Online Zoom Call with Chris Lancaster – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Online Zoom Call with Chris Lancaster

Online Zoom Call with Chris Lancaster

Thursday 29th October 2020 at 7.30pm

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A message from John “Dada” Halpern:

DT crossword editor Chris Lancaster has very kindly offered to answer questions on my regular Zoom call I run for crossword solvers. Anyone wishing to ‘meet and chat with Chris and have their questions answered’ needs to subscribe on my homepage https://www.johnhalpern.co.uk/ to get the link automatically sent for the Zoom. 

Whilst the Zooms have coincided with the dates of my Guardian cryptic puzzles the calls are intended to provide an opportunity for all crossword lovers to meet, in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Not all attendees are Guardian aficionados; all are welcome.


This offer was included in Tilsit’s Saturday Crossword Club post, but I’m publishing it again in case you missed it.  BD

16 comments on “Online Zoom Call with Chris Lancaster
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    1. Ah, if I’d read your request before the call, I’d’ve taken notes! From memory:

      • Chris’s (current) favourite clue is ‘Space flight succeeds (9, 6)’.

      • Now that the Sunday EV puzzle has been uncancelled, it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future; it’ll be years till it’s even considered again.

      • Chris spends about half his time solving compilers’ crosswords and then editing them. He’s the only person who sees them before they are published. Editing is often tweaks to grammar of clues, or complying with Telegraph standards.

      • The other half he’s doing everything else for the puzzle pages and site, including all the non-crossword puzzles.

      • Chris has a chemistry and accounting background. He’s the first non-journalist that The Telegraph have had as Puzzles Editor.

      • In Codewords the numbers are supposedly assigned to letters at random. Y and Z often having adjacent numbers is something that Chris had also spotted; the setter should now have remedied this, but puzzles are queued up well in advance, so it’ll take a while for this to reach the papers.

      • Living people and current events can be mentioned in clues (Chris himself had a Keir Starmer anagram earlier this year), but there shouldn’t be any over political messages (for any party) or predictions of future events. They’re avoiding the USA election candidates at the moment. Dada’s Sunday puzzles are submitted and edited so much in advance that it’s a co-incidence that two Sundays in a row recently had ‘no Trump’ as answers.

      • The only American setter they have is Virgilius. Chris would welcome more female setters.

      • He’s been getting complaints for years from somebody who claims to hate “the Friday setter”, but likes the Thursday puzzles. These complaints have continued even after the Thursday and Friday setters shuffled round earlier this year, so the setters being complained about aren’t the same as when the correspondent started!

      • He looks in at Big Dave every couple of weeks to glean how puzzles went down, but says he should do it more often.

      1. Thanks Smylers for a good summary from a good memory!
        Another point that Chris made – while there may be a shortage of female setters, he is only the second male DT Crossword Editor, his predecessor must have been the first.
        While his Zoom Calls are mainly ‘aimed’ at Guardian puzzles and solvers, Mr H also suggested that he might/would consider some more ‘specials’ such as this one and he mentioned Paul Bringloe (a.k.a. Donnybrook) as a suitable ‘candidate.’

        1. Thanks, Senf, for adding in the bits I’d forgotten. I didn’t recognize you on the call till you outed yourself as the Sunday blogger — your Zoom account uses some other name!

          The Telegraph crossword editor mostly being female is probably largely an artefact of the Telegraph crossword editor mostly being Val Gilbert. When anybody holds a post for 3 decades, there’s going to be less opportunity for there to be a mix of people in that position.

    1. Sorry, John, these calls aren’t generally recorded.

      Dada did record one recently, but he made that clear in the invitation, and said it was a one-off.

      If anybody’s wanting to come along to the next one (date not yet announced; it’ll be whenever The Guardian next publish a Paul puzzle) and wishes to join in the cluing contest, the next word is HALLOWEEN.

  1. I missed it too.

    Did anyone ask CL why sometimes some of the clues in the paper are different from those in the on-line versions?

    Is it possible to see it again?

  2. Didn’t get to ask my question as my ‘unmute’ button wouldn’t function but I learned from CL today that all the Telegraph puzzles, including codewords, sudoko etc along with the Puzzles Newsletter and bridge articles, are handled by a team of two – Chris plus his cohort, Daniella – who doesn’t even tackle cryptics! Imagine doing all that each day and still meeting deadlines!

  3. It was a very good zoom meeting. Smyler has covered all the points. I was sorry Jane could not get her question put forward but at least I can now picture her in the blog. I Was very pleased to see the two Kiwis were on my section of screen for the whole time, but sorry I did not recognize Senf, such a regular blogger. Would recommend this meeting when next it is offered.

  4. I thought I had put my name down but received no follow-up communication & therefore missed the session.
    As I have been a Telegraph subscriber for over 10 years I was very disappointed.

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