This week The Times published a rather special crossword puzzle. Set by Wadham Sutton, it marked the 40th anniversary of his first cryptic puzzle for the paper (this is his 1,414th, apparently, though I’m surprised he’s still counting). Subs love a crossword – indeed, I’m told that in the good old days, it used to account for quite a bit of the working day – and the home news team obliged Mr Sutton with a really good headline:
1,414 DOWN, ACROSS 40: CROSSWORD COMPILER CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY
I like how you do a little double-take because it should be 40 across, before realising that the prepositions have been used cryptically out of their expected context.
Headline-writing and crossword-solving, of course, have a fair bit in common. The best ones require the same kind of thought process, but while a headline must be instantly gettable (“too clever” has killed off many an inspired pun), a crossword clue mustn’t be too easy – that’s the point. Like subs, the setters are anonymous in The Times, so it was nice to see Mr Sutton get a little nod of thanks from the paper.
Setters are named in The Guardian, which has arguably the most difficult puzzle in a paper (though it depends – I find Rufus very doable and Bunthorne almost impossible). A column some years ago called The X Philes revealed some of their secrets and I commend it to you as a piece of back-reading. Great title, of course.