What You Said. Christmas Puzzle set by Gordon Gray to raise money for charity since 1991.
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What You Said

2012 - Dedicated to Lynne Truss

  • What a super surprise – I actually got everything right and hadn’t been caught by any of your traps!
  • We’ve really had to get the little grey cells working over some of your clues
  • Very many thanks – as enjoyable as ever
  • I know 3b starts with an apostrophe but I just couldn’t find the word
  • My whole family have enjoyed (not sure if that’s the right word) the Puzzle – I’m getting a Chambers Dictionary for my birthday this year
  • Finding the starting letters was a bit easier this year. The idea of homophones was excellent – it enabled unobtrusive words to become vital clues.
  • Thanks for giving us so much pleasure once again – and frustration – and sleepless nights. We are looking forward to the next one
  • It took several days concentration on 3b & then sudden inspiration for no apparent reason
  • A real stinker this year – the homophones drove me mad. You must get great pleasure from our tales of frustration
  • I really enjoyed the challenge
  • As usual your Puzzle has given us pain, [pleasure, the odd moment of oure joy and frustration! Nobody could say it was dull.
  • I stumbled along for a week or so with guesses, some of them turning out to be wrong until the “light bulb” moment when the answer to the theme and hence the first letters of the solutions became apparent
  • Thank you for helping to keep the old brain going. I feel lost when it is finished
  • We enjoyed it immensely
  • I solved the Christmas song pretty much straight away as I happened to be listening to it whilst putting the letters in the grip
  • I really do look forward to it each year. My little grey cells don’t work as they used to but the quiz gives them a little boost!
  • Some clues have completely flummoxed me and I didn’t solve the “additional character” to my satisfaction
  • As always we have had fun, frustration and a little bit of help from a friend. We have been doing the Puzzle for 16 years. What pleasure and pain we have suffered, but it’s all in a good cause – we shall still come back for more
  • We were so pleased with ourselves when it began to make sense
  • Another brilliant and entertaining brain teaser
  • I must thank you for a brilliant Puzzle and add my voice of approval for the new homophonic type of clue
  • What a wonderful Puzzle – the most enjoyable yet. And ‘sbodikins – what a wonderful word. I was over the moon to find it, quite by chance
  • I could easily access the Puzzle on line but I just love finding it on the mat at a time of year that is fraught and pressurised and thinking “Ahhhh”
  • How you led us a merry dance with your ambiguous preamble!
  • Thank you for providing us with a challenging time during the Christmas holiday. We found it rather hard but hope our perseverance has paid off.
  • The Puzzle has given so much pleasure in the solving. The clue for 19(b) is a real cracker – I laughed out loud when I realised what was going on. One of your very best.
  • Well, I think this was the hardest Puzzle ever!
  • Your quiz was a highlight of the year and as usual, I read the introduction and said to myself “I’ll never do that”, but once I’d found the song I was on the ball.
  • There is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction on completion and the disappointment on losing one or two ½ points.
  • A very enjoyable and challenging Christmas Puzzle
  • Maybe I have become more acquainted with your way of thinking or, maybe this year’s quiz was a little easier than usual, but I seemed ot complete this year’s challenge much quicker than expected
  • Devilishly difficult and devious
  • How is it that you keep on managing to produce such a stunning puzzle – Christmas would not be anything like as much fun without you.
  • What a stinker of a Puzzle – loved it! As usual I got that “Eureka” moment and off I went.
  • Q3 was the last to fall with its multiple complications. The level was about right this year – the homophones were a nice twist
  • Once again a fiendish Puzzle kept at bay until the end of Boxing Day
  • The usual clutch of weird and wonderful words to discover
  • You old sly boots. Fancy having a word starting with a punctuation mark!

2011 - Snakes and Ladders

  • Another cracking quiz. I am in awe of your ability to devise such fantastic quizzes each year
  • I always thought a ladder was a ladder but now I know otherwise
  • Another fiendish Puzzle. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. It must be a year’s work to compile a quiz like this. Keep up the good work.
  • I nearly gave up on this as I think it was the hardest yet. Thank you for a brilliant Puzzle.
  • It took me some time to realise that ladders go up. Great fun.
  • Phew! My brain cells hurt. Thank you for another feast of problems – keep them coming.
  • I delayed (quite some will power) downloading the Puzzle till the evening of the 23rd when I was supposed to be travelling the next day with everything done. Such a bad idea. What a fiendishly wicked way of assembling the puzzle – the best one I’ve encountered. Your Puzzles are an absolute joy.
  • Another compelling & challenging Christmas Puzzle.
  • For quite a long time I had a ‘hostess’ in a stew!
  • Such an enjoyable and challenging Puzzle.
  • The theme was challenging but achievable. The final clue to be solved was the Welsh dresser, which was maddening as I am Welsh!
  • It took me some time to see the pattern …. but I got there.
  • Adder and Viper appeared at once and the double helix solved the rest. I thought a surucucu sounded like a snake should sound.
  • Well that was certainly a little trickier to say the least! Loved it! Very clever and ingenious.
  • Congratulations on a superb Puzzle. Once again you kept me, and I suspect a good many others, entertained in the quieter moments of the Christmas break and prevented my brain from stagnating.
  • This Puzzle stopped me from staring at the television too much over Christmas.
  • Almost there, but not quite, with one or two dodgy answers on the way.
  • Your INFURIATING quiz has just got me through recovery from a horrible bout of flu when I couldn’t leave the house!
  • Loved the snakes and ladders (took me ages to see ‘Jacobs’ & that made me laugh). What will you think of next year – can’t wait!!
  • There is always so much going on in your Puzzles – the theme, the often hilarious narrative and the words themselves - Gaberlunzie has to be the favourite this year.
  • Some splendid thought provokers
  • It keeps us young as well as giving us so much enjoyment. The salmon ladder nearly beat us.
  • [The Puzzle] was made a fraction less difficult by the acquisition of a Chambers dictionary as a birthday present last year.
  • Loved ‘the twist’ this year/ Hours of puzzling.
  • A very absorbing and tortuous Puzzle.
  • Some cracking words as usual and I’m bracing myself for failure. I await the red pen with trepidation. I hope the next Puzzle is done: like many I am counting the days.
  • FANTASTIC. Many thanks
  • We found it harder this year – must be partly because we are all getting older – that’s my excuse!!
  • Easier than last year’s – although couldn’t get the initial letters on either this one or last year’s.
  • A fascinating and demanding quiz which kept us busy over the festive season.
  • Thank you for the pleasure this has given me – to complete it for the first time. The first phase of the roof restoration at St Woolos (Newport) Cathedral was completed last month – with your assistance, so thanks for that too!
  • The ‘companion’ and ‘salmon’ ladders had me foxed for a while …. I’d convinced myself that ‘social’ ladder would be in there.
  • Didn’t finish the quiz but had great fun with it.
  • The toughest yet!
  • Unfortunately I have been unable again to work out the starter letters. For me this does mean I don’t have a hope of finishing the Puzzle, which I find very frustrating. Could you please try to make them just a fraction easier next year? I look forward to the Puzzle all year.
  • Another very enjoyable Christmas time reading the Chambers dictionary! I only hope it gives you as much pleasure to compile it as it does me to complete it.
  • It was very, very difficult and I much regret not being able to totally sort it out.
  • A fully completed quiz! I’m sure you’ll take marks off for endings.
  • Our Eureka moment came at 2.45am when turning the top few answers over in my head I realised the ladders were going up not down.
  • How very much we (as an extended family) have enjoyed tacking the Christmas Puzzle. It has become one of our most enjoyable Christmas activities. I suspect you enjoy the challenge as much as we do.
  • We solved over half the clues but apart from Viper and Adder we couldn’t find any snakes.
  • Once again …. I could not have completed this without the help of a brainy son.
  • For once, I understood your clue straight away. In fact I worked out how the snakes and ladders probably plaited together before I even filled in any words.
  • There didn’t seem to be much on the blog this year. It’s always encouraging to see other people are having problems too.
  • ….[I] ‘fell down’ with the ladders and ‘slipped up’ with the snakes.
  • We were told about the Puzzle by friends … Little did we realise what we had let ourselves in for! The run up to Christmas was dominated by mutterings under the breath and numerous pieces of paper with random pieces of scribbled words. There was even a Eureka moment in the middle of the night.
  • A brilliant Puzzle, which challenged my skills and intellect for many hours/days. At the end there was the disappointment that the Puzzle was finished and that a year must pass before the next gladiatorial battle with ‘Chamberpot’ and your cunning ways could begin.
  • Hunting for a Malaysian dancing girl on Google led to some pretty dodgy websites. All part of the learning!
  • We thought we were doing so well when we quickly found ‘Jacobs’, ‘Step’ and ‘Adder’ – the rest took some time!
  • Gosh, it was tough – great fun though!
  • No doubt my aunt and my dad are top of the class while I must be content with middle ranks for now, but one day I will catch them up!
  • A wonderfully ingenious Puzzle, which we thoroughly enjoyed working on ….. You wouldn’t believe how messy our first attempts were with lines going all over the place!
  • I did miss the more subtle wordplay – nothing in the George W Bush category!
  • I know this is not a democratic process, but .… my vote would always be for something trickier … ideally through some cryptic clues rather than greater obscurity. But, however it develops, your Puzzle will remain a valuable contribution to Christmas festivities. Long may it continue.
  • I thought this year’s Puzzle was the easiest yet. The snakes and ladders theme was excellent but over explained – it didn’t have the subtlety of ‘Play up, play up and play the game’.
  • We found this year’s quiz more puzzling than usual and still have not sorted out the snakes and ladders.
  • Utmost despair turned (eventually) to enlightenment and a reasonable score. I’m still waiting for that perfect 120!
  • We all agree that this year has been your best quiz in all the years we have taken part.
  • Another cracker of a Puzzle.
  • I never manage to finish it but I do enjoy trying.
  • Well, I did manage to finish it, but with quite a lot of help. I hope that doesn’t count as cheating.
  • I wait for your annual Puzzle with great impatience, & then put everything aside while I solve it. … Every year I think I’ve got them all right, & every year I slip up on a few.
  • With best wishes for the continuance of your fiendishly difficult Puzzles.
  • I enjoy the challenge and understood the snakes and ladders theme – I think.
  • The enjoyment of your fiendish Puzzle does not lessen with the passing years – I just think that my brain cells are past their sell-by-date.
  • As usual highly enjoyable, full of ups and downs, or should that be snakes and ladders.
  • Thank you for giving me the excuse to sit down now and again over Christmas.
  • Another really enjoyable Puzzle. Thanks for all your hard work.
  • The theme was a bit different and interesting to solve.
  • Absolutely super Puzzle.
  • Your annual Puzzle has become an essential part of Christmas.
  • Yet another absorbing, educational and ingeniously constructed Puzzle.
  • Was completely stumped by the clue this year.
  • I thought it was a bit easier this year.
  • Even harder than usual – but still great fun.
  • I found it fun & much easier than last year.
  • [Setting this Puzzle] must have made your brain hurt.
  • I’ve had such fun. Thank you.
  • The twists and turns of the Puzzle were baffling at first – then all became clear.
  • The most enjoyable since the ‘bird’ one – very thought provoking.
  • The snakes and ladders helped put right a couple of mistakes.
  • Christmas present of new Chambers Dictionary came to our rescue just in time.
  • Lots of new words, most of which I have already forgotten.
  • Thank you for yet another 9a challenge, 20b, nay 36a, without 31b (glad to find that corrected on the website 31a). I was able to 26a at the end of the 6c 30a and without any 35a 22a, though the 3b did 26b me for a while as I found 17b 21c 36c. 24c of any further 25c ideas, I have pleasure in submitting my entry and 19c my cheque (17a). I hope you had a good 15b.

2010 - Winnie-the-Pooh

  • It eventually fell into place though I was stuck on about 60 for quite a long time
  • This was a really ingenious Puzzle. Well done.
  • My brain, dictionary and Philavery have worked very hard. Thoroughly enjoyable.
  • Great Puzzle as always! Trickier possibly & liked the twist of the undefined answers.
  • I wonder how you while away your spare time - crosswords must be a breeze for you!
  • Really thought I would be sending it in about 50% complete. However, over the past few days I made headway then found the theme – loved it. From there on in I galloped along.
  • We tried to avoid using Google as much as possible, but had to search to see who (!) Martin Hussingtree was.
  • One of the toughest I can remember. Last evening I still didn’t have initials and 63 answers were missing. As ever I have enjoyed battling with you and am now wondering whether to take up German before next year.
  • This year’s Puzzle better than ever. The four main delights of Christmas: 1. carols, 2. this Puzzle, 3 mince pies, 4. goodwill to men.
  • Ingenious and great fun
  • We especially liked the clue for 20a and 20b – there was a real “ah” moment – or more accurately an “I wonder if …” moment.
  • An excellent Puzzle which has kept us entertained for hours. As for Winnie-the-Pooh we just could not see for ages what the connection was until my husband had a Eureka moment. We were intrigued by Mott the Hoople! Never heard of him / them in our lives but our daughter had! For a while I thought Mott was Matt and tried so hard to make it so.
  • Your Puzzle is DEFINITELY one of the highlights of the Christmas season.
  • You’ve scaled new heights in sneakiness – I loved ‘escape’ (20a&b) and ‘Mo, Al and I’.
  • There was a fair amount of gnashing of teeth until a chance comment led to the breakthrough and, hopefully, 120 for the first time.
  • As in past years your quiz has given us a lot of pleasure – as well as a fair measure of frustration.
  • I cannot imagine Christmas without it and the emergence once again of all my reference books. When I woke up after about a week of puzzling (2.30am – see how you interfere with my sleep) to the realisation of the “the” connection I was absolutely convinced that somewhere |I would find Vlad the Impaler – sorry there wasn’t room for him.
  • As ever, I think the wife has beaten me – more effort needed next year!
  • I’m sure others will point to deficiencies, but to my mind they are trivial when compared to the high quality maintained.
  • You continue to unearth some delightfully obscure words - Aussichtspunkt has to be the pinnacle, but I also liked Eleemosynary.
  • Another great quiz which has been such fun to do.
  • I have not enjoyed it. It is more than likely I will not be doing it next year.
  • We really enjoyed this year’s link. Who would think of putting Ivan the Terrible and Muffin the Mule together – you obviously.
  • It really caused us the stretching of ‘little grey cells’.
  • I have found it necessary to ‘hide’ it until after our Christmas dinner – we might never get there otherwise.
  • I couldn’t find any link to Winnie the Pooh – it completely foxed me. Obviously I was not on the right wavelength. But I still thoroughly enjoy the Puzzle and look forward, every year, to receiving it.
  • If anything I would rate the satisfaction factor higher even than last year’s, and the exasperation correspondingly lower.
  • Really enjoyed it, as usual.
  • Ingenius! Thank you for many hours of bewilderment, fun and the odd Eureka moment.
  • Another masterly Puzzle
  • Unfortunately you have beaten me this year. I actually gave up before Christmas which is the first time ever.
  • Another wonderful puzzle, so enjoyable even if 24b did outwit me.
  • I found this year’s Puzzle very hard as I made the initial error of assuming the answers bore some relevance to the book: wrongly as I discovered.
  • We enjoyed the challenge but too hard for us this year.
  • We have had great fun this year, although we took a shamefully long time to crack your theme. Including Vlad would have made it easier – though no doubt too easy for some.
  • Finally we saw the light at the end of a very long tunnel and are really delighted to say we have completed the Puzzle – we are so grateful for setting us such a challenge.
  • Very enjoyable. Up to your usual high standard.
  • Hope you never run out of ideas, because working out the theme and lead letters is the best part.
  • Another superb Puzzle - A-level homework had to wait once my grand-daughter spotted the quiz sheets.
  • You win!!! We’re pretty much stumped, this year, and are retiring with headaches. However, we have derived much enjoyment from the quiz and there have been several groans when we have realised some of the answers. (Score = 119)
  • I like your choice of charities for the year.
  • Cannot fathom the ‘Instructions’. Hope we will do better and therefore enjoy more next year’s quiz.
  • A brilliant Puzzle
  • It seems very rude to describe someone I’ve not met as totally devious but ….! I don’t like being beaten and I thought this year’s quiz was brilliant.
  • Even more challenging this year.
  • Yet again a really absorbing puzzle. It took me ages to begin to understand the cross reference clues.
  • I’ve never heard of some such as Lily, Frosty, Mott and Fungus – shows my age. Keep it up please.
  • I am afraid I cannot return my quiz for this year because my dog has ripped it up!
  • Loved the Puzzle as usual, but took a while to crack the code.
  • Thanks for adding a vital constituent to our Christmas and New Year. It’s great fun and listening to your partner crying out “It’s Mott the Hoople” brings only smiles and a renewed enthusiasm.
  • Thanks for providing so much fun and a challenge over Christmas.
  • A few German words made a change from obscure Scottish ones – I was delighted when I eventually found Aussichtspunkt. You are definitely not losing your flair.
  • This year I found the Puzzle extremely obscure and not even satisfying when an answer was achieved. My interest did not maintain throughout.
  • Exquisite torture. I did enjoy re-reading A A Milne as a delightful blind alley.
  • An enormously loud “thank you” for yet another brilliant Puzzle. It is/was challenging, amusing, demanding, satisfying and just lovely.
  • Quite a teaser to elucidate the logic this year. Congratulations
  • I admire your ingenious imagination and diligent dictionary research, which oblige your Puzzlers (I almost said ‘victims’) to think laterally and creatively.
  • I look forward to the Puzzle so much and am so disappointed with my efforts this year. So hearty congratulations to you …. I really could not obtain an understanding of it this year.
  • I enjoyed this over many hours and had to buy myself a new dictionary.
  • PHEW. What a struggle.
  • I think you are a little more devious than usual this year – or my brain is getting old & decrepit. But I still enjoy tussling with the clues.
  • I will probably come bottom of the list. Never mind, I still enjoy doing it and it keeps the little grey cells working.
  • You clue ‘(20x16) a’ was a touch of genius – it was one of those where I got the answer first and then tried to work out what it had to do with the clue. I do feel a certain pride in being in the 10 Year Roll of Honour.
  • Over the years we have really enjoyed the hours spent poring over our Chambers Dictionary and Encyclopedias, but this year’s Puzzle has become more of a chore than a challenge. Enough is enough …this is the last time we are subscribing to your Christmas Puzzle.
  • The theme of Winnie-the-Pooh was a real red herring that got the brain cells and telephone lines going.
  • “Winnie-the-Pooh” – jolly good, I thought, I know much more about him than Dr Who (last year’s theme). We got ‘the’ fairly quickly – real glee when I spotted Dennis the Menace and suddenly words fell into place.
  • Have spent days anchored beneath Chamber’s dictionary & Mr Roget’s big book. Please remember when you compile next year’s Puzzle that not all of us oldies have computers or electronic aids to help us.
  • Another entertaining and enjoyable quiz. However, the wording for the clues on Page 4 leaves a bitter taste. I can understand the objective but I fear you will upset many people with the tone and content – perhaps well intentioned but a little misguided?
  • If I wore a hat I would take it off to you! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this Puzzle, with a moment of pure enlightenment earlier this month.
  • ‘Gordon’ had us perplexed for a while; we kept thinking ‘Gordon is a Moron’.
  • Certainly made us think. I know of one or two people who gave up this year.
  • The theme was so clever and kept us all guessing for quite a few days. We had so much fun working out the clues.
  • There is always a great moment when I twig what you are up to, though it did take me a while to work out who all the “the”s were.
  • Another brilliant, challenging Puzzle – thank you.
  • It took quite a while for the penny to drop about the ‘definite connection’ but I got there in the end.
  • At last I can get rid of all the bits of paper and tidy up. My house gets very neglected because I cannot leave the Puzzle alone once I get into it.
  • Such an intriguing and engrossing Puzzle. We had a lot of fun and frustration.
  • I cracked the code eventually – thoroughly enjoyed puzzling this out.
  • I have never had the pleasure of doing one of your Puzzles before and I would like to say how much I enjoyed it. My sister and I thought this Puzzle to be brilliant in its conception.

2009 - Time, gentlemen, please

  • I discovered the theme this year - that's a first for me.
  • You're getting more devious with the passing years
  • Sorry - I'm not a fan of Dr Who
  • I have amazed myself. I have tried this before and got nowhere ... but within 2 hours I had completed most of it.
  • What about a quiz based on The Archers
  • We are not TV watchers, so we felt at a disadvantage and hard done by
  • A most enjoyable quiz
  • What a Stinker!!
  • I decided I needed a copy of 'Who's Who'. Just before I headed off on the wrong track I had a think and it it just suddenly clicked.
  • As always it made us dust off our thinking caps and kept our minds off the weather
  • Really enjoyed it. Thanks
  • Thanks for hours of inadequate intellectual fun
  • I gave myself a day off for 'Puzzle time'
  • I really ought to get a Chambers of my own as the book disappeared ... before we got to the end
  • Another wonderful, enjoyable, frustrating, annoying Puzzle
  • Thank you again for the pain and the enjoyment
  • As usual it completely dominated our family Christmas and gave a lot of fun and enjoyment to all
  • You always manage to take off marks for bad spelling, wrong parts of speech or any other of your fancy quirks
  • We rely wholly on Mr Chambers and Mr Roget, who like us know nothing about the wretched Doctor
  • I was so determined to get them all right(ha, ha) that I spent too much time changing and unchanging my answers & nearly missed posting on time.
  • Many thanks for an enjoyable brain exercise
  • Anticipation, frustration, jubilation. I even got up in the middle of the night to follow up an idea.
  • Latin seemed to be handy this year
  • My beloved mother passed away last week. One of the last things she was doing on the day of the stroke was this year's Puzzle. It gives me some comfort to think she was doing something she enjoyed so much.
  • Another puzzling Puzzle for your faithful followers
  • I hate to say it, but I think you're a macroverbumsciolist. (1. a person who is ignorant of large words, 2. a person who pretends to know a word, then secretly refers to a dictionary)
  • We had such a lot of fun completing this
  • It took us the usual 3½ weeks of fairly consistent head scratching and dictionary hunting
  • We noticed with amusement what seemed to be the emergence of the "double, double think"
  • We all loved it, and by all we include at least two new enthusiasts who, like us, can't wait for next year's Puzzle.
  • It kept us guessing to the end, but having a Dr Who expert in the family did help to get us started
  • I thought this year's Puzzle was a bit easier than last year.
  • It was encouraging how Chambers gave the exact word in the clue
  • How do you do it?
  • A brilliant Puzzle. My mother-in-law is 96 and spends most of Christmas trawling through the Dictionary
  • I have DOCTORED my answers well and, WHO knows, I might just get lucky this year
  • We are quite exhausted after the challenge you set us. As Poirot would say, "We have used our little grey cells".
  • A great Puzzle that has filled in these last few weeks when snow and ice have prevented me from unnecessary excursions.
  • Rather like an exam, you think you have the right answers but can't be sure until they have been marked
  • The anticipation of the Puzzle dropping through the letter box is much more than downloading it from the computer.
  • Never have my dictionaries and other crossword books been more used than during this Christmas period.
  • I'm just amazed that you can keep them coming - here's to the next one.
  • I couldn't put it down! It's quite different to other puzzles I have done, and I do enjoy cryptic crosswords
  • I claim (as usual) a total of 120 and yet expect that once again you will have caught us out at least once
  • It took me two days to 'get' 40b despite being aware that INCREASE was the only possible answer
  • Great Puzzle, couldn't wait for it to arrive, it was like an early Xmas present
  • It was very difficult to put down - we just had to keep on until we'd finished.
  • It has become as much of our season as bad jokes from crackers and Aunty Angie's sausage rolls! In fact they're very similar ... very nearly indigestible!
  • First time I've completed the Puzzle before Christmas.
  • Thank you so much for sending this excellent Puzzle to us
  • Fun, Fun! It gets no easier, there's always one or two that really tax me.
  • This is the first time we've finished the Puzzle before New Year
  • Slightly spoilt by a couple of errors
  • What a lovely Puzzle - could almost be a story line for the next Dr Who series.
  • I trust you raise a good amount for the charities. Such hard work on everybody's part deserves a good result.
  • I had an answer to all in 24 hours - so quite a few must be wrong and I'm wracked with considerable doubt
  • We look forward to receiving the Quiz, at which point everything grinds to a halt in the house. Christmas shopping, housework and even occasionally meals.
  • Was it easier this year, or am I getting better?

2008 - Theirs not to reason why

  • There is always a sense of excitement when the theme behind the first letters fits into place.
  • Solving it is like climbing Mount Everest. I can reach the point where I have the summit in my sights...but alas can never quite reach the top!
  • Once again a great puzzle and feeling of achievement when it was completed
  • The two outer columns eluded me for a long time, yet when the light finally dawned it seemed so obvious
  • The way you coped with the date of the event was an extra pleasure.
  • We would like to say how much the family have enjoyed this year's Christmas Puzzle.
  • Yet another stimulating and frustrating Puzzle
  • Very neat solution
  • Kept me up to 1 o'clock one night, just couldn't stop
  • As Machiavellian a delight as ever
  • We found it very difficult - but great fun
  • I have so enjoyed doing this Puzzle - in fact I haven't had so much pleasure since I used to complete 'Ximenes' crosswords in The Observer
  • I wish I had found your Puzzle years ago
  • Hours of entertainment
  • A good taxing Puzzle yet again
  • Thank you for providing me with my Christmas mental excitement
  • I don't know where my usual slapdash errors lie but feel sure you will delight in telling me
  • A great Christmas challenge
  • I liked the number characters - very clever
  • We look forward to this Puzzle every Christmas and wish we had come across it sooner
  • I hide it until Christmas Eve otherwise we'd never be ready for Christmas
  • Another cracking Puzzle
  • It has become part of Christmas, sitting around the tree with our various copies, reference books, Chambers (and the odd laptop)
  • Our new edition of Chambers, which was a Christmas present, was put to good use.
  • The biggest groan came when I realised that the clue was not after all railroad, but RAIL on its own
  • You must have a bit of a fiendish brain
  • I was clutching at straws for the 80th clue and couldn't believe the audacity of the Onesimus one
  • Took ages and got me out of lots of chores
  • The highlight of the year.
  • My husband says its worth £20 for the length of time it keeps me quiet
  • An interesting challenge
  • Another Christmas treat. Most enjoyable
  • Really enjoyed the Puzzle. Took me ages to work out the cannons - but read a lot of Tennyson
  • An explosive quiz, with cannons to the right and cannons to the left. Unfortunately I got shot down and just couldn't do 40b
  • I really look forward to the envelope arriving mid-December and the revelation of the 'theme' for the year
  • A useful diversion from Christmas excess
  • He'll still find a way to take ½ mark off
  • I'm 80 and it's a good test of the old grey matter
  • It was just the right level of difficulty, i.e. challenging but not so difficult that I lost interest
  • It admirably took the place of the Sunday Telegraph's Enigmatic Variations, which did not appear on the Sunday after Christmas
  • Quite difficult and challenging but very satisfying when I got there
  • Very enjoyable after initial panic over the numbers
  • Many hours have been spent with friends and family pouring over it.
  • A cleverly constructed Puzzle
  • For a Christian man you have a very devious mind
  • It took a little while for the penny to drop but the three columns with cannons to the left and right was a very nice touch
  • I have really tried to concentrate and hope that this year I have made it (score 118½)
  • I can honestly say I have done every single answer myself, so I feel quite proud
  • At last all the reference books are back on the shelf - for another 10 months anyway
  • My husband is looking forward to a proper meal sitting at the dining table once again
  • What a stinker - you now have me hooked
  • I still can't get the reference to the 10 objects and the poet
  • We enjoyed it greatly (apart from the physical discomfort of sitting long hours under Mr Chambers Dictionary and Mr Roget's Thesaurus)
  • It kept us guessing to the last minute
  • My family thought I spent far too long on it: time I apparently should have spent more usefully helping with the Christmas shopping, decorating the house etc.
  • I hope no one ever has to look at what I've been researching on the net - they would probably be most suspicious of all the searches for cannons and artillery
  • You must know how much we aficionados appreciate all the hard work you put in to this yearly effort
  • If and when I am ever marooned on the desert island, I would be very happy to have my Bible and Chambers as company - sources of endless fascination

2007 - The birds and the bees

Below are some of your comments on the puzzle from 2007;

  • Brilliant - and most enjoyable.
  • Utter despair - followed by almost total jubilation.
  • I enjoyed solving this one - especially the sneaky bits - George W Bush indeed!!
  • A sheer joy.
  • I'm still allergic to computers.
  • You clever devious man.
  • Some of the clues were stinkers, some were abstruse and some were really witty.
  • Perhaps not quite up to last year's standard, where the theme was particularly neat and added to the fun, but still a fine piece of work.
  • Loved Tungsten!
  • You gave me a lot of pleasure - and frustration.
  • Never thought I'd get the hang of your quiz, but once the first bird appeared it became much clearer and I enjoyed it very much.
  • My 5th year of doing the Puzzle. I am now virtually bald!
  • Some weird and wonderful words.
  • We loved it; we scratched our heads, bought a Chambers and still scratched our heads.
  • A wonderful way to spend Christmas with rubbish on the TV.
  • As fiendish as ever - looking forward to next year's already.
  • I'm still seething at having misspelt Eeyore last year.
  • I solved this quicker than the others - but that doesn't mean it was easy - maybe I'm getting better.
  • I fear the Holy Grail of a perfect score may elude us for some years, but we feel we are improving.
  • I nearly put it in the bin, but once I understood the instructions I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • This is the first year I've even come close.
  • Congratulations on the obvious effort you have to put in to produce such a superb puzzle.
  • As usual we found your 'helpful' clue hard to crack!
  • As usual much time wasted, but great satisfaction gained.
  • After the mental rigours of the 2006 puzzle it was a relief that this puzzle was a little more straightforward.
  • I was particularly interested to know that London taxi-drivers have to be Callipygean.
  • Not wishing to be a zoilist I think it was easier than previous ones - even if some tatterdemalions beg to differ.
  • I don't like to think about the number of hours I spend doing it - I could have decorated the kitchen.
  • Christmas wouldn't be the same for us or, I am sure, your many disciples without the Puzzle.
  • Callipygean has definitely been the 'in' word this Christmas.
  • Were you aware that the 1993 edition of Chambers has YAKINONA, but by the 2003 edition this has changed to YAKIMONO?

2006 - 5 out of 5

Below are some of your comments on the puzzle from 2006;

  • Thank you so much for another splendid quiz.
  • We did not find it at all easy. Being bears of very little brain we still haven't managed to solve the 'helpful' clue.
  • It was more ingenious and satisfying to solve than ever.
  • The theme took me some time to understand and when broken showed me two errors, now corrected!
  • Now can I get back to all the deferred jobs?
  • We always save the quiz until everyone is together at Christmas - but there is a bit of competition to have first turn at the 'easy' answers.
  • I shudder to think what is in store next.
  • For the third year we have had great fun competing with your ingenious mind.
  • It was Eureka day on Friday when I got the final answer (first time ever).
  • I especially enjoyed the way in which you worked Woolworth, High Street, Ant & Dec, Dickens & Jones, Marks & Spencer and Waterstone, each into 2 separate answers.
  • We only discovered the quiz in 2004 - What have we been missing?
  • Thank you for another brilliant brain teaser. Hugely enjoyed!
  • I am still kicking myself for the dropped mark in 2003.
  • I am MORTIFIED at misspelling Eeyore because I am a lifelong devotee. To quote Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh Chapter 6 "'Pathetic' he said, 'That's what it is, pathetic'".
  • Congratulations on the amazing amount of money you have raised - long may it continue.
  • Solved the theme a little earlier this year but no less satisfying. Roll on December 2007.
  • Our family spent many hours at home and in the library working on the puzzle.
  • Thanks so much for hours of fun at the expense of dreary chores. The hall, stairs and landing were due to be decorated but pursuit of rogue answers took a higher claim.
  • It must be heartening to be in the thoughts of so many, even if they are cursing you.
  • This was the best yet.
  • Well, I think you excelled yourself this year. I went from order to chaos and back again more times than I care to remember.
  • Puzzles within puzzles.
  • We didn't quite manage to finish - but we had great fun trying.
  • I thought perhaps it was easier this year. Wow, was that a mistake. However, I have finally made it and I really think I have the full 120 this time.
  • Thank you for the hours of pleasure you have given.
  • Christmas and most of January wouldn't be the same without your Puzzle. We eventually got from 'Chaos' to 'Order' via frustration, inspiration and dear Mr Cambers.
  • Thank you for driving us mad once again.
  • Totally fiendish Puzzle. Kept me well entertained over the hols.
  • Christmas wouldn't seem complete without it.
  • I struggled with some of the endings.
  • It is a relief when that last clue is solved, but sad to think we have to wait so long for the next Puzzle.
  • An afternoon in the library merely told me that the Basque people do not regard spelling as of any importance.
  • You win!!! We give up. We have got ourselves in a dreadful mess, and before we get dragged down the plughole, have decided to stop struggling.
  • It's amazing what you can do with the English language if you really try. But I don't need to tell you that, I'm sure.
  • We have been attempting your quiz for several years, with varying levels of success, and feel this one has probably been the most demanding and, equally, enjoyable.
  • We have hardly had time to notice how wet December and January have been.
  • We sat either side of the dining table, surrounded by dictionaries and reference books our pleasure growing with each clue we managed to solve.
  • I'm still hoping for that elusive 120.
  • We went down one or two blind alleys but got there in the end.
  • Would it be possible for you to do a Puzzle during the summer?
  • I solved the Chaos to Order them right at the end and felt extremely clever, but it was so late that it only helped with 2 starting letters.
  • It's an addictive Puzzle.
  • I am longing for the opportunity to use the word 'Tohu buhu'
  • An ingenious puzzle - in fact 4 or 5 puzzles rolled into one.
  • Many thanks for a very challenging Puzzle. I wish I'd discovered it years ago.
  • I'm tickled pink to be one of your prize winners this year. Your reference to the enjoyment of the moment 'when the penny finally drops' is absolutely right.

2005 - Vitaï Lampada

Below are some of your comments on the puzzle from 2005;

  • I thoroughly enjoyed the battle yet again. I look forward to next year, amused at a colleague's horror at being docked ½ mark.
  • Wow, what a quiz!
  • Great puzzle, my dictionary hasn't been used so much in ages.
  • Thank you for yet another testing puzzle - harder than ever this year.
  • Friday morning was as normal: Puzzle received by 9.30am, took the bus to the local photocopy-shop, three copies made then home. By the end of day two we have not a clue - but we shall keep going.....As you enjoy your Christmas spare a moment for we poor wretches still struggling.
  • It is a long while since I read Shakespeare and it is certainly different reading it upside down.
  • I don't know how people wait until Christmas before starting. I have to get cracking the moment I open the envelope.
  • It took a while but we got there, hopefully, in the end.
  • Your devilish puzzles have become a highlight of Christmas and helped develop a warm rivalry among friends.
  • Once again Christmas went on hold as soon as the Quiz arrived. Can it be that you are running out of words? Yardang was the answer to 22a last year.
  • Hewgh - no not imitating the whistling of an arrow - but me sighing with relief that I've made it to the end.
  • It was as much fun as ever.
  • The usual past month of frustration and commitment.
  • Our youngest came up with the 'old farmer' this morning - she works with small children - made us laugh.
  • I had completed 116 answers before I discovered what the "help" was. This type of quiz gives one's brain a good challenge.
  • I found 100 words before my niece cracked the code and passed the information on to me! Is this regarded as cheating?
  • Brilliant quiz, as ever. Shakespeare stumped us for a while.
  • Those hours spent scrutinising Chambers - at two this morning through a magnifying glass - have highlighted that the time to purchase my first pair of reading glasses has arrived.
  • Yet another frustrating quiz - but oh, how so enjoyable.
  • Kept our family happily occupied for many hours over the Christmas period.
  • It certainly taxed the 'little grey cells', and I must admit it came easier after solving the puzzle of the first letters.
  • Enjoyed this puzzle, but found it difficult. I have been waiting for inspiration but it failed to come.
  • I think your mind gets more devious as the years go by! Was so delighted when I realised what "PLAY UP" actually meant.
  • My family and I, numbering between us seven graduates from good universities in disciplines ranging from neuroscience to English and history, via law and economics, made a sadly poor attempt this year.
  • YIPEEEEEEEE. YAB-A-DAB-A-DOOOOO!! WHOOPEEEEE. After 10 years 100%.
  • Thank you so much for my prize. I have used it to buy a Chambers dictionary. Before purchase I checked whether it contained 'vraic' and 'xanthochroi' as an indication of suitability.
  • The last three clues gave me the most headaches until I took your advice and ignored the punctuation when all became clear. I should have guessed earlier.
  • This is the first time I have ever not been sure that I had all 120 right (they may not have been right, but I thought they were when I did them).
  • Tackling the quiz is reward in itself, we experience withdrawal symptoms in January and can't wait for the next one to arrive to stretch our brains.
  • You had a number of sneaky bits in the puzzle but the sneakiest and best is your last line. I laughed out loud when I worked that out.
  • NOAH enterprises can often be a place of surprises. It certainly was last week when two lovely ladies dropped in with a cheque for £1,000.
  • We are grateful to Joyce and Irene for nominating the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home to benefit and thank you so much for choosing us.

2004 -

Below are some of your comments on the puzzle from 2004;

  • This year I had to forbid my husband to start on it until I had tried - and as I was getting ready for Christmas he had to wait sometime - much to his chagrin. I want you to know how much we enjoy doing the puzzle
  • What a lovely way of wasting time
  • Christmas and New Year would not be the same without the quiz
  • Another brilliant puzzle. Took a while to get the starting letters, but having got these kept mother-in-law busy all Christmas with a dictionary on her knees.
  • I do enjoy the annual puzzle. Difficult but not impossible. What more can a puzzler ask? Congratulations on keeping the little grey cells jumping about and supporting so many worthwhile charities.
  • Some of your words are wonderful and don't appear in my 'Oxford' at all!
  • Another amazing quiz! How do you do it? Thank you so much for giving me hours of enjoyment.
  • Have not enjoyed this Quiz as much as in previous years - perhaps because we took longer to get into it and work out your 'clues' part. Very confusing! But well done again for keeping me out of mischief for a few weeks.
  • We have had fun with this again this year. Writing neatly today brought back memories of the excessively hot days in the week we did most of it in Sydney.
  • As usual we save the quiz until Christmas Eve when everyone is together. And as usual it always causes a problem! Well, everyone wants to have a look first to get all the easy answers and to look really clever. But it's the unusual words that we like to search for best of all.
  • Thank you for giving me so many enjoyable, though sometimes maddening hours trying to find the solutions.
  • Thank you very much for the time and trouble you have taken in preparing the puzzle. We got less than ¾ of the answers (assuming we got them right!) but it gives us a lot of enjoyment.
  • Have really enjoyed doing this puzzle, although I found it hard in places and have no doubt that I have included a few howlers or worse. What the blazes though, it's all in a good cause, so who cares?
  • I look forward to the day in December when it comes through the letter box. I raced away with most of the solutions. My son said, "Slow down or you won't have anything to do over the Christmas holiday." I don't think he wanted me to solve it too quickly as he had bought me the Chambers Dictionary for Christmas, and I certainly needed it at the end!
  • Much pleasure and frustration with the puzzle as usual. Can now use the kitchen table again for meals having put away a multitude of reference books.
  • Thank you once again for another superb puzzle - possibly the best ever. The pleasure I derive from gradually overcoming the various hurdles and breaking the code is hard to convey.
  • It always amazes me how long I've spent looking for just one word - I'd never dream of totalling the hours spent overall! But something sours you on until it's found - determination or plain stubbornness, I've not yet decided. Thanks for hours of amusement; I'll feel liberated once I get this in the post!
  • Thank you for another wonderful quiz. Firmly part of our Christmas - it may not be touched till 24th when we all start at once.
  • Thank you so much for another wonderful puzzle! We really look forward to it every year and get excited when it arrives.
  • When I picked up the envelope I recognised the handwriting but had no inkling of what lay within. Once opened the buzz started. Since then I've sworn at you (whilst seeing you laugh back of course) and laughed with you (acknowledging your sagely nods). I hope you can recollect the delights you enjoyed when you compiled those fiendishly satisfying conundrums - and relive the moments.