Meet the Bloggers – Big Dave's Crossword Blog

Meet the Bloggers


Meet the Bloggers

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Current Bloggers


GazzaGazza retired to live in Devon after a career in IT. His first taste of cryptic puzzles was with the Guardian in the 1970s.  It took many weeks of trial and error before he managed to finish one, and many months before he could complete them on a regular basis (something like BigDave’s blog, had it been available at the time, would have been a godsend!).

Since then he has been hooked and has tackled one or other of the broadsheet cryptics most days.  He regards himself as a total amateur who is weak on crossword theory (although he has learnt a lot since becoming involved with this blog).  He is no way competitive, never posts entries to competitions (rumours that this is because he is too mean to buy a stamp are scurrilous!) and does not even own a stopwatch.  These days his favourite puzzles are the ones in Private Eye (because they make him laugh).


TilsitTilsit started solving at a very young age and when other young men were discovering different types of magazines, he was discovering the joys of Quiz Digest and Tough Puzzles, although didn’t fully understand many things except Printers’ Devilry puzzles. Cut his teeth on Altair in the Guardian and went on to discover the joys of Araucaria and the late Bunthorne, the latter becoming a personal friend.

With the advent of the Internet, he rekindled his joy of solving and with encouragement got into the murky world of Azeds, Listeners and such-like.  Became a moderator on Derek Harrison’s excellent site and finally got into compiling, having had puzzles published in the Indy Mag, The Magpie and others.  Ambition is to be good enough to be published regularly and to see in print his idea of a Listener puzzle on the works of Barry Manilow, although it has to be said that this may be over the dead bodies of certain Crossword Editors!

Ill-health has slowed him down a little, although he does manage to get to one or two crossword gatherings round the country. He has appeared on Mastermind and Countdown, coming second on both. He ses quiz questions for a couple of local quiz leagues and is happy to take on further work in this direction. Other hobbies include playing bridge and assessing football referees.


ProlixicProlixic is at manifold times and in sundry places a property lawyer working for the national law firm Shoosmiths, a Church of England priest serving in Egham and St Mary Le Bow, Cheapside, husband to Kim, parent to two lively teenage boys and a solver, setter and blogger on Big Dave’s Crossword Blog.  His crosswords appear regularly in the Not The Saturday Prize Puzzle series on this blog and have been published under his own name in the Church Times and as Prolixic on Alberich’s crossword site.  As Kairos he sets crosswords for the Independent.

His first experience of solving crosswords was staring in bemusement at the Daily Telegraph crossword as a teenager.  This trend continued when he started work trying to solve the crossword in the then newly published Independent.  Having been re-introduced to the Daily Telegraph crossword by a friend, he began a daily struggle to complete the crossword on the commute to work.  Following a move out of London, a longer commuting time gives him time to tackle the backpage and the Toughie on the way to work and the FT and the Times on the way home.  The Guardian and the Independent are also tackled if time permits!!

Prolixic blogs the Not The Saturday Prize Puzzle and Monthly Prize Puzzles when he has not set them, and hands out invaluable advice to the Rookies in Rookie Corner.


GnomethangGnomethang is a controls engineer working in the Building Automation and Controls market. In his spare time he spoils walks around golf courses and has been a regular solver of the Daily Telegraph Cryptics for the last 20 years.

Recently he has also been taking on the Times, Guardian and occasional Independent Cryptic.


BufoBufo is another of the bearded beer-drinking crossword clan. He is now retired and has been solving crosswords for over 50 years and occasionally setting them for 30-odd years.

He still regularly solves the Times Jumbo and the Listener each week. He became a blogger after drinking too much beer in a pub and then offering his services to Big Dave.


CrypticsueCrypticsue was introduced to the Telegraph Cryptic Crossword in 1969 when she  started commuting to London as part of a large group, one of whom did the Cryptic every day and explained how the clues worked.

Since Big Dave ‘transformed her [crosswording] life’ back in 2010, she is now even more addicted to cryptic crosswords and solves most of the main cryptics on a daily basis,  test solves for a ‘crèche’ of  nearly two dozen setters (ranging from nationally published to rookies), and was extremely chuffed to reach the Grand Final of the Times Crossword Championships in 2016.

Married with two grown up sons and a lovely grandson, when not solving puzzles she can be found reading (anything and everything), making her legendary lemon cakes and walking at least two and a half miles a day.


FalconFalcon is a retired telecommunications engineer living in Ottawa, Canada. A longtime fan of regular crossword puzzles, he took up solving cryptic crosswords (a pastime to which he rapidly became addicted) following his retirement in 2008. He quickly discovered that apart from the references to British arts, culture, sports, history, geography, etc., there are also often differences (sometimes blatant and sometimes quite subtle) between British and North American English which add a whole extra level of complexity to these puzzles for those on his side of the pond. His training in this new field was greatly accelerated by closely following a number of British cryptic crossword sites, in particular, this one. To share this knowledge with fellow Canadian solvers, he created a pair of blogs covering syndicated British cryptic crosswords appearing in Canadian newspapers. These blogs came to an end when the Canadian newspapers ceased carrying the British puzzles. However, soon after their inception, the blogs were noticed by Big Dave who invited Falcon to contribute reviews to this blog – the first appearing in September 2010.


pommersPommers studied chemistry at Manchester University in the early 70’s and started doing Guardian cryptics with a friend during his postgraduate work. When he realised he could not be a perpetual student and moved out into the real world he switched allegiance to the DT for reasons now lost in the mists of time!

He moved into Sales and Marketing in the mid 80’s and for 20 years only had time for the occasional weekend puzzle and not many of those as most weekends he was sailing the Irish Sea in his yacht ‘Firenze’.

His interest in crosswords was renewed when he took early retirement in 2005 and moved to live in Spain where he enjoys the climate and the relaxed way of life. He lives near a small town called Almoradi in Alicante province with his wife (Pommette on the blog), 2 fat cats (not overpaid businessmen but very obese felines!) and 2 more pestilential pussies (cats of the long haired variety that shed fur everywhere!).

He and Pommette solve the DT cryptic together every day over lunch but the DT Toughie is his breakfast treat as Pommette doesn’t go there!

Away from crosswords he can be found playing bridge, drinking wine (sometimes both) or working on renovations to his rather dilapidated house.


DigbyDigby was born and raised on a North Yorkshire farm, and presumably named because his parents really wanted a dog.

A career in the Fleet Air Arm, doing much the same job as Roger “Rufus” Squires, (though not at the same time – he’s MUCH older) led to a series of proper jobs in Sales and Marketing. No longer in receipt of a salary he is now immersed in managing Henfield’s Community Centre, The Haven.

Other pursuits include tennis, Am Dram, the odd glass of wine and, of course, crosswords. Never won the Telegraph pen, and has spent far more on stamps than it is worth, but that’s not the point

Deep Threat

Deep ThreatDeep Threat is a retired tax inspector. He has been solving Daily Telegraph crosswords on and off for over 50 years, but has only begun to do them regularly since retiring.

He lives in Staffordshire, and is married with 3 grown-up children, 1 granddaughter and 2 grandsons.

Other interests include bridge, croquet and touring in his caravan, especially in France.


MiffypopsMiffypops lives in South Leicestershire  with his long suffering wife (Saint) Sharon.

Thanks to his parents he cannot remember life without crossword puzzles.


mehitabelKath was a ward sister at the old Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford and still lives in Oxford. She is married with two grown-up daughters. Her Mum always used to do the Telegraph cryptic crossword and she used to have a look occasionally and manage to get the odd answer but only started to do it every day about thirty years ago. Since finding the blog back in its early days the crossword and commenting has really become part of the daily routine. When not doing crosswords She is usually gardening or cooking.


2kiwisAs their avatar and pen name indicate 2Kiwis are both New Zealanders born and bred.  Although their ancestry is British and Scottish, three of their parents were also born in NZ and the fourth emigrated here as a young man in the 1920s.

They have been married a long time so must be pretty used to each other by now.  They have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Home is a little settlement beside the sea and a river estuary, about 100Km north of Wellington on the west coast where they live a life that involves lots of beach walks, reading, writing, golf, bridge and of course, cryptic crosswords.

KiwiColin has been doing cryptic crosswords on an irregular basis for as long as he can remember, one of the bad habits he picked up from his father.  However the pastime has grown to its present obsessive status only since they started solving puzzles together and then, quite by chance, discovered this blog site a few years ago.

They find that the combination of a literature and writing background on one side, and science and general knowledge on the other, complement each other and solving puzzles together has become a pleasurable shared experience. This has become a precursor to sharing the cleverness of the puzzle with other solvers around the world through this blog. Writing the regular Wednesday Hints and Tips has added a further enjoyable dimension for them.


KittyMost of Kitty’s hobbies are solitary – reading, running, piano playing (badly – which is why it’s not something she inflicts on others!) and playing with numbers. So when she discovered this site shortly after taking up cryptic crosswords regularly, it changed everything. Now crosswords is a sociable activity and she loves everything about it – the solving, the discussing … and the gatherings. If you want to actually “meet the bloggers” that is where to find them.


Dutch (Richard) was introduced to cryptic crosswords by a lady called Julia at the University of Cape Town in 1972, and has been a daily solver ever since – relying on telegraph crossword books when abroad. He was born in the Netherlands but grew up in Australia, Africa and the Middle East. He has had a scientific career that took him to Universities in Cape Town, Vancouver, Auckland, Berlin, Basel, and a European laboratory in Heidelberg.  In 1992, he moved to the UK to work for AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals) based near Macclesfield – starting an international research group that used protein crystallography as a tool in drug design. He is now retired, and has started to enjoy setting. He has a rookie corner puzzle and an NTSPP puzzle on this website (hopefully more to come) and has started setting for the Independent along with several other rookie corner colleagues.

Dutch continues to live in Macclesfield with his wife and two chaufeur-needy school children. Occasionally he enjoys playing guitar, skiing, riding his motorbike and travelling, but crosswords and family take up most of his time. ‘Dutch’ was a natural choice of alias since it is his nickname at his local, where there have been several other Richards


ShropshireLadInitially a Marine Engineering Technician in the RN Submarine Service and Surface Fleet for over 22 years.  For 15 years after leaving RN worked at senior management level in the ‘Waste to Energy’ business.  Now semi – retired, but occasionally self employed as an Engineering Consultant.


SenfSenf resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is a semi-retired engineering consultant.  He joined the Royal Air Force at a very young age, and, until his retirement from HM’s service in 1992, dabbled in DT Crossword solving to varying degrees and with varying success.

Cruciverbalism temporarily halted on his retirement from the RAF when he emigrated to Canada.  He also spent a number of years in the USA where he was able to reconnect with the DT Crossword on-line and ‘stumbled’ on the best crossword blog in the world.  Senf finds that the best way to solve a crossword is with an accompanying appropriate measure of Balvenie or Dalwhinnie.

Mr K

Mr KMr K encountered cryptics for the first time in 2014.  His initial dabbling gradually evolved into a serious effort to learn how cryptics work, and now he’s finding that writing hints and tips is an excellent way to deepen that understanding.   He was trained in physics and in mathematics, and his inclination to look at things as a scientist may explain why he couldn’t resist creating a database of crossword clues.  He uses this as part of his occasional investigations into cruciverbal statistics and history.

Rahmat Ali

Rahmat Ali
Rahmat Ali, born and raised in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India by his maternal grandmother Maleka Bibi, reveres the departed soul as a godsend angel, making him the first child in both maternal and paternal families ever to attend a school. One afternoon in 1973, homeward-bound from school, he happened to enter a free reading library, where he discovered crosswords, quick and cryptic, in a newspaper and soon developed a passion for solving them. Before his attachment to Big Dave’s Blog from 2014 onwards through the MPPs including winning the competition twice, he had bagged many prizes in cryptic crossword contests that include twelve times from The Statesman, Calcutta and once from Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh for their Chambers Christmas 2006 Prize Crossword Contest. It was one of the finest moments of his life when Big Dave asked him to be in the hot seat on two Wednesdays to provide hints and tips to the DT Cryptics and further provided him an opportunity to write a full review, hebdomadally. He regards Big Dave, from whom he has learnt a lot, as his friend, philosopher and guide in the crossword world and admires Gazza for his valuable assistance and tips.

If not doing crosswords, he is into studies. His hobbies include writing articles, learning various subjects and languages and appearing at exams. To date, he has passed nine master’s degrees. His career in a bank spanning from February 1981 as a stenographer to January 2020 as a manager was preceded by jobs as a typist/stenographer in three private firms and followed by a gap of 19 months, mostly in the Covid-era, to his present job as a senior private secretary in a state government undertaking.

Sloop John Bee

Sloop John Bee
Sloop John Bee is a keen solver whose time for crosswords is limited by time and an elderly mother. He lives and works in a Yorkshire brewing town and passions for the three C’s (Coffee, Cheese and crosswords) crop up in his blogs a lot, along with the local beer and sights of God’s Own County. He has learned such a lot from his fellow bloggers and commenters, but he is currently concentrating on the Sunday Toughies as the aforementioned pressures limit the time he can spend.


Stephen has had a lifelong love of words and can remember helping his father with “Quick Crosswords” as a boy. He continued solving them for many years but cryptic crosswords were something of a mystery although he was fascinated by the esoteric nature of them. It was only when stumbling upon this site whilst attempting a Monday morning Rufus production in The Telegraph that he started to see how they worked. He was instantly hooked (and very envious of people who could solve them quickly) so decided to learn all he could about them. As well as solving and blogging he enjoys setting.

He lives on the glorious South Devon coast and his other loves in life are sea swimming, music and clothes.


Phibs is now retired and living in Lincolnshire, having spent 35 years working in IT. His first experience of crosswords was gained at his mother’s knee (literally), watching and learning as she tackled the Autolycus puzzle in the Birmingham Post. Having confined himself in adult life largely to Mephisto in the Sunday Times and Araucaria’s puzzles in the Guardian, a few years ago he moved on to Azed. Emboldened by a modest degree of success in the clue-writing competitions, he started setting his own crosswords, and has since provided themed puzzles for the Enigmatic Variations, Inquisitor and Listener series, as well as the Magpie magazine, under a variety of pseudonyms all linked in some way to amphibians (for the EV, Ranunculus, Latin for ‘small frog’). Phibs is very grateful to Big Dave for providing an outlet for his blocked puzzles, and has greatly enjoyed setting for the NTSPP and MPP/QPP series.

He was offered the chance to do a month’s stint as locum blogger for the Enigmatic Variations puzzles, at the end of which someone carelessly failed to cancel his contract. As well as giving specific hints, he tries to provide odd snippets of information relating to barred puzzles generally. Phibs is firmly of the view (to an obsessive degree, some might say) that clues should be fair and accurate, and never considers a crossword solved until every clue has been parsed to his satisfaction – or otherwise!


Twmbarlwm began solving cryptics around 2010 with the help of ex-Telegraph crossword editor Val Gilbert’s book ‘How to Crack the Cryptic Crossword’ (prior to which he’d presumed cryptic clues were deliberately vague and that solving them required mostly guesswork). He began entering clue-writing competitions a few years later (Sunday Times, Times, Telegraph and Azed), and is now a setter who occasionally appears in the NTSPP slot at Big Dave’s blog, having started in Rookie Corner.

A former civil servant and now a freelance poorfreeder, Twmbarlwm’s career has been going downhill since he worked at Butlin’s. He lives in Ceredigion with a wife and labrador, only one of whom listens to him.

Guest Blogger


Jon88Pianist, accompanist, arranger, musical director, copyist.  Also constructor, editor, test-solver and proofreader of crossword puzzles.  Appeared in the documentary “Wordplay” (2006) by virtue of having won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament seven times.

A member of the National Puzzlers’ League, crosswords published in the New York Times, Washington Post and Games magazine, regular solving of Times, Telegraph, Spectator and Private Eye puzzles. Farther afield, works in theater and cabaret, and was the assistant musical director for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for five years..


Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and CleopatraBig Dave and Crypticsue


archy and mehitabel

archy and mehitabelPommers and Kath

Note the lower case names as archy, a cockroach, can’t hit the shift key on his typewriter!

Batman and Robin

Batman and RobinBig Dave and Tilsit

Fred and Ginger

Fred and GingerTilsit and Crypticsue

Kate R

Kate RDutch and Kitty

Kater is a Dutch kitty.


Bloggers Emeriti


LibelluleThe identity of Libellule is a mystery.

All that is known is that he lives in France, and enjoys watching Rugby and doing crosswords.

Like the Scarlet Pimpernel he has adopted a disguise, in his case it is that of a dragonfly.

Peter Biddlecombe

Peter BiddlecombePeter is currently the Crossword Editor for the Sunday Times.

Crossword Achievements: Times Championship Winner, 2000, 2007. In the final 7 other times in a total of 15 attempts. Daily Guardian solver from 1978 to about 2003, then gradual reduction to favourite setters only until autumn 2006. Now do Guardian on Saturdays and occasional other days. Indie solved on Saturdays since about 1998, daily since autumn 2006, though sometimes a few days behind if busy.

Times solver for a brief optimistic spell at school, then from about 1983 as part of two-puzzle daily routine. Regular Azed solver, occasional clue comp entrant – best effort is a VHC for a Printers Devilry clue. Very patchy Listener record at present – got about 25-30 puzzles right in each of 3 years, early to mid-1990s. Occasional setter of puzzles but for tiny audiences so far. Occasional solver of US-style non-cryptic puzzles, currently daily solver of Times Two non-cryptic puzzle.


AnaxAnax began composing rudimentary crosswords at 6 years of age, going on to explore cryptics ten years later. About 25 years old when given his first spot, on the Birmingham Post, by Roger Squires.

After a long break from commercial setting joined The Times in 2007, The Independent in 2009, and the Financial Times in 2010, and actively contributes to most cryptic crossword blogs. Also supplies Puzzler Media and a number of monthly in-house magazines, and has several puzzles on Free Crosswords Online (the website of FT regular Alberich).

Away from crosswords Anax plays bass guitar for a funk/disco/soul covers band, and is a keen photographer – although 2010 marks his final year as official track photographer for Buxton Raceway in Derbyshire; crosswords, music, his daughter Xana and partner Moonstruckminx are his priorities now.

Future plans include joining the other quality dailies and a weekly spot for his Imperator puzzle (an entry level barred crossword).


RishiA resident of Madras that is Chennai, India; b.1943; retiree; got into solving after the topic of crosswords cropped up in a conversation among a bunch of cousins and friends sometime in the 1960s; to begin with, solved crosswords, mostly U.K. cryptics, in book collections and in reproductions in Indian newspapers.

Have had experience of sending from Madras completed puzzles to the New Statesman and a couple of other journals but my name always remained in the hat. Published works include six quick crosswords in the now-defunct Evening News of London and one cryptic crossword in the Cryptic Clue Workshop at New York Times Forums on the Web, not to speak of appearances in India.

Have taken part in a crossword show on Doordarshan (TV). Have conducted crossword quizzes in colleges. Proud owner of a large collection of crossword books and dictionaries. Co-owner and moderator of a crossword community on a popular social networking website. Originator of Simple Clue-Writing Competition in the Usenet group rec.puzzles.crosswords. Have visited the U.S. and Canada. Like listening to Carnatic music and Tamil film songs and watching Bharatanatyam recitals.


scchuaScchua lives in Singapore.


ToroToro, a linguist-turned-economist, had been an occasional solver since his youth until, on a whim, he downloaded a demo version of Crossword Compiler and became hooked on setting.

He has had several NTSPP puzzles published on this site and used to blog the Tuesday Toughie.

He enjoys it, but still thinks a blank grid awaiting words and clues is the best crossword puzzle of them all.

Created 28 March 2009

Updated 10 July 2019