Never knowingly undersolved.


I started off on Everyman in The Observer, and began solving Azed while I was a student at Cambridge (reading maths) shortly after it started. I do the Guardian puzzle most days and others sporadically. In real life I work as a software developer (still in Cambridge), and for non-crossword recreation play the piano and am involved in amateur theatre.

There was a tradition in both our families of solving Telegraph concise and cryptic crosswords. During our student days we moved on to the Observer. When we could afford a daily, we enjoyed the Guardian cryptics until the Indy arrived on the scene. Nowadays, Saturdays are not complete without the Inquisitor.

We never time ourselves but we do feel cheated if we finish quickly and really enjoy seeking out themes and ninas etc. We are now retired and when time allows, we supplement the daily Indy solve (dead tree version) with the on-line Guardian cryptic, Genius and the occasional Quiptic.

Finding fifteensquared was a revelation – we realised we are not alone in our attempts to stave off Alzheimer’s!

Duncan Shiell
Born in 1948. I retired from full-time work in May 2007, after 37 years with Ordnance Survey and associated bodies and now have time to devote to crosswords, something not available for many years. Product of 17 years in the Scottish education system, but lived overseas or in southern England for virtually all of the time thereafter.  I moved back to Scotland in 2010.  Regular road runner and recently returned to orienteering and golf after a 35 year gap. Developed interested in cryptic crosswords in the mid 1960s (Scotsman, Sunday Express skeleton), but working overseas and then raising a family, meant dropping out of crossword solving for about 30 years. Now a regular solver of Times, Guardian, Independent, Inquisitor, Listener and Magpie crosswords. Reasonably regular finisher of the first four. Started blogging in late 2007.  Any solving ability far outweighs any clueing ability. Krypton Factor contestant 1983; eliminated in the first round, but the obstacle course finish made good television!

I’ve been doing cryptic crosswords since university days, learning how with a group of friends in coffee breaks. The daily Guardian crossword has been part of my life for most of the time since, with the occasional Times puzzle when visiting friends who take that paper. Since retiring from teaching [originally Classics and subsequently, after that was dropped from the curriculum,  mostly English] and discovering the FT and Indie online, I’ve been having a go at those, too. I’ve never attempted anything more difficult than that. I don’t record solving times: I enjoy taking time to finish a puzzle and always feel slightly disappointed when I do so too quickly. [Well, that's my excuse for not aiming for a ten-minute solve, anyway.]

I’m now 48, another IT worker, seems to be a common fault round here.  Started doing cryptics whilst living in Oxford (despite being a Cambridge  man) in about 1988 when I started buying the Independent which I’ve done  pretty much every day since. Flirted with the Guardian and Times but prefer  the Indy. I’m not an overly fast solver, preferring to savour rather rush  through it. Alas, due to work commitments, I can only blog the IOS these days as  I now spend my days ensuring the London Ambulance Service can do its fine  work. Away from work and crosswords I do professional firework displays as a  part time job/hobby hence the avatar used by me.

I cut my teeth on Telegraph cryptics in my early/mid teens (more years ago than I care to remember) and continued with this crossword for many years. Then followed a period of restricted solving activity due to family/work commitments but I attempted various cryptics each week depending on which paper had been left on the train or in the office.

After retiring, I completed the Times, Telegraph and Guardian crosswords daily until the papers started charging for on-line access. I continued with the Times for several years after this but I now solve the Guardian and FT each day, the Indy most days (depending on the setter and time available) and the Times on Saturdays.

Nowadays I prefer barred/themed crosswords as they are generally more of a challenge and my weekly solving list includes Azed, Enigmatic Variations and Inquisitor, with the occasional  Spectator or Mephisto thrown in for some variety. Yes, I know, I really should get a life!

Hihoba is a combination of the names of three retired men  – George Hill, Jo Horwood and Barnie Baker – who spend (waste?) more time than they should solving crosswords. We hope that it is helping us to fight off incipient Alzheimers. We operate separately, and then combine resources if (usually when) we get stuck. It’s all done by email now, but I have records to show that we’ve been doing the Inquisitor and its predecessor the Weekend Crossword back into the days when you had to ring people up and actually talk to them!

Started on cryptic crosswords as a late teenager and completed the Times daily until the Independent started.  (Didn’t do the crossword – just stopped reading the Times.)

Often tackled the Independent weekend magazine crossword in the early and late 1990s (spent mid-90s in Bruxelles), and then most of them since moving out of London in summer 2000.  I must say that my forays into the Listener have proved more satisfying (except the number ones) – estimate 98% successful – but usually don’t have enough discretionary time for both.

Ilan Caron
Age: old enough to remember the 1966 world cup.
Level: journeyman (Guardian dailies, Times dailies, occasional Azed and the rarer Listener).
Times speed: best 15 minutes, average: 45 min – 1 hour.
Born in London but have lived abroad since age 11. Cryptics in “The New Yorker” (97-99) were what got me going. Left Microsoft recently for the greener pastures of Google.

Jetdoc/Jane Teather
Age irrelevant, but I’m old enough to remember the crossword in the Correspondent on Sundays. Crosswords, of one sort or another, were always part of life in my family. My mother, in her 90s, still has a go at The Times non-cryptic every day. I graduated from just doing daily cryptics (Guardian for as long as I’ve been buying my own) to Azed. I also do the Cyclops puzzle in Private Eye. Since January 2006 I have been doing the Listener (apart from the mathematical ones), with reasonable but not spectacular success; I hope to improve over time. I subscribe to Magpie but seldom find time for more than one or two of the less impenetrable puzzles. I am too short of free time (actually, way too cowardly!) to attempt any setting. When not doing crosswords (or,actually, often while ‘multitasking’), I am a self-employed information design consultant. I tend a large and mostly impressive garden, and I like art a lot. Oh yes, and I’m an obsessive cricket fan, member of MCC and Middlesex, and present at every day of international cricket in London for over 20 years.

John/Wil Ransome
Born 1946. Since retiring (maths teacher) have spent an increasing amount of time on crosswords, something that was impossible before – am not in the sub-ten minutes league and probably never will be. Do The Times every day (more often than not in over half an hour), also The Independent when I can get a copy (usually do Dac and Phi in about 25 minutes, but the less said about some of the others the better). Also an assortment of other crosswords, including The Listener from time to time. Have been doing Azed monthly for some years and entering his clue-setting competitions, often without enough success. Also play a lot of chess and golf.

Born 1954. I’ve been fascinated by cryptic crosswords since childhood. My mother used to attempt the Daily Mail cryptic every day but I don’t remember her ever finishing one. Then, when I started working, a colleague would bring in The Telegraph every day. It wasn’t till my daughter started to get interested, when I bought her a “how to” book that I realized that the definition is “always” the first word (or words) or the last word (or words) of the clue. In 2000 I discovered the, then, Independent Weekend Crossword (now Inquisitor) and later Enigmatic Variations and The Listener. I solve The Inquisitor most weeks and won the Champagne once. In 2005 I achieved an ambition by having a barred crossword published in The Independent using the pseudonym Cayenne. I hope to follow that success one day.

manehi/Minh Nguyen
Born 1988, have been solving the Guardian crossword since the early 2000s. I can now solve most of them on the half-hour bus trip to campus each morning, but harder puzzles are a welcome distraction from Econometrics seminars. I have a crack at the Times and Le Monde every now and then, and am slowly improving at Azed. My spare time is spent painting oranges blue, playing with computers and appearing on University Challenge.

mhl/Mark Longair
Born in 1976 in Cambridge. I’m currently a PhD student in Edinburgh, working on computational neuroanatomy. I started doing cryptic crosswords regularly a couple of years ago, and nowadays do the Guardian crossword every morning, the Everyman, Azed (when I have time), the Guardian Genius and the Independent if I’ve nothing else to do over lunch. My solving is slow compared to the times people post here, but I find it very enjoyable. I’ve set a number of crosswords for friends, but haven’t attempted to get any published yet.

I’ve been doing crosswords off and on since university back in the 1980s. I used to do the Guardian, but defected to the Independent a year ago. My solving standard is still not what I’d like. I’d love to be able to knock off a crossword in 10 minutes, but find I’m still getting stuck for long periods when the inspiration doesn’t quite arrive. I once had a go at compiling crosswords but, after a very rude rejection for the editor of the Telegraph, I didn’t bother any further.

My first attempts at the Guardian crossword were with friends at school, and I have been solving it more or less regularly ever since.  I used to do AZED and Mephisto fairly regularly, but children quickly brought that to an end.  I worked in computer software for many years, but then three years ago gave it all up to become a full-time house husband and look after the kids.  To my surprise, I now have even less time to do crosswords than when I was working.

Pete Maclean
I am a British expat living in California. I’ve been doing crosswords for 35 years and, while I have tackled a great variety over that period, in recent years I have done few except those in the Financial Times. I am not a fast solver and it is rare that I complete a puzzle in one sitting; occasionally I will work on one over a whole week. I have fantasies of becoming a compiler although my one and only submission to date was rejected by The New Yorker. I work in IT and am curious about whether there is a connection; I encounter a good number of other ardent solvers who are in the same business. When I am not working or solving puzzles, I like to travel, meditate and go to movies.

Born in 1978. Started out crosswording in the early 90s with Roger Squires in the Yorkshire Post and my Granny’s copy of ‘How To Solve Cryptic Crosswords’. Graduated to Cyclops in the Eye in my late teens; the Guardian is now my provider of choice (a diet leavened by occasional doses of the FT). I’ve been a freelance writer and cartoonist since 2008 – among my various odd jobs, I set questions for BBC Mastermind and a quiz crossword for History Today magazine.

The Trafites.
I have been doing Everyman crossword for over 20 years, and  still have not won anything!;  I also attempt Saturday’s Guardian, but  more often than not to no avail!  No wonder I am merely a barmaid.

I started solving crosswords many years ago, eventually progressing  to the ‘hard’ barred type crosswords (Listener, Enigmatic Variations  etc.), but due to time restraints now only do AZED and a few other crosswords (see below).  My only claims to fame are having won a  Telegraph pen for Enigmatic Variations no. 231 and having a puzzle  published in ‘The Crossword Club’ magazine’ (as Skiron).  Now joined  Gordon Broon’s army of unemployed.

Between us we are 100 years old (and the same age).  We do a variety  of other crosswords, mainly Private Eye (great laugh) and a lot of  daily’s and local paper crosswords and any other crosswords that pass our way in the boozer (Trafalgar Arms, Pompey). Our crossword output is only surpassed by that of our beer consumption.

I am Mahesh, born in 1979 in Bangalore, India but grew up in Madras (now Chennai). Living in Singapore for 7 years now. Have always been fascinated by unconventional puzzles, abstract math and crosswords and have been doing them for nearly 20 years now. Had a good run during my college days in Crossword competitions at collegiate events as a source of extra moolah. Devote my attention these days to the FT but having come on to this site, intend to try my hand at the Guardian and Independent puzzles as well. Other interests include marathons, badminton, guitar, cubing, traveling, poker (Texas Hold’em) and most importantly, running after my 19 month old son. My nick is actually from the first of these interests (marathoning) – since i cant be fast in actual running, might as well have a name that is. Looking forward to contributing more on this fantastic site.

Age 44 – Been doing cryptic crosswords since the early 1980?s, started with the Sunday Times and then enjoyed them on a daily basis when the Independent was launched. Over several years managed to get the hang of all the original Indie setters.
Started attempting the Indie magazine crossword in the early nineties – took me a while to complete one, though – the use of all the squares luring the solver into thinking that its easier than it really is. Continued through the nineties and into this century with the Indie and the odd foray into the murkier world of the Listener – with little success, other than the numerical ones.
Spent the last year or so concentrating on the thematics – can now complete most Listeners (tend to limit myself to a starting day and a having slept on it day, if needed), the high 90%’s of the Inquisitor (still my favourite) and Enigmatic Variations. Still have a daily fix of the Indie or Guardian and am pleased to see more and more themes used in the daily puzzles.
One day hope to author some puzzles myself, though must admit to being in awe of the precise clueing of the top compilers.

Former Bloggers

Colinblackburn/Colin Blackburn
Age: 45
I’ve been attempting to solve cryptic crosswords since some time in the late seventies when I was attracted to that strange pattern on the back of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner. I taught myself badly and then discovered Alec Robins’ book and got a bit better.At university in the early eighties I somehow discovered the Listener and Azed. This spelled the end to any hopes I had of getting a first as I wasted weeks on single puzzles. I graduated, at least in the Listener, to having my only puzzle published in 1988. I used to set basic cryptic puzzles for Manchester’s listing magazine, City Life. For this I got third pick of the freebies in the review-bin. When the magazine was taken over by the Guardian (through the Manchester Evening News) I became an official, paid, Guardian setter (well, I can dream!) After a crossword hiatus through most of the nineties I am now back solving regularly. I do the Independent puzzle most days and try to have a go at the Times and Guardian puzzles online if I get a chance. My main passion is, once again, the Listener. While I don’t manage to complete every puzzle, this has been my best year ever for submissions (if not correct submissions.) I also try some of the puzzles in Magpie and Crossword, though I rarely find enough time to complete them through to submission.

Having started my crossword journey with Crosaire, the cryptic puzzle that appears daily in The Irish Times, I was somewhat challenged when I first came across the subtleties of The Guardian ‘monsters’. Crosaire (the Irish word for crossword) is a rather different beast; you might even say that Ximenean standards are the stuff of another universe. So when I first met Araucaria, Shed, Paul etc I was completely out of my depth. I had never encountered a flower that was anything other than a flower, now I am all too well aware of the allusion to a river. Nonetheless, I am a learner in this most enjoyable activity. I do not solve puzzles at speed and sometimes I can’t solve them at all. Certainly, unlike many of the distinguished bloggers, I have no cruciverbalist trophies in the closet. I did, however, once have dinner with the mighty Araucaria. He is a most delightful man and we both share the fact that we wear our collars the same and the wrong way around.

Handel’s crosswording lives began soon after their courtship, about three years ago. It was the usual story: boy meets girl, boy gets interested in crosswords, girl turns out to be naturally quite handy at them, and they live happily ever after doing the Azed on Sunday, the Times every now and again, and the Guardian whenever it’s Araucaria or Paul. As well as crosswords, El enjoys quizzes, indie music, cinema, real ale, and literary fiction. H likes hiking, skiing, and curry.

Mick Hodgkin
Started on Observer Everyman and Sunday Times, hand-delivering competition puzzles as a teenager to save the price of a stamp. Azed since late teens, picked up at my grandparents’ knees – which were usually to be found under the pub table of a Sunday lunchtime. After the dizzy heights of the Azed Superbrain finals age 21, the rest of life intervened for a few years. Now things are back in perspective, I do the Guardian/Indy regularly, Times occasionally, Azed and since 2005 the Listener (hoping for 75 per cent correct this year). I get an occasional mention in the Azed clue-writing competition and do the clue comps and puzzles on the Crossword Centre website and Crossword Club magazine. Entered Times comp for the first time 2007, somehow came through the first round and finished 18th. First published puzzle in the Church Times Sep 06, roughly monthly in the Independent since February 2007 as Morph.

Neil Wellard
Age 36. I’ve been solving crosswords for about 14 years. Started with Guardian and stayed there until Aug 2006. Now a regular Independent and Times solver with occasional Guardians thrown in for good measure. Over the years I have occasional stabs at the Listener but these never last long. I also do the Cyclops puzzle in Private Eye and I have a long-standing ambition to compile a crossword using words and phrases only found in the Viz publication Roger’s Profanisaurus.

60, (crossword age about 30). An interest in crosswords dating back to teens lay dormant and was revived when the Indy was launched in 1986. Spent many hours battling with setters such as Lucifer, Portia, Mass, eventually being able to finish usually in less than half an hour. Began to note solving times in the mid-1990s, mainly to compare the setters, but regard enjoyment, entertainment, clue appreciation and understanding as much more important than speed. Apart from the Indy, main crossword interest is the Listener which I tackle every week – personal annual solving record in the 30s usually. Was very pleased have my first Listener puzzle published (pseudonym: Raich) in July 2007. Also tackles Times and competition Azeds in the Observer insofar as time allows.

Peter Biddlecombe
Age: 47. Crossword Achievements: Times Championship Winner, 2000, 2007. In the final 6 other times in a total of 14 attempts. Daily Guardian solver from 1978 to about 2003, then gradual reduction to favourite setters only until autumn 2006. Now do Guardian on Saturdays and occasional other days. Indie solved on Saturdays since about 1998, daily since autumn 2006, though sometimes a few days behind if busy. Times solver for a brief optimistic spell at school, then from about 1983 as part of two-puzzle daily routine. Regular Azed solver, occasional clue comp entrant – best effort is a VHC for a Printers Devilry clue. Very patchy Listener record at present – got about 25-30 puzzles right in each of 3 years, early to mid-1990s. Occasional setter of puzzles but for tiny audiences so far. Occasional solver of US-style non-cryptic puzzles, currently daily solver of Times Two non-cryptic puzzle.

Rightback is one of the younger members of the blogging team, and as such fights a constant battle against the twin demons of youthful impetuosity and chronic lack of general knowledge. In other words, he registers the odd quick time but makes plenty of mistakes. He is a regular solver of the daily crosswords and also tackles some of the harder puzzles available, like Azed and the Listener, but tends to get beaten by the cleaning lady on Times 2. He prefers round balls to oval, brass to strings, Suzie Dent to Carol Vorderman, Blur to Oasis and maroon to green.

A resident of Madras that is Chennai, India; b.1943; retiree; got into solving after the topic of crosswords cropped up in a conversation among a bunch of cousins and friends sometime in the 1960s; to begin with, solved crosswords, mostly U.K. cryptics, in book collections and in reproductions in Indian newspapers. Have had experience of sending from Madras completed puzzles to the New Statesman and a couple of other journals but my name always remained in the hat. Published works include six quick crosswords in the now-defunct Evening News of London and one cryptic crossword in the Cryptic Clue Workshop at New York Times Forums on the Web, not to speak of appearances in India. Have taken part in a crossword show on Doordarshan (TV). Have conducted crossword quizzes in colleges. Proud owner of a large collection of crossword books and dictionaries. Co-owner and moderator of a crossword community on a popular social networking website. Originator of Simple Clue-Writing Competition in the Usenet group rec.puzzles.crosswords. Have visited the U.S. and Canada. Like listening to Carnatic music and Tamil film songs and watching Bharatanatyam recitals.

smiffy/Andy Smith
Born the same month that Cum on Feel the Noize by Slade sat atop the charts. First started toying with the Telegraph cryptic puzzle as a sixth-former, and then jumped onto the steeper learning curve of the Times while at university. Have stayed pretty faithful to the Thunderer ever since, albeit in online form since moving to the US several years ago, but I also have access to the FT puzzle most days (its relatively “user-friendly” status being more amenable to time-constrained solving intraday). I’m also a longstanding Listener dilettante, and retain a soft spot for Cyclops’ scatological gems in Private Eye. My latest obsession is coining a word that eventually becomes popular enough to become immortalized into future editions of Chambers. Between times, to pay the bills, I gamble with other people’s money on the stock market.

Typical IT geek from Bangalore. I’ve been fascinated by cryptic crosswords since schooldays. Started solving with syndicated British crosswords in Indian newspapers. I now do any of Times, Guardian or FT, averaging 1-2 puzzles a day. Stabs at barred grid crosswords have not been too successful, and I hope to better that soon. I also write on the blog Crossword Unclued. Other than solving puzzles I enjoy (in no particular order) watching movies, theatre and shopping.

I started solving at a very young age and when other young men were discovering different magazines, I was discovering the joys of Quiz Digest and Tough Puzzles, although didn’t fully understand things except Printers’ Devilry puzzles. Cut teeth on Altair in the Guardian and wenton to discover the joys of Araucaria and Bunthorne, the latter becoming a personal friend. With the advent of the Internet, I rekindled my joy of solving and with encouragement got into the murky world of Azeds, Listeners and such-like. Became a moderator on Derek Harrison’s excellent site and finally got into compiling, having had puzzles published in the Indy Mag, The Magpie and others. Ambition is to be good enough to be published regularly and to see in print his idea of a Listener puzzle on the works of Barry Manilow. However, success at one may prevent the other from materialising. Other recent highlights include not making a fool of himself on Mastermind and am shortly to have an audition for Countdown, where I hope to avoid the shame of being beaten by an 18 month old Cambridge graduate.

Uncle Yap
Born 1946. Discovered cryptic crossword when I attended University of Newcastle in the early 70’s. Literally thrown into the deep end as Times was then half-priced for registered students (Yes, I paid two new pence for Times and claimed back half every three months). Now a retired Chartered Accountant, my daily diet consists of Times, Guardian, Independent and FT, with the occasional Azed and Cyclops thrown in. Started setting a weekly cryptic crossword puzzle in a Malaysian Sunday paper which ran for more than 3 years.