The History of the Crossword Database

This database is aimed at setters and solvers of barred thematic crosswords. It covers three weekly puzzles: The Listener (now in The Times on Saturday), Inquisitor (in The Independent on Saturday) and Enigmatic Variations (in The Sunday Telegraph). It also includes puzzles from two monthly publications: Magpie contains six puzzles, including one mathematical, and Crossword Magazine carries two.

The original purpose was to enable solvers and setters to search for information on old puzzles, answering questions such as:

  • How many puzzles has Grumpy Nuts set and is he still active in the crossword community?
  • When was his last puzzle?
  • Has anyone else used One Foot in the Grave as a theme?

To do this, I started off by loading basic details and a few theme words on which to search. This was OK in its own little way, but it was fairly obvious that just giving a few words summary of the theme was inadequate and insufficient to make the site interesting enough or worthwhile. I therefore decided that an additional aim of the site would be to try and give enough information that someone reading details of a crossword would then want to try and solve it themselves (most puzzles are available from me if they do).

So, to make life difficult for myself, I added information about the Grid, Preamble and Solution notes for each puzzle, with a view to whetting the appetite, and links to online sites where the puzzle could be found. Some of these are subscription sites.

In order to make the process relatively easy, I decided that it made sense to just copy the information directly from the printed puzzles and solutions in each paper, rather than try and editorialise and compact it. This raised the question of copyright, and I decided that it was worth tackling this up-front, and getting agreement from each paper, rather than risk having to close the site two years (and a lot of effort) down the road.

I must therefore thank the syndication/legal departments at The Times, The Independent and the Telegraph Group for giving me permission to reprint all this information. This took between three days and three months, depending on the paper! The BBC has also given its permission, although they confess to not really knowing where copyright now lies!!

I have loaded all the information that I have for 1991 to date for all three publications.

It will be a gradual process to load up old crossword details, and there are some puzzles for which I do not hold hardcopy prints: see the Missing Data link from the Home Page. If you can help make the database complete, I will greatly appreciate it.

How (or if) this site develops depends on your feedback; all comments welcome.