The Stickler cancelled

Due to changes by News Ltd to puzzle pages in four metro papers, The Stickler will no longer be published. This ends a 4786-puzzle labour of love. The Stickler has been the only new, daily, 15×15, Australian cryptic to appear in any News Ltd publication in the last 15 years.

I want to thank my faithful solvers, some of which have been with me from the start. I also want to thank News Ltd for taking me on 15 years ago, giving me the opportunity to turn a hobby into a career. Unfortunately this loss, along with other weekly losses brought about through this change, means the end of my crossword business. Some work remains and will continue. I’m one of the few people in the world to have made a living writing crosswords full-time, something not possible without The Stickler.

I’m faced with a career change at 51, with crossword-compiling skills and rusty IT skills to offer. I’m methodical and a stickler (don’t you know it!). If anyone out there has a job for me, I’m up for just about anything (contact me).

Many thanks to all,

David Stickley

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80 Responses to The Stickler cancelled

  1. deri hadler says:

    The only reason I bought the telegraph was The Stickler, I certainly don’t agree with their politics. I’ll never buy another News Ltd paper again. Thanks for the best cryptic bar none.


    I am very sorry to read this. For over 50 years I have subscribed to the Telegraph because of their truly excellent cryptic crossword compilers [I started with the late,great LB at the age of 13, and, after I got into your rhythm, I felt you were a worthy successor]. My subscription to the Telegraph will now end, and my cosy morning cuppa and cryptic days are over. Try a few of the women’s magazines, and be sure to let me know which ones you are in. All the best – and let me know when you’re ‘crypticking’ again and where
    Ash McGinn

  3. Warren paterson says:

    I’m with Ashley and deri. It was the stickler that made me buy the telegraph. I’ll cancel my subscription today. Hope all goes well.

  4. William Ryan says:

    Well, if their plan is to sell fewer nespapers, then they are right on track.
    Only bought the paper for the Stickler, which is THE ONLY quality daily cryptic in the country. Fail, News Ltd, fail.

  5. beverley loughton says:

    Thank you for the pleasure of the stickler. I am at a loss as to why this has happened? The fun i have had solving your puzzles is immeasurable. Thanks again. The newspaper is not the same for me any more.

  6. Drover's Dog says:


    I opened my paper this morning on the train and you were not there!!!!
    You were the only reason I purchased the Tele as your puzzle was the only quality cryptic available on a daily basis.
    I encourage all your solvers to make their views known to News Limited in the slight hope of seeing you once again published.
    All the best for the future.


  7. Pete says:

    It’s totally pointless buying the Telegraph anymore. Your xword was the only reason

  8. joy says:

    The Stickler was my sole reason for buying the Telegraph each day. It kept my mind active and each completed puzzle gave me great confide.ce and pleasure. I will miss my daily “fix”.

  9. Greg Murray says:

    I have been doing the LB and Stickler cryptics in the Telegraph for over 40 years. I was devastated when I opened the paper this morning to see the Stickler had gone. Worse still, it seems you have put a real talent out of work. Perhaps the Telegraph could have a rethink?
    Greg Murray

  10. William Ryan says:

    Maintain the rage.


    To Whom It May Concern

    I am typing this whilst waiting on your Puzzles Feedback line – There’s 20 minutes, so far, I will never get back.

    What genius at News decided to get rid of the ONLY quality daily cryptic crossword in the country.


    Apart from what you are going to cop here, and via phone, I suggest you visit and see the venom that is out there as a result of this inane decision.

    Getting rid of the whole page would have caused less grief – But to go and replace a world class 15×15 cryptic with that pathetic 13×13 beginner’s twaddle is beyond insulting.

    I know you really don’t want to be selling actual printed copies of the paper, but from tomorrow you have lost this long-time buyer – and hundreds of others, no doubt.

    Fail, NewsCorp, fail.

    William Ryan

  11. Kooka says:

    Very disappointed in the Telegraphs decision to axe the Stickler. After several years of practise I am, just now becoming reasonably competent at it. I has given me the confidence to try other cryptics but the Stickler has always been my favourite. I wish you well in the future.

  12. Roy Jacques says:

    I to was devastated to find the stickler missing from my Telegraph this morning. Like many others I bought the Telegraph for the LB, then stickler crosswords. I wish David all the best, and thank him for brightening my days. I too will not buy the Telegraph anymore.

  13. Annette Fearnley says:

    Have written to the Daily Telegraph – letters to the Editor – today, expressing my devastation at the loss of the Stickler cryptic crosswords. They always made you think and when all else failed, I’d run to the Thesauras or the dictionary or other reference material, so I could complete the crossword and say “Got you Mr Stickley”!!

    I do sincerely hope the Telegraph has a major rethink on their cryptic crossword provider and brings you back to us. While you appear sometimes in the Herald’s Omega, they are not the same as the ones you prepare for the Telegraph.

    Annette Fearnley

  14. Yvonne Dyer says:

    We too only bought the Daily Telegraph for The Stickler. We won’t be renewing our subscription when it runs out.

    I expect some youngster came up with the idea to cancel the only decent cryptic crossword available. William Ryan couldn’t have said it better. “‘Beginners’ twaddle”. What an insult to our intelligence.

  15. William Ryan says:

    Hear, hear, Yvonne.
    Thank you.
    I’m rallying troops, elsewhere, as well.

    (Now, about that apostrophe in beginners…)

  16. Allan Lane says:

    Completely support all the previous comments. Best of luck Stickler, I sincerely hope you come through this ridiculous situation ok.

    Thanks and Regards

  17. Grant Dyer says:

    What a devastating loss. You would have done better by getting Mr Stickley to set the Sunday cryptic instead. This guy looks a bit like the Sunday compiler as well, most of the clues simple and the remainder obscure because the setter is not a ‘stickler’ for accuracy.

  18. Richard Cunningham says:

    Just when I was getting to where I could complete the Stickler most days.. it’s been snatched away. My daily bus ride to work is devastated. I’ve complained to News and hope it reappears, but if not.. thank you David for many hours of challenging enjoyment.

  19. Terry says:

    I changed to the Daily Telegraph when the Australian cancelled Soapbox and the Wry Side and found the Stickler. It has become the high point of the end of my day, and News Limited has done it again. Where to next? One of the funniest cryptic clues I can remember was the one last week about a washer behind involving a bidet. Thanks for the cap David. I will miss you in my life. Regards and Best Wishes Terry

  20. William Ryan says:

    I wrote it up at the time at the Crossword Club site as my Clue of the Week!

    One in debt shuffled behind washer (5)

  21. Jim Ferrier says:

    I’ve also been doing the LB and Sticklers daily for more than 40 years. Best crosswords bar none. I really can’t understand News Ltd. finishing up Staria and The Stickler at the same time. I have no doubt their sales will drop, and I’ll be among the first. What a ridiculous decision from a ridiculous newspaper.

  22. Grant Dyer says:

    David, why not compile a book like Donald Harrison’s Cryptic Cross-Words published by Puzzle People. I would certainly subscribe to that as well.

  23. Ebenezer says:

    I can’t believe that News Ltd has scrapped what was probably the best cryptic crossword ever devised. Thousands of people are going to miss their daily mind challenge set by David Stickley. The medical profession tell us “Use it or lose it”. What better way to use it than a daily Stickler. I’m certain many thousands will ditch the Telegraph and find a daily paper with a more challenging crossword than that which was published today.

    Good luck in whatever you do David and thanks for the daily mind work out.

  24. Roger says:


    I cannot believe they have cancelled. Although not my best puzzle, it was still the best by far.
    Hopefully it can return.

  25. Richard Cunningham says:

    I see the only reaction published by the Tele today is congratulatory. One says the new cryptic is “no pushover.” Give me a break. “Criminal who could be scared by a guard dog (3,7).” Hmmmmm. David, is there any chance of a Stickler book?

  26. Pete says:

    The Telegraph will only print what they see fit, as usual. A three minute cryptic with lazy clues. Thanks David, you must of taught me well. Is there any way people could subscribe to your crosswords? With 4,000 plus prepared already (I’ve attempted less than 300 of them, being new to cryptic xwords) I would certainly subscribe.

  27. joy says:

    I agree with Pete. I too would subscribe to your crosswords. Please let me know if you intend to publish in any form. I am at a loss without my Stickler “fix”.

  28. Grant Dyer says:

    David, have you considered offering your services to Lovatts Puzzles. Although Christine Lovatt would be offended, their Cryptic Department badly needs someone of your calibre,

  29. Neil James says:

    This is an outrage
    The stickler was the only reason for buying this rubbish they call a newspaper
    Bring back The Stickler

  30. steve says:

    I only ever bought the telegraph to do the stickler and to draw penises on notable public figures. I’m hardly going to buy this fascist trash anymore merely to scrawl a few dicks on a few dicks. This is spooge. It’s chodey smeg. I wouldn’t waste a fumit on this garbage. Bring back the stickler. S

  31. Sandra says:

    On Monday, I thought I had picked up the weekend Telegraph by mistake only to find that my favourite crossword was missing. New to cryptics, it has taken me 12 months to “get into your head” and be able to get it out and now it’s gone! What selfish moron thought it would be a good idea to replace The Stickler with this second rate cryptic crossword ? 13 across – drawing of a boat on the sea – I ask you ! Please put out your own puzzle book if they won’t reconsider. If not, subscription cancelled. Good luck

    • Pete says:

      Hi Sandra. Drawing of a boat on sea, it’s not only childish, it doesn’t even read correctly.

  32. Chris says:

    Same as just about everyone else I only bought this rag for the Stickler now I will save myself around $400 a year. I would buy a Stickler book also.

  33. Zinzan says:

    To :;


    Where’s the Stickler ?! The only credible Australian cryptic puzzle published has been axed from the Daily Telegraph. That is lunacy.

    It leaves only SMH puzzles, which quite frankly, DA included, are utter rubbish.
    The Stickler was the point of difference. It was clearly superior. It made the whole rag worth buying.

    I assume some cost-cutting measure was behind this. Works for me, as I’ll be saving $1.20 a day.
    Good luck with your ambition to now simply be a trumped-up celebrity magazine consigned to cat litter trays.


  34. David Stickley says:

    I can’t thank you all enough for your kind words and encouragement about The Stickler. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks coming to terms with the impending change, knowing that many solvers were going to be unhappy.

    I’m entertaining all ideas regarding my future at the moment, so keep them coming.

    The Stickler
    David Stickley

  35. Sandra says:

    David, I’ve had a scathingly brilliant idea. Why don’t you post your crossword on line every day so all of us who are experiencing Stickler withdrawals can download it and not have our crossword and coffee routine completely ruined. I’ve already started to twitch!

  36. Tony says:

    I’ve just returned from a week in the Barossa valley to find my favorite cryptic crossword has disappeared from the pages of my daily rag, disappointment is an understatement, what possesses people to replace a masterpiece of wordplay with a miserable imitation to take its place, bad move daily Telegraph

  37. Brian Tickle says:

    What a dreadful decision and what a backward step! The Telegraph cryptic had a tradition of high standards with LB and TD and then the Stickler raised those standards so much higher. It was worth buying the paper just for the enjoyable challenge of a clever professionally compiled puzzle.
    To see it replaced by utter junk is heart-breaking. A 13 x 13 grid with almost half of the clues being infantile anagrams is nothing but a waste of space.
    To the decision-makers at New Ltd: You get what you pay for. You had top quality and your cost-cutting measures have replaced it with rubbish. I won’t be buying this paper again.

  38. peter lisberg says:

    Now what? Having trained my brain to think sideways, in order to get at some of your knobblier clues, I am not sure it can be re programmed, or that I would want it to be. I want my Stickler back, or I might just throw a tantrum. Can you make a subscription site, where we can continue to receive the stickler say via email? Good luck.

  39. Warren paterson says:

    David, Is there any of the new crossword books left that you wrote some time ago. I believe there was a dozen or so sticklers in it! I’ll be happy to pay postage etc for one?

  40. Edward Goldsmith says:

    Bring back the Stickler, the other crap you published is easier than the Two Speed

  41. Rita says:

    Goodbye to the white trash that is the telegraph……
    I feel my brain cells dying slowly without my stickler..
    Pls pls pls make a book……
    Better yet a weekly, bimonthly, monthly mag……

  42. John says:

    I just sent this to and believe me this was the “edited” version 🙂

    You asked for feedback in bold red type so here it is.

    WHAT WERE YOU PENNY PINCHING FOOLS THINKING? The front pages of your publication is always banging out feel good slogans like “we’re about jobs” whilst some sub-sub-sub editor/copy boy has cost one Australian (David Stickley) his job by cancelling the best daily cryptic crossword in the country and halved the income of Australia’s best comic strip writer (Roger Fletcher) by cancelling Staria, all to save a few bucks. Well it’s worked as I’ll now be saving $374.40 per year by not buying your paper. What’s that you say? You mean YOU want to save money, not me? Oops, too late.

    For crying out loud, the replacement Cryptic crossword is childish dross and to replace Staria with Fred F*&^%$g Bassett is an insult. I swear that I will never buy another Daily Telegraph until both these fine and talented Australians get their jobs back.

  43. John says:

    David, I forgot to add in my earlier post that if you were to to start an online subscription site, I would be the first to subscribe. After all, I mainly bought the Telecrap for your crossword, happy to cut out the middleman.!

  44. Pauline says:

    Like all the contributors before me, The Stickler crossword was the ONLY reason I bought the Daily Telegraph each day. You can read the “news” in about 20 minutes flat but the crossword often kept me going all day! The replacement is kiddy stuff. Will be saving my $1.20 like everyone else. Adieu, David, you have kept me company for hours over many many days over many many years.

  45. Stan Crellin says:

    I didn’t buy the Telegraph last Monday and due to other commitments didn’t get around to looking at Tuesday’s puzzles until this morning. Horrified to find “The Stickler” missing! Hastened to your website to question why and saw all the comments from like irate followers of your work. I am heartened by the support offered you, and perhaps the publisher may listen. If not I too would be happy to subscribe to a web-based issue or published book of your skilful compilations. Meantime my interest in purchasing the Telegraph has certainly diminished.

    Good luck in your contemplation of future prospects. And thanks for those times where I have sought extra explanation of clues and you have so willingly obliged with answers.

    Best regards

    Stan Crellin

  46. Pete says:

    Hopefully all that have posted here have also made their opinion known at
    It certainly appears that they are ignoring us with one congratulatory letter published, ( it was probably from the goose that made the decision to change).
    Ps: If you have more than one email address then use them all.

  47. Stan Crellin says:

    I agree with Pete. I have already lodged a complaint with
    and I urge all others to also make their thoughts known.


  48. Greg Murray says:

    That seems a good idea from Sandra and others. If David could post The Stickler on line every day, I would certainly print it out and enjoy it. However I don’t know enough about these things to know how David would make any money out of it. The replacement crossword is a 5 letter word signifying “Ban a Learner”. Greg.

    • Pete says:

      An ancient deity found enough direction to become boring. (5),,,,same answer
      Good on you News Limited!!!

  49. Greg says:

    I’ll happily pay a dollar a day for an online Stickler, if you can get some sort of subscription site up (and I’ll still be 20 cents up, given I’ve bought my last Daily Telgraph).

  50. gizmojones says:

    Surely amid all the rationalising, all the miserable bean-counting cost-cutting that’s ripping print media out of our culture, there’s some room somewhere, just some modest little bed-sit, where lovers of quality can still gather to feast at the sort of table the Stickler has been laying with such brilliant distinction for so long. To its great credit it was News Ltd that rented out that room for a buck a day for all those years. How sad, then, that it’s finally crumbled under the pressure of saving its shareholders, what, a millionth? a billionth? of its bottom line. Please, News Ltd, if you’re reading this, give us him back and spare us the risible drivel you’ve put in his place. In terms of sheer quality, the Stickler’s puzzle was your flagship. It was, remarkably, where you thrashed Fairfax, with its pathetic “cryptic” gibberish.

  51. David Stickley says:

    Thanks for all your kind words and encouragement. I will certainly consider some of the suggestions offered, as there seems to be a market for The Stickler through a subscription service.

    In the meantime, if you haven’t already, contact News Ltd and let them know how you feel.

    Thanks again,

    David Stickley

    The Stickler

    • Warren Paterson says:

      Already have David. But please let us know if you are publishing elsewhere. Txt

  52. Terry says:

    Just did the replacement cryptic in the DT in about 9 minutes. How hard is this:”Group of beauties excitably visit you initially (4)” . Never again.

  53. Kate says:

    I’ve sent emails to News Ltd and directly to The Advertiser. I can’t accept that I may never again have the pleasure of a quality cryptic crossword.

    I agree with what others have said – I would purchase and absolutely treasure a Stickler cryptic crossword book.

    Another option could be to publish cryptic crosswords online for a sign up fee. Cut out the middle man. It’s clear you have many loyal puzzlers hear who are happy to pay for you to continue your crosswords.

  54. peter lisberg says:

    Hi again, the Telegraph seems to have a filter on their mail: positive – we print, negative – nah, no one would want to know, least of all us. Have written to them twice.
    Meanwhile, I now have two sticklers left from the pile where we put them when for some reason we did not get to it on the day. After that my brain turns to mush. Any chance you have the right to some old ones that you can let us play with until you get whatever it is you are going to do, done? Really would keep us sane(ish)

  55. Graham Nicholls says:

    Commiserations to you all. I’m in the UK, so for me, it’s the Times crossword. I only complete it around half the time, but it’s the sole reason I used to buy the paper (I subscribe online, now – like many others, I despise NewsCorp). I would hate to lose my daily fix. I wonder if there’s a market for an international online crossword aggregator, where setters from all over write for subscribers. I could get into the Stickler, and learn a bit about Australian culture.
    I hope you get something sorted, as solvers, and good luck to Mr Stickler.

  56. Terry, Glenwood says:

    Have just bought my first Tele since retiring, was really looking forward to my favourite pastime keeping my brain active, but to my horror discovered that there was no Stickler, I am absolutely HORRIFIED, shame on you News Ltd!, I Will not bother with other crappy replacement. Thanks David for many hours of entertainment, and good luck in the future. I would subscribe to any other possible source as would many others!!!

  57. Madeline Skewes says:

    David still has a Saturday crossword in AFR if anyone is interested. At least you can get your brain into gear one day a week

  58. jani says:

    Cancelled stupid Telegraph. No Stickler. (2, 4)
    No good

  59. Tony Roy says:

    Kim Williams left News Ltd not long after this poor decision was made. I wonder if there’s a connection?


  60. Alexander Whelan says:

    Hi David, I like most of the above I only ever bought that paper for your wonderful cryptic cross word . I luckily saved the pages that I hadn’t time to do, so like good wine I’ll keep them for special occasions . P.S do have a compilation issue of the stickler.

  61. Peter Clift says:

    Still shaking my head at the decision to do away with the Stickler in the Telegraph, it’s taking from the enjoyment of my retirement, I was looking forward to having the time to nut it out in a more relaxed fashion and keep my brain active, the substitute is absolute crap. Please let me know if you come up with any alternative way to feed my addiction

  62. peter lisberg says:

    We have now exhausted all sticklers stored up and from your ‘New Crosswords’ book which we bought from you. How are you going with a new outlet?

  63. Zinzan says:

    Still kinda weird that no Stickler exists.
    I occasionally think when I’m out, “Oh, I should just stop in and grab a Tele” but soon after, “D’oh, why would I now ?”

  64. Greg says:

    The Telegraph keeps saying “we’re for Sydney” but they are obviously not for Australia. They have replaced your intelligent Aussie cryptic with a boring British one. How many three and four letter anagrams can they fit in one crossword?

  65. Annette Fearnley says:

    David, hoping by now that you have made a decision and that we, your loyal followers, will be able to soon see a Stickler on the net as a subscription download. Like many others before, we have now exhausted our spare supply of Sticklers which we kept for one reason or another, and have started to re-copy the cryptics from your book which we had.
    Annette Fearnley.

  66. Vanessa Chaperlin says:

    I just want to say we are missing your stickler terribly in our house…. we had a 6 day a week bonding point where the stickler was starting with my mum, then given to me, then on to my dad to finish…. sometimes mum and i did it just the two of us! This was all in addition to our work and normal lives, it was just something fun we all shared in doing… and we loved it. Mum and dad were relying on it to off-set dementia as well… now they say they destined for decline :o) If there is any chance you set up a website to bring the Sticklers back, please let us know, my email address is above :o) Thank you for the many years of joy and bonding in our busy house.

  67. John Pierre says:

    WELL what a relief! I’ve been wasting money buying that horrid horrid paper The Telegraph only to discard it all at the nearest bin or on a train seat or at a cafe table: all bar THE STICKLER.

    It almost seemed worth the money..somedays, other days I felt quite wasteful and conflicted over such wanton profligacy, I felt like an eco vandal, albeit on a rather small scale.

    Well anyway I am troubled no longer thanks to the “Oh, VERY brave Minister, very…BOLD! Isn’t it Bernard? Oh quite Sir Humphrey, quite” type of decision of News whatsamacallit to axe The Stickler. It was absolutely the ONLY reason they got my money.

    So they’ve saved me from any more guilty conflicted enjoyment and themselves from the threat of any more of my money.

  68. Pam McHarg says:

    Yesterday my bushwalking friends and I had the great pleasure to run into the talented David Stickley and his lovely wife in the Kuringai Wildflower Garden in St Ives. There was great excitement from a couple of us who are “Cryptic tragics”. I am a DA fan, as I have never been able to stomach The Telegraph and prefer the Sydney Morning Herald, but now feel that I have been missing something. One of my fellow bushwalkers was a great fan of The Stickler and is very disappointed that it is no longer in The Telegraph which, to my amazement, he still reads. With newspapers on the way out, I would be very interested in subscribing to an on-line set of Sticklers or purchasing a book of Sticklers. Good luck, David, and please keep us all informed of your next move.

  69. Denis Bennett says:

    The crosswords in the Telegraph are now poor excuses for cryptics. It’s just not the same without “the Stickler”. Would certainly purchase a book of “Sticklers” if it comes to pass.

  70. Gayle says:

    Came here to thank you, belatedly, for my Stickler cap and wondering what had happened when yesterday I found a Tele but no Stickler. We cancelled the Tele in the runup to the elections .. couldn’t stomach the headlines. And as others have said, we only bought it for the crossword anyway.

    Over the years, the Stickler for me went from being a stickler to a joy of solving and learning how to do cryptics. I’m a bit older and know what it means to make a career change midlife. But the way the Tele’s going, and with people abandoning it, it could be a blessing in disguise. I believe something better will come for you, David. It’s the Tele’s loss …. and ours, for the time being. Best wishes for your reincarnation in a better place. I hope you’ll keep this site going and let us know where we can find you.

    Did you see the article about cryptic solvers and ‘fluid intelligence’ in the SMH this week? On page 5 no less. I also saw recently that Bob Hawke spends a couple of hours a day on cryptics .. gives a new meaning to ‘fluid intelligence’.
    Perhaps you could do a deal with U3A (University of the Third Age) for us baby boomers +/- …. dementia prevention strategy .. and fun! .. for those of us who are too arthritic to tap dance. But what about the next generation, one wonders … 140 characters will hardly fill a 15×15.

  71. Greg Mansell says:

    I used to buy the Daily Telegraph, mainly for The Stickler. Needless to say, I no longer buy it.
    You’ve replaced a top-quality cryptic crossword with a poor-quality substitute. I can think of two possible reasons for this:
    1. The new crossword is cheaper. You’ll save a few dollars per year, but will this outweigh the resulting drop in circulation and reputation?
    2. You want to make it clear to the public that you’re not interested in attracting intelligent readers – in fact, you’d rather they went elsewhere.
    I’m smart enough to complete The Stickler, but I’m too stupid to understand your commercial rationale for moving from high-quality to low-quality. Can you please enlighten me?
    Also, how much feedback have you had congratulating you on the new cryptic, compared with the amount of feedback lamenting the demise of The Stickler?
    I look forward to your response.