Recently a well-known and prolific setter, named Roger Squires (Rufus in The Guardian), announced his retirement. He is credited with being the world’s most published crossword setter with numerous records including one that appeared in the Guinness Book of Records from 1978 until all crossword records were dropped in 2002. For more information about this, check out his Wikipedia entry . He was unique among UK setters in that his popularity was based on the low level of difficulty of his puzzles, (which featured a greater-than-average number of cryptic definitions) rather than the high level of difficulty that often defines setters. As you know, I don’t believe there is such a thing as an easy cryptic crossword, since a crossword that’s easy to solve obviously isn’t cryptic enough. A good cryptic clue hides its workings cleverly, not necessarily deviously. However, Roger’s cryptics were considered on the easy side, and maybe that’s why he was so popular. I talked to one of my UK cryptic contacts last week asking about how Roger would be replaced, as he wrote cryptic crosswords for a large number of outlets. I was particularly interested in whether crossword editors would look to replace the “easy” nature of Roger’s crosswords which obviously appealed to a large number of people. Writing “easy” cryptics is far from easy – it’s much easier to make them harder – so Roger’s skill would be difficult to replicate. My UK cryptic contact (who edits crosswords for a major paper) thought Roger’s loss would be handled relatively effortlessly, although he did note that crosswords editors did like a balance across the week (and setting group) when it came to difficulty. He also mentioned that Roger’s crosswords usually appeared on Mondays as this is traditionally when the easier cryptics are published. It does seem, though, that the rest of the week doesn’t increase in difficulty, unlike the (non-cryptic) crosswords that appear in major US newspapers.
Read more about Roger’s career here.