Useful tips for budding Crossword Designers and prospective Entrants to my renewed Crossword Competition updated today to a 45×45 grid and designed to commemorate 90 years (shortly) since the very first Times crossword

  – by David Akenhead, author

Brian Greer, I fondly remember as an exceptional talent in writing crosswords for both my father and John Grant, and indeed, in his own right when he took over from John in 1994 as Crossword Editor with a couple of super millennium publications thereafter, The Times Crossword 2000 and The Times Crossword Masterclass the latter including suitable material I was happy to offer him from the crossword Archive.

And for the icing on the cake, he compiled his wonderful Mammoth Diamond Jubilee Crossword to celebrate 60 years of The Times crossword, on 1st February 1990, from the very first Times crossword compiled by Adrian Bell and published in The Times on 1st February 1930.

It is my intention now to extend this noble tradition to the forthcoming occasion on the 1st February 2020 when the crossword will have ticked up 90 years, with my new competition and now brand new House entry (see 90th Anniversary on Home Page alongside this article) inviting as many who are interested, to join me by submitting suitable cryptic renditions for our seemingly daunting 45 x 45 crossword, until we realise, gentle readers, that Brian has already given you a huge leg up! In addition, I am adding my own pennyworth with the longer solutions already completed, along with suitable reminders of the purpose of the crossword, with an overriding theme of celebration!

Brian’s 45 x 45 design is a wonderful base to start for anyone really, eager to get into this game, and as I did as a student with my own father’s 27 x 27 Jumbos back in the early seventies when I was training as a teacher in nearby Cheltenham, and stayed with him at The Old House outside Salisbury in the intervening holidays, keen to do my bit helping to proof his large workload as well as submitting my own designs, two of which, I am proud to say, he accepted!

Allow me to illustrate how easy and fun my competition can become to anyone really, thus inclined, and for newcomers in particular. Experts ignore this article, please!

Simple rule of thumb in this business, is we first design the grids (usually symmetrical), then we fill in the solutions, probably starting with the longest first and working downwards, simple reason being that as they reduce they become less demanding, (or that’s the theory, but with a computer you are spared the rubber!) – Then we clue accordingly.

However, with Brian’s grid in front of you on this website we can take some glorious short cuts, and you don’t need to be computer savvy either! All you need to do when you submit your entry, is give me the across/down grid reference for each clue/solution – with a simple x,y coordinate, and I will translate all your solutions onto my own digital template 45 x 45 grid ready and waiting for you! You don’t need to send me a copy of the grid either, just the grid coordinates, and if I experience any difficulties with your entry, (no extra charge), I will be happy to email you via our two new internal webmails: for general queries about my website, or for queries specific to the crosswords generally, and this one in particular, facilitating a brand new interactive House feed for all my loyal adherents. The House Entry has evolved into a Clue-writing Competition with £100 offered for the best clue!

Permit me to illustrate with three simple examples from Brian’s wonderful puzzle, and I apologise to seasoned solvers and compilers who probably do not need any assistance here, and with no desire to spoil their enjoyment of his puzzle either!

Let’s have a look first at a couple of border clues and solutions, and where better than

1 across and 13 across

1 ac Proverbial statement of relative solidarity (23 letters) (grid reference x,y = 1,1) BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER

13 ac Our team extended 1200 of the Romans (21 letters) (grid reference x,y = 25,1) MARYLEBONE CRICKET CLUB

( together 45 Characters including black square separating both)

But the down clues therefrom are an ongoing challenge!

Your task becomes apparent in all its splendour, and your variations can be welcome if your design requires splits with additional clues/solutions in the space available.

Onwards to the middle of the show and Brian’s pièce de résistance!

185 ac Pooh’s reason for difficulty with this puzzle (45 letters)


Now you have the renewed extent of the challenge from both above and below, but I hope, like Pooh, you’ll give it a shot!.

Reminder too that those who enter the actual competition must submit £5 via the subscription form on my Home Page  are free to use Brian Greer’s design if they choose, but it must be an entry entirely of their own making to qualify for the first prize of £1000 via my new gmail address above. The clue writing competition is FREE and anybody can join in. More the merrier!

Happy puzzling! David Akenhead, 15th November 2019

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