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HomeEconomyBehind the Scenes: Who Are the FT's Crosswords?

Behind the Scenes: Who Are the FT’s Crosswords?


Your setter/compiler handle/pseudonym/alter ego Neo

Why? The Matrix was a movie I really enjoyed, great premise, and since matrices can be grids I thought Matrix hero Neo would be a suitable choice. Crosswords, especially their clue surfaces, are generally not that real either, so one more reason.

Real name Paul Bringlo

Where are you? Bromley in Kent, or Greater London if you prefer. My family is originally from Kent, albeit lower regions of it, so I’m back home in a sense.

Compiling years That is very difficult. I remember making my first attempt (and I mean my very first attempt) in 1990. Like a complete idiot, I immediately sent it to the then crossword editor John Grant of The Times. I wish I’d saved his answer because it was both rather irritable and utterly damning, the sort of thing you frame and hang on the toilet. I don’t think I was published anywhere in the noughties, but it was an FT puzzle.

And measured in number of crossword puzzles, approx 5,034 published is as close as I can get. However, 3,486 of those are tabloid puzzles, while probably (my records of this stat are out of order, so it could be more) 224 were published in the FT.

Interactive crosswords on the FT app

Subscribers can now solve FT’s Daily Cryptic, Polymath and FT Weekend crossword puzzles on the iOS and Android apps

Full-time or part-time with another job? Now full time, but for a long time it was a hobby.

Has your school mentioned crossword puzzles in career discussions? At my school, known as the Romsey Road Incomprehensible, some teachers could almost read. That’s all I say. Except that, oddly enough, actor Colin Firth was also present. I eventually worked my way into a few evening classes, got some A levels and went on to get an English degree. Then I trained as an advertising copywriter at Watford College.

Who/what got you into cryptic crossword puzzles? I stumbled into it by accident – literally. I destroyed my nose playing footer and went to a specialist hospital to get it fixed. On a table lay an open newspaper on the crossword page, with an offer from someone called Araucaria, and although I couldn’t solve anything at the time, I found the clues utterly absurd. I must have liked them.

Guide us through your compilation strategy Blank grid, fun words in it, write clues along the way and try baking for the first time. If not, let the dough rise, knead it again, edit it, and let the real eds take over. I think I can quite easily make a high quality puzzle in a day if needed. I think if it’s all you do, you get fast.

So you think you are difficult Some publications I gear up for have a series of puzzles, so I need to be able to pitch the difficulty as needed. For the FT I try to write at medium strength, but I would never dare advise on that. I really like the range of styles shown in the paper, and my colleagues are all fantastic.

The clue you wanted to write

The jungle mass that one cleaves (7)

And the clue that you’re glad you did

People associate themselves with poachers who finally catch game (4)

Advice for solvers? Keep it up. Without you I would be homeless.

And for wannabe compilers? Don’t send your very first attempt to The Times.

Your favorite/least favorite other word game: I really don’t do any other word games unless it’s Christmas, but I do read a lot. Maybe Finnegan’s Wake however is a play on words, think about it. No one has cracked old Jim’s clues yet.

(Answers – MACHETE, STAG)

Neo’s Polymath releases this weekend — ft.com/crosswordapp.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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