Custom Cryptic Crosswords

The bank of setters

Our bank of setters is made of up-and-coming compilers, all of whom have been trained in crossword setting by Boatman. They'll all be able to produce you an entertaining, witty and enjoyable puzzle.

Claret (Alan Townend, @claretxwords)

ClaretAlan cut his cryptic puzzle solving teeth in his teens in Burnley on the Daily Telegraph, moved on to whatever (broadsheet) paper was left late at night in the University common room and, since then, has been a regular Guardian solver for more decades than seems possible. He started setting in early 2013 for family and friends and now specialises in custom-themed and occasion-based puzzles. One puzzle for a father was '...one of his best presents ever!'

He now lives in Kent where he works as an international telecommunications product consultant and is a visiting lecturer in business studies at the University of Greenwich. He also belongs to a local amateur dramatic group.

An old favourite Guardian setter, Rover, was a fan of Blackburn Rovers, so Alan’s choice of pseudonym is in tribute to his football team, Burnley, who are known as the Clarets.

Skipjack (Jason Crampton, @serpent_xwords)

SkipjackJason has been solving crossword puzzles since his undergraduate days and started setting crossword puzzles in late 2013. As Skipjack, he has had blocked puzzles published in 1 Across magazine magazine (a crossword magazine for subscribers, started by Araucaria), on the site run by Alberich, and on Big Dave's Crossword Blog; as Serpent he has had barred puzzles published in The Magpie magazine, The Crossword Centre the Independent's Inquisitor series, the Sunday Telegraph's Enigmatic Variations series and The Listener; he has also set blocked puzzles for the Guardian's Genius series, the Church Times and The Independent. When he is not setting puzzles, he is a Professor of Information Security (Skipjack and Serpent are cryptographic algorithms).

Soup (Hamish Symington, @hamishsymington)

SoupHamish has always been a fan of puzzles, to the extent (at the age of about six) of forcing his bleary-eyed and long-suffering father to do a word-search, logic problem or some other puzzle with him every morning when he woke up at 6am. He's been compiling crosswords for a couple of years, having been encouraged by Araucaria, from whom he commissioned a custom puzzle for his best man's wedding. After a while of setting for himself and friends, Hamish plucked up the courage to send two puzzles to Araucaria for comments, and is inordinately proud of the reply he received, saying they were 'really very good'. He now sets for this site, and has had puzzles published in the Guardian's Genius slot, in 1 Across magazine (a crossword magazine for subscribers, started by Araucaria), on the site run by Alberich, and on Big Dave's Crossword Blog.

Hamish lives in Cambridge, where he went to university (he studied Biochemistry at St Catharine's College). He spends most of his time designing software to run a photography business when he's not in front of his computer he can often be found singing with various choirs in Cambridge, being overambitious in the kitchen, or looking after his beehives.

His pseudonym is a nod to Symingtons past; they were prominent packet soup manufacturers in Market Harborough. (Scott took some of their 'pea flour' to the Antarctic.)

Vigo (@SophieB38902899)

Vigo started solving cryptic crosswords with her father and thus, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, decided to create a crossword for him themed around his favourite sports and teams. That first crossword took a long time (and a bit of help from an experienced setter) but it was well received and Vigo was bitten by the setting bug. Since then she has had several puzzles published on Big Dave's Crossword Blog, with more in the pipeline, and has also been featured on the site run by Alberich. She has also recently joined the Independent's roster of setters. Vigo is a former teacher and is now focussing on raising her own children and volunteering in local schools.

Windsurfer (Jeff Robinson, @windsurferxword)

WindsurferJeff is a professional scientist, having completed a graduate course in Physiology and Biochemistry at Southampton University, and returning to gain a PhD in Microbial Biochemistry after a gap-year teaching English in Madrid. After six years performing cancer research, Jeff worked for twenty-years in industry. Subsequently, he set up his own consultancy, working for international clients in Britain, US, Canada, France, Australia, Japan and some other countries. He has caught the compiling bug in the last few years and has benefitted from generous advice and mentoring from Boatman, Enigmatist, Arachne, Araucaria and others. He has published puzzles on the Web, including for Alberich and Big Dave's Crossword Blog (as Robi first and latterly as Windsurfer.)

The Windsurfer tag harks back to earlier days when Jeff was younger and fitter!