The Sunday Times Cryptic Crossword Book 1

I’m delighted to tell you that the first book of ST cryptic crosswords since 2006 was published on Thursday – cover price £6.99.

Not long after starting at the Sunday Times, I asked Harper Collins about the possibility of restarting the cryptic crossword books (or others), but the answer then was no thanks.  And to be fair, with at least one book of both Times cryptic and jumbo crosswords each year, they had plenty. There was some change of heart a few years ago, with a request for a book of our concise crosswords. After three of those and two of the general knowledge ones, the one I wanted most is here at last.  It has 100 puzzles, mainly from 2011 and 2012, but with 5 five puzzles each for the setters who started after 2012, so that the last part of the book represents the current team.

The biggest challenge was my attempt at the “beginner’s guide to cryptic crosswords” content which appears in the similar Times books. I wangled some extra pages for my version of this, but still struggled to squeeze in everything I wanted to say.

One note for those who produce the puzzle indexes for books here: you don’t need to bother — the introductory content recommends looking at the blog reports as help for beginners, and includes a puzzle index showing the original number and publication date for each puzzle.

11 comments on “The Sunday Times Cryptic Crossword Book 1”

  1. Thank you, Peter. These books have been so valuable to me having spent a life working in countries where getting hold of the Times was difficult. I will buy it immediately even though I will have done them before … which will be of no aid to me.
  2. Exciting! I find the Sunday Times puzzle quite intriguing — by which I think I mean ‘difficult’. Since you are the esteemed editor, is there a raison d’etre of sorts for the Sunday puzzle, in your eyes? I may just have to get the book.
    1. Well, the original raison d’être was just to follow a new puzzle trend, back in early 1925. The Times and Sunday Times were completely unrelated papers in those days, and as far as I can tell, the ST crossword is the oldest in a “broadsheet” newspaper – first puzzle in Jan 1925 compared to July for the Daily Telegraph. In the 1920s we also had “acrostic” puzzles, for which quite long lists of people sending correct answers were printed, and our first crossword setter also wrote a bridge column, IIRC.

      Within about 5 years, it must have changed to “all self-respecting newspapers have one, so we must too”. Having looked back at at least some puzzles from every decade since, I think I can detect some differences from other papers over the years, but whether these arise from some overall policy or just the people who happened to be producing them is hard to detect. As far as the newspaper management is concerned, the puzzle team are given a pretty free hand as long as reliable puzzles are on the page every week.

      In the period covered by the book, the aim has just been to provide good quality puzzles, and to that end, find the best possible new setter when a current one decides to stop.

      Edited at 2021-09-06 08:10 am (UTC)

      1. Thank you for the history lesson! But I actually meant what was your raison d’être when you took over.
        1. Well, as a crossword editor who started with crossword setting experience only extending as far as a few puzzles in the Church Times, my first objective was to convince the newspaper management and the crossword setters that an ex-blogger really was good enough for the job. There are tiny bits of my work in the cryptic crosswords when a setter accepts a suggested alternative, but that’s only done when a correction is necessary or I think there’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. The time when I make most difference must be when a new setter is chosen. I’ve stated my preferences about clues to the setters, but I would count them as more relaxed overall than the ones for Times xwd setters. And I’ve amended the stock grids and allowed setters to make their own subject to a set of rules. As the work of nearly 11 years, that doesn’t sound very much, but it’s a job where the main point is to maintain standards.
          1. You certainly do that Peter. Thanks. Also thanks to all the setters and bloggers.

            Jan and Tom. Toronto.

  3. I never know what I want for my birthday in October. Now I do. Thank you PB and all the setters.
    1. Could be tricky if you’re still in the US – it turns out that the publication date there is 1 December.

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