Never knowingly undersolved.

Calling all admirers of Rufus

Posted by jetdoc on February 14th, 2012


I am posting this on behalf of Alan Connor, who writes the crossword blog in the Guardian. Rufus’s 80th birthday is coming up very soon (next week, in fact). If you love Rufus (or Dante etc) puzzles (perhaps because they gave you a way in to cryptic crosswords), here’s your chance to put your appreciation on record as part of a birthday tribute:

“For Rufus’s 80th birthday, the Guardian will be featuring a profile of the great man. If you have any thoughts about how Rufus provides the start to your week (in whichever paper) or other memories about solving his puzzles, Alan Connor (of the Guardian crossword blog) would like to hear them. Please leave a comment below. Alan apologises in advance for not being able to use everything he gets!”

27 Responses to “Calling all admirers of Rufus”

  1. Bob Marshall says:

    I was surprised to find out that Rufus was so advanced in years! Congratulations, and many happy returns – it is largely due to you that I have become involved in the world of crosswords at all; I had toyed with Guardian crosswords in a half-hearted way for a long time, unable to get into the minds of such as Bunthorne and Fidelio – you and your gentler puzzles gave me the thrill of actually managing to complete a grid, which gave me a further spur and I now acquit myself reasonably well even among some of the much fiercer newcomers – I name no names, Boatman, Bonxie and Paul, if any of you are reading this.

    While Rufus’ puzzles are a softer entry to the week’s puzzle, they never fail to fascinate and amuse me; BALLPOINTS was a typically satisfying clue from yesterday’s puzzle, as was the anagram of TRAINSPOTTING.

    In many games, one ‘moves on’ from the ‘nursery slopes’ but I always enjoy Rufus puzzles even now I can manage to stay on my feet when presented with an Araucaria Bank Holiday Special!

    I am sure I am just one of many who has been introduced to the fascinating world of crosswords by, perhaps more than any other, Rufus. Thank you, sir, and have a happy birthday.

    Regards of the kindest sort,


  2. Pasquale says:

    Rufus and I both began at the Radio Times at about the same time in the 60s, but he has been a full-time professional a lot longer than I have. Bloggers who make comments about ‘nursery slopes’ should rightly remember (as BM does above) that not everyone wants to go off piste with huge avalanches threatening them. While there is a Rufus there will still be people who tackle a crossword and don’t give up. I salute a good old pro who has been a friendly colleague for many years in a variety of publications. I take heart that I too might be able to carry on for a while yet!

  3. Hobnob says:

    What I’ve always admired about Rufus is his ability to craft the most elegant clue surfaces. They seem so obvious, and yet somehow they’re always original, and of course he is the absolute master of the cryptic definition.

    I had the privilege to work with him a number of years ago on a project, and I can also confirm that he is just as charming a person in real life as you might expect from his gently witty clues.

  4. crypticsue says:

    I have probably solved 99.9% of all the Rufus crosswords that have appeared in the DT over the last 25 years. A treat to look forward to every Monday morning with elegant clues, cryptic definitions and lots of fun. Doesn’t matter how many years one has been solving, or what level of solving ability one has reached, a Rufus puzzle is the best start to a cryptic solving week there is.

    Thank you and Happy Birthday Rufus.

  5. Jan says:

    Having had the pleasure of meeting Rufus at the Derby, ‘Sloggers and Betters’, meet, I really can’t believe that he is as old as claimed. Somebody has added a sneaky 10 or 20 years, surely! :)

    I love cds but dislike dds. However, I treasure a Rufus dd as one of my favourite clues ever: Guardian, 25,006, Rufus …

    5d Bird nuts (6)

  6. James Droy says:

    Someone once compared Rufus to Mozart in that his setting was always light and cheerful and surprisingly complex. I have always enjoyed the challenge of the cds and the devilishness of the dds but the game often defeats me. We all know that this is light, if not to say easy, so why am I often staring at the last two and racking the little grey cells?

    Happy birthday Rufus.

  7. shuchi says:

    In the pre-internet era when British crosswords were not accessible in India, we still recognised Rufus through his crosswords syndicated in the Indian Express. I have admired his work for years – I can think of no other setter who combines wit, elegance and simplicity with such ease. Whenever someone new to cryptic crosswords asks me which puzzles to start with, Rufus is my prompt recommendation.

    In the recent times I have got to know Rufus better via emails and I now admire him for qualities beyond his crosswords – openness, enthusiasm and remarkable courage, to name a few. If I’m half the person he is when I’m his age, I’ll consider myself blessed.

    A very happy birthday to you Rufus.

  8. Thomas99 says:

    I read a quotation from Harold Massingham (“Mass”) recently where he said the thing about a good clue (I think he may have said a good poem too) was “to say something”. And that’s the joy of Rufus – there’s a point to his clues, either in an elegant surface, or a joke, an allusion, or a surprising twist that makes you think. But like James Dory above I don’t always find him easy – especially with those cryptic definitions, where it’s not just a question of following instructions; you have to try and think like him. And I’d say that’s a skill worth acquiring!

  9. flashling says:

    As I’ve only done a few of Rufus’s can’t comment but his magic show skills are still fantastic, loved the Brum show he did for us.

  10. Kathryn's Dad says:

    I only got back into cryptics three or so years ago, with the Everyman on Sundays, but then when I started to explore the Guardian cryptics, here on Monday was a setter who had a light touch, plenty of wit, and who after a bit I could manage most weeks (a key motivator if you’re still a relative beginner).

    And then when Eileen and I decided to try a Midlands Sloggers and Betters event, it was a great piece of news when we heard that Rufus could attend. I’ve also met him at the two subsequent events, and he’s a gentle, self-effacing man and a top bloke. And also seriously good at close-up magic.

    Many happy returns, Roger!

  11. Eileen says:

    When I saw Jane’s invitation to comment this morning, I thought, ‘This will take some thinking about’, so left it till later. Too late, it seems – it’s practically all been said.

    I’ve been blogging for 15² for three and a half years now and apparently, during that time have blogged thirty Rufus puzzles.The biggest problem, when writing a preamble, has been to avoid using the words ‘wit’ and ‘elegance’ [which I see echoed above] – but just try finding alternative descriptions!

    I have found myself, on several occasions, defending Rufus against the ‘too easy’ brigade: I have always understood – and Rufus himself has patiently reiterated several times – that it is his brief to provide a ‘gentle start to the week’. Several fellow-compilers have asserted that compiling ‘easy’ puzzles is more difficult than setting obscure ones. I wonder if our crossword editor might once allow Rufus full rein to confound us all – I’m confident he could rise to the challenge!

    Rufus’s puzzles are characterised by cryptic definitions – you love them or hate them – and double definitions. I never cease to be amazed by the freshness of such clues, after all those decades. This week’s ‘pound of sultanas [5]’ ranks for me well up there with his classic, ‘Bar of soap [6,6]’ despite – or even because of – his having previously used this clue for an 8-letter word.

    On a personal level, early on, Roger gave me great encouragement by email on my blogs and so it was for me, as for Kathryn’s Dad, a huge delight finally to meet him – as a well-loved friend.

    Many happy returns to a lovely man!

  12. Jan says:

    Hi, Eileen. I knew I’d seen a bit about ‘Bar of soap’ somewhere. Anax put this on his website in April last year.

    Talking of which, I’d love to know when ‘Bar of soap’ first appeared. It’s credited originally to Rufus but it’s one I wrote for a Birmingham Post crozzer in about 1985/6 when Rufus was my editor. He didn’t say at the time it was one he’d written/seen before, although in retrospect I can’t imagine he’d feel obliged to say so.
    At least I take some comfort from knowing I came up with it independently!

  13. pankajam says:

    Thank you, Rufus for your crisp, commendable,consummate,cryptic clues!
    wishing you A Very very happy birthday and many happy returns of the day!

  14. Rishi says:

    If I am not mistaken, pankajam at #13 is a member of an Orkut community that solves Rufus’s 13×13 cryptic puzzle that is reproduced in The New Indian Express in India. This syndicated puzzle must be the most popular among all UK cryptic crosswords reproduced in India. Many solvers in India are most likely to have heard of the name Rufus rather than any other UK setter.

    I have been familiar with the puzzle since the 1970s when I was working with then undivided Indian Express (I used to issue copy to the Press) but I came to know the name of the setter only decades later after the advent of Internet and crossword forums. I may take some credit for introducing the name of Rufus to my fellow-solvers as the syndicated puzzle carries no byline.

    In the paper now (not in those days when I used to be in-charge of the feature) the puzzle is printed in such a small lay-out box and the clues are in such a small type that I wonder if any reader ever solves it in that medium (the publishing process is becoming so mechanical in this era that the person in-charge today may not have a clue about the feature he’s handling). We inveterate solvers adopt other means to be able to solve the crossword comfortably.

    Rufus’s crosswords may be considered ‘less difficult’ but there is no doubt that he is one who has endeared himself to solvers the world over.

  15. MikeC says:

    I’ve come to appreciate Rufus’s puzzles more and more, for the qualities described above. And I think it’s great that different setters have different styles. Sometimes I feel masochistic enough to face the medieval instruments of torture wielded by such as Enigmatist and Anax; on other occasions having the soles of my feet tickled by Rufus’s feather is just right (though it can get painful enough when cryptic or double definitions refuse to reveal themselves).

    Many happy returns, Roger. Have a great birthday.

  16. Raju Umamaheswar says:

    Thanks to Chaturvasi of the Hindu Crossword blog for having revealed the identity of Rufus.I have always wondered why the setters adopt pseudonyms! I used to see his name in the Guardian crosswords, amongst others like Araucaria, etc (most enigmatic of the lot !) and have always had him as a much younger person in my mind’s picture and never knew that his cryptic crosswords are the ones syndicated in the New Indian Express. I had known a young bull dog, dubbed Rufus, ( no offence to our good ol’ Rufus!) and hence now that I know that our Rufus is not that rough and ruff , I’d rather dub him as Gentlerus, in keeping with his gentlest of lead-by-the-hand cryptic crosswords ! I saw and solved recently a clue: X: and that’s it! in the New indian Express. How much more cryptic can cryptic be? I’m also glad that his crosswords are the best to initiate the novitiates into the parish.

    Whilst wishing Rufus-Gentlerus, many happy returns and many more full moons to be seen by him,I also nourish a secret envy and prayer to God that He let me live longer, with all faculties in tact, to keep pace with Rufus- Gentlerus and his crosswords, my insatiable passion.

    Thanks to the internet, our crossword family will grow stronger and stronger.

  17. Jake says:

    Happy birthday,


  18. Sumitra says:

    Many, many, happy returns of the day! Thank you for your puzzles that are fun and a real pleasure to solve.

  19. Col (Retd) Deepak Gopinath says:

    Happy Birthday Roger

  20. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Unlike for many others, Rufus wasn’t my gateway to crosswordland a few years ago (that was, of all people, Araucaria) and therefore he wasn’t the one who made me familiar with all these devious tricks that are needed to successfully tackle the Enigmatists of this world.

    The biggest compliment I can give Roger Squires is that he has made a significant contribution to my understanding of the English language.
    Many of his clues are based on idiomatic expressions and so natural that I wonder how on earth he has done this all those years, week after week. It seems so effortless.

    The puzzles of Rufus and Dante have enriched my vocabulary and my ‘feel’ for a language that is not my first. I do not exaggerate when I say: they have enriched my life in England.

    Like some others I had to privilege to meet Roger Squires on a few occasions. And I can only confirm: he is exactly like his puzzles are – warm, friendly, modest, natural!

    Dear Roger, have a great birthday next week!
    And long may you continue!

  21. Rich says:

    For me Rufus is the king of the smooth surface, clueing with the sleight of hand of a stage magician. I cannot recall (or perhaps would rather not admit) how many times an answer has been staring me in the face, as I pondered increasingly complex and exotic devices to try and make a clue something it wasn’t.

    Happy Birthday and many more of them!

  22. Gervase says:

    Happy Birthday, Roger!

    Rufus has a seemingly effortless ability to write wonderful clues that are both precise and concise. His surface readings are incredible, given the small number of words that his clues typically comprise. Unlike many other solvers, I do not find him to be the ‘easiest’ of Guardian setters: his trademark is the plethora of (extremely) clever double definitions and cryptic definitions. These are always superbly crafted, but it isn’t always easy to tell what type of clue one is faced with in a Rufus puzzle – and cryptic defs only give one entry point into the solution. Nevertheless, they are always a pleasure to solve.

    Sil has referred to Roger’s masterful use of English idiomatic phrases. One of my favourites of Rufus’s clues employs one idiomatic expression to represent another, via what is an ingenious double definition: ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ (5,3,4)

  23. Ilippu says:

    Dante in FT on a Monday morning means the week will be great. I have had so many in the past 17+ years, I am honored to say ‘thank you’ on this his joyous 80th birthday!

  24. regalize says:

    Magic! Thanks, Rufus, and Happy Birthday.

  25. Jan Francis says:

    Congratulations Roger and Happy Birthday. Such nice comments from so many people! So sorry we missed meeting you. Enjoy your special day.

  26. Niloci says:

    Roger has been compiling for the FT for more than 30 years, and his puzzles have been a positive pleasure to check and publish. A remarkable achievement and long may he continue setting for us. Happy birthday.


    I am a Guardian cryptic addict and Rufus on Mondays is a habit. I had no idea he is heading for his 80th – here’s wishing him a telegram from the Queen a few years (and many puzzles) hence.

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