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8 January: I wish Roger Squires a happy retirement... See more.

On 18th December the FT, Guardian and Telegraph announced that Roger Squires, who has set the Monday puzzle for those papers regularly for many years, has decided to retire from setting at the age of 85. Roger is the most prolific setter in the business, though he is probably best known for his work as Rufus for the Guardian. His brief for all three of the aforementioned papers was to set a comparatively easy puzzle to give solvers a gentle start to the working week. It is a brief which he fulfilled with wit, elegance and a charmingly deceptive simplicity.

Rather than convoluted wordplay or obscure themes, Roger’s clues relied on simple techniques which would be accessible to solvers of all levels. He was undoubtedly the master of the cryptic definition clue, many of which appeared in his puzzles over the years. Roger’s puzzles were proof that a puzzle doesn’t have to be tortuously hard to be good – which is why his offerings were appreciated by advanced solvers as well as beginners. Many setters will tell you that it takes a lot of skill to write consistently good easy clues, and it is a testament to Roger’s abilities that he was able to do so in such a prolific manner.

The sheer volume of good wishes which greeted the announcement of Roger’s retirement speaks for itself. There has always been a small, but persistent, minority of posters on sites like Fifteen Squared who apparently were unable to understand that a setter who is asked to write easy puzzles will provide easy puzzles, and therefore wrote rude comments about Rufus puzzles which said more about themselves than the setter. Some of the well-wishers expressed the hope that Roger’s retirement wasn’t hastened by the constant carping from these bores. I think it is highly unlikely that a setter of Roger’s vast experience would be influenced in any way by a few anonymous nobodies.

Roger’s Monday offerings will be much missed, and I wish him all the very best for his retirement. Hide this content.

Intriguing recent puzzle by Clyde.

I wish my visitors all the very best for 2018.

Please note: in view of the number of puzzles I get sent, I have had to become rather more choosy about which ones I will publish. See here.


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Welcome to my website. It’s exactly what it says – free crosswords online to download or print off so you can solve them at your leisure. No subscriptions, no pop-up ads, no nonsense.

I am a professional crossword compiler, and I produce puzzles for the Financial Times and more recently, the Independent as Klingsor. I have also contributed a couple of puzzles to the Times Listener series. The puzzles in this collection are on the difficult side (I hope!) – several are thematic and/or use a wide range of vocabulary. Solutions to each puzzle are available via a link at the bottom of the page. 

You can find my puzzles via an index page which says a little about each puzzle. I have also published several crosswords from other setters, and have been very impressed by the standard of the puzzles I have received, many of them from new compilers. These are listed on the Guest Puzzles page. In response to several requests I have added a beginners’ puzzle which, as the title suggests, is significantly easier than the rest. There are explanations for each clue accompanying the solution and new solvers would do well to start here. There are yet more free puzzles on offer – though I should point out that these are the leftovers from my first job writing puzzles for a media agency and are therefore pretty basic.

Is using a dictionary to help solve crosswords cheating? Find out what I think about this. Novice crossword compilers may find the page on Ximenean clueing helpful. There is a follow-up article on the same topic outlining some of my ideas on the ever-continuing debate on how rigidly clue writing should follow rules. The article on single letter indicators examines the various techniques for indicating initial and final letters of words in a clue, and there is also an article on link words in clues. There’s an article which deals with cryptic definition clues and, another which discusses &lit clues. Encouraged by an email from a visitor, I have written a piece about which words can be used in different puzzles. I’ve also done a piece about Ninas, which are increasingly used by some setters in crosswords. Good surface readings are an important part of clue writing, and I explore this in another article. I hope that the growing collection of general tips for setters will be useful to anyone who seriously wants to write puzzles.

Poor grid construction can lead to an otherwise decent puzzle being rejected, and so I have written a guide to the basics of this aspect of creating crosswords. I would advise anyone who wants to publish here as a guest setter to read it before submitting a crossword to me.

The Chambers Crossword Manual is essential reading for solvers and setters of all levels, and I have written a piece extolling its praises. Also to help aspiring setters there’s a piece on how to set about becoming a professional compiler in response to several questions on this subject. For those of you interested in crossword compiling software there is an article on Bryson Limited’s Sympathy program.

This site has received traffic from all round the world – and not only from English speaking countries. Indeed, some of the guest puzzles are excellent cryptics from people who have learned English as a second language. This spurred me on to put my knowledge of the Czech language to use. The Czech Puzzle is a simple, definition only crossword – to my shame I couldn’t manage a cryptic! – so if you speak the language, do “czech” it out.

I have responded to the phenomenon of the incredibly popular Sudoku puzzle by writing an article on how I see crosswords faring in the future in the face of such stiff competition. Also I have included a piece about that pinnacle of crosswording achievement, the Listener Crossword.

If you like this site and would like to find more crossword sites, please take a look at the Links Page. I am happy to promote other crossword sites here, but please note that I prefer to include links to sites that offer some or all of their puzzles without charge. I would of course appreciate the favour being returned!

I’ve had a number of enquiries about copyright, and have written a short piece about using these puzzles in other publications which I hope will help.

From time to time I’ve been moved to write a few articles unrelated to crosswords about various subjects - these can be found on the Bits and Pieces page.

If you have any questions, the FAQ page may help. If not don’t hesitate to contact me. All feedback is welcome.

Happy solving!

Alberich

Free Crosswords Online was launched on 07/01/02

All crosswords were created with Sympathy software.