Welcome to my new 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 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:

  • The Times Digital Jumbo crosswords replicated from their originals in book form featuring both the original 27×27 and more recent 23×23  grids, presently adapted in a totally new format and apps friendly version to appeal to the modern user. The first book, compiled in its entirety by my father, was described by The Guardian‘s Eric Chalkely (Apex) as “a little masterpiece”.
  • FREE! The Times2 Jumbo, and The Times Jumbo Word Games to satiate crossword buffs from near and far with our regular practice models. Having completed 100 of these in the first 5 months of operation, we are now adding 5 Times Concise, and 5 Sunday Times Concise crosswords games monthly to increase the overall appeal of the Games.
  • On 5th June 2019 I 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 22nd October 2019 I 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 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 my Hall of Fame, before starting the next Challenge, a bit like Wimbledon!
  • At midnight GMT on 26th January I announced the closure of the 90th Anniversary crossword competitions, and invited open house on the newly completed House effort. The winners of the competitions will be announced on Saturday, 1st February 2020 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.

I see my new 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 Mr Robert Hands 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 CrosswordsThe Sunday Times Computer Crosswords and The Sun Computer Cosswords and co-author with Richard Browne, former Crossword Editor of The Times, of our highly sought-after tome, 75 Years of The Times Crossword!

27th January, 2020

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