Acknowledgements

A lot of people got me where I am today.

Michael Allen was my English teacher at prep school. I and another boy had already won scholarships to our next schools, so for the summer term, he refused to teach us because he had a number of others to get through Common Entrance. We were therefore banished to the library and told that we had to solve at least one clue in The Times crossword. Thus was I introduced to this lifelong passion.

Mark Spencer-Ellis and Victor Lyon were respectively a house tutor and a boy a couple of years older than I at that next school. The three of us used to gather every afternoon and puzzle our way through The Times; after a couple of years, of this collective mutual education, I finally managed to solve one all by myself.

In 1981, Rupert Murdoch closed The Times to have a fight with the print unions. Not only did he manage to convince me how important it is that employees should join trade unions, but he drove me to The Guardian and its far greater range of clueing styles. Without that, it would have taken me far longer to realise that crossword-solving can be a delight for more reasons than demonstrating to oneself how clever one is.

Being a frequent attender of Middlesex matches at Lord's and a crossword fiend meant that by the mid-80s, I had struck up a friendship with Jane Teather, aka Jetdoc. For many years, we would spend the first hour or so of a day's play keeping an eye on proceedings out on the pitch while separately filling in the day's Guardian offering and passing comment on it. In 2011, we were watching a Test match when she said I ought to have a go at setting. I came up with a couple of clues and tried them out on her, and when she didn't say they were terrible, I had a go at setting a whole puzzle. She was kind enough to be impressed and show it to some other people, notably former Times Champion Helen Ougham, who were very encouraging. So I did some more, and then Jane introduced me to Big Dave Morton, curator of the authoritative Telegraph blog and promoter of up-and-coming setters via his Not The Saturday Prize Puzzle (and now Rookie Corner) slots. She also pointed me at Neil Shepard, better known as Alberich and Klingsor, who also edits and publishes new setters, and he too was very educational and helpful.

Initially, I found Dave incredibly pernickety and fussy about my brilliant clues, but eventually I realised that editors are there to improve crosswords, and that being precious about one's own work is a good way of annoying solvers. But he published my puzzles regularly and asked me to contribute to his Monthly Prize Puzzles, which was a huge compliment. And after some more time, I showed him a puzzle of mine that I liked a lot, and he was impressed enough to tout it to Mike Hutchinson at the Indy.

I thought Dave was pernickety, but Mike was even tougher. And a good thing too. Re-solving my pre-Indy puzzles before posting them here has brought home how loose they were. His insistence on high standards made my puzzles so much better that eventually I felt confident enough to approach Colin Inman at the FT.

In the meantime, I had taken enough encouragement from Big Dave and Alberich to approach espncricinfo.com and see if they would like to host cricket-themed puzzles. Leslie Mathew agreed to give it a try, and so for two years he and Nitin Sundar made the effort to try and make them work. They didn't work well enough in terms of being clickbait, so the series came to a close, but a) it was my first professional gig and b) it turned into a massive technical education. If you're going to set cricket puzzles for an international audience, sooner or later you are going to have to come up with a clue for a name like ABDUL RAZZAQ. What that taught me is that there is nothing which is actually unclueable. I'm not going to pretend that you can always come up with a good clue, but there's always something you can do - especially when you can assume that the solver is liable to recognise the answer.

I'm very grateful to all of the above, but the biggest debt I owe is to Sue, John, Uday and Trevor, my fantastic test solvers. They are emphatically not to blame for what's wrong with my puzzles, and have everything to do with them being entertaining. Without their honest feedback on the draft versions, I would have had no idea whether they were likely to entertain. Without good test solvers, a setter is lost; with good testers, one can have a much more useful dialogue about what works and what doesn't, and mine have been towers of strength.

Between them, all those people are responsible for my getting some extremely gratifying and much appreciated comments on Big Dave's blog and on fifteensquared.net, which is, in the end, why I set puzzles. Knowing that I've given people 10, 20 or 40 minutes of pleasure as I lead them through an obstacle course of varying severity is what makes it all worthwhile. If this site can offer some more people some more pleasure, then it's been worthwhile putting it together. If you don't like what's here, I'm sorry, but if you do, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart.