times, to see if we can produce something to rival the New York Times, who have set a commendably high bar with their own App, by granting me the latitude I seek to promote all at my disposal including the very latest crossword titles, not being one to shy away from such a challenge! Subsequent to which I graciously acknowledge that my aspirations must be limited within my present brief. My taster App will reflect this. Should I bring out a commercial App later this year, that too will reflect the Status Quo excluding titles under wraps. I will respectfully leave The Times to compete with the NYT should they choose so to do!
I see my site as an experimental platform for future products and projects and as an opportunity for the world at large to sample some of the beautiful products from our illustrious past from my extensive Archive of The Times and Sunday Times crosswords, as well as explore the future of digital crosswords generally.
Is it beyond the bounds of reason, I asked myself, to suggest that my father’s 27 x 27 crossword was just the beginning of a new trend? Brian Greer seemed to support my notion with his wonderful 45 x 45 crossword.
Thank you, Mr Murdoch and Times Newspapers Limited for your renewed confidence in my work. Thank you too to my brother, Sir Robert Akenhead, for his limitless patience and for his invaluable support and my new brilliant programmer too from India, Sunil Kumar Mutaka, for his indispensable help as well – (we managed to compress my original program on 3rd June 2019, rendering it lightning fast and efficient and enabling us to blend the old with the new on the most advanced of platforms!)
Sic itur ad astra – thus we journey to the stars!
If you like what you see, please spread the word and happy puzzling! Below are illustrated examples of my earlier achievements.
Sincerely, David Akenhead, author of The Times Computer Crosswords, The Sunday Times Computer Crosswords and The Sun Computer Crosswords, editor of The Third Book of The Times Jumbo Crosswords, co-editor of The Times and Sunday Times Crossword Omnibus series by Times Books for The Times and Sunday Times, co-editor with Mike Laws, former Crossword Editor, of the first of the Everest Jumbo series, The Times Jumbo Crossword Collection (first 3 Books) and The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword Book 6, and co-editor with Richard Browne, former Crossword Editor of The Times, of 75 Years of The Times Crossword.
Friday 29th May, 2020
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