My longest-running association with any publication is with the Australian Financial Review (AFR). I started with a Friday publication in 1995 and did one crossword weekly until 2000 when a decline in advertising revenue saw the end of the crossword. I was paid $200 per crossword during this time, which was considered OK (by what other publications were paying) when I started, but below par when I finished. I persisted and remained in contact with the right people at the AFR and managed to get the occasional holiday and election special crossword included. This led to my weekly crossword being reconsidered when the AFR decided to go to a weekend edition in 2003, and I’ve been there every week since.
Ever mindful of the fragility of a feature that gets very little feedback and no-one really knows its “worth” to the publication, I set about value-adding by including weekly clue help and worked solutions on my www.australiancrosswords.com.au website. The folk at the AFR were very happy for me to do this and included a link to the website by the side of the crossword. Have a guess at how much I get paid for the crossword 22 years after I started? Bear in mind inflation and the additional bits and pieces I do on the website. That’s right, nothing has changed: $200. Using a calculator on the ABS website, that $200 in 1995 now buys $120. Effectively I’ve gone a long way backwards, but I don’t blame the AFR, as they, like most publications, have had to cut back, and I believe staff don’t get many pay rises either. It also might reflect on the popularity of cryptic crosswords, with fewer people solving them than ever before.