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Boatman - The First 50

Collected crosswords from the Guardian and the stories behind them


In this book, you’ll find my first 50 puzzles from the Guardian, with an additional bonus puzzle first published in the online Genius slot.


This is much more than a puzzle book, though. I’m telling the story behind the development of each crossword: how I thought of the theme, the ideas that didn’t made it into print and the unlikely coincidences that emerged afterwards.


You’ll discover something of my working methods and the lively relationship between setter and editor, you’ll have another chance to solve my extra teaser clues and you’ll hear from the solvers who took the time to comment on the puzzles when they were first published.


All the crosswords have been freshly typeset to make solving them an even greater joy, with full solutions and explanations of all the wordplay.

© Copyright Ashley Knowles 2011-2016 | all rights reserved  | colour design by Bernadina Lloyd

Cryptics by


“A unique book of crosswords”


Hugh Stephenson

Guardian Crossword Editor

This is one to savour. Boatman's puzzles are witty and ingenious – and he never forgets that his job is to delight the solver. It is now an extraordinary pleasure to read how his unique mind works. The First 50 is a book I never knew I needed in my life. Gift it to yourself and to the word-lovers in yours.

Alan Connor

Question Editor of BBC2's Only Connect

and crossword columnist for the Guardian

For solvers and setters alike


Whether you’re coming to my puzzles for the first time, looking for older pieces that you may have missed in print, rediscovering half-forgotten favourites or returning to try again with a few that may have defeated you the first time round, I hope you have as much fun solving these puzzles as I had setting them, and that reading the stories behind them gives you new joy in your solving.


If you’re developing an interest in setting crosswords, I hope you find the book a useful resource. Do learn from my mistakes, and see if it helps you to look at your work in a new light. If you’re inspired by this to try your hand for the first time, do it! Have the courage to show the world that you see it differently; make words your playthings and enjoy playing the part of the evil genius; but remember, when you imagine yourself torturing your victims in your mountain retreat, that Bond always wins. Enjoy ...

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Signed copies


Like a signed copy but can’t come to a signing event? You can order one here (if you’re outside the UK, send me a message first to check the postage).




Few compilers can, like Boatman, regularly achieve a cryptic puzzle that leaves the solver genuinely satisfied with the time and effort expended.

Hugh Stephenson

Guardian Crossword Editor

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With John Halpern (Paul) and Hugh Stephenson talking to a full house at Waterstones Brighton


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