December 21st is Crossword Puzzle Day, and there could not be a more fitting occasion to celebrate the life of Anne R Bradford, cruciverbalist extraordinaire and author of the inimitable Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary, who died in October at the age of 90.
It is not an overstatement that crosswords were a magnificent obsession for Anne. When she stopped work in 1957 to have her first child, she found herself starting to note down answers to particularly tricky clues as an aid to memory in case she should come across them again in another puzzle. For the next 25 years, she continued to build on her collection of solutions, by which time this unique body of material had reached such proportions that she had the idea of offering it to her fellow crossword-solvers as a reference book.
Since then, the book has gone from strength to strength. A unique and innovative work that pairs thousands of clue words with possible solutions, it broke the crossword dictionary mould in being compiled by a real author from actual crossword clues. The latest (12th) edition of this remarkable work, published by Collins only in October, is the fruit of over sixty years’ analysis of over 500,000 clues, gleaned by a true crossword lover.
An active member of The Crossword Club, she continued to devote time every day to solving crosswords, avidly collecting new solutions for each new edition of her dictionary and compiling every entry with meticulous care. She was in correspondence with Collins’ editors as recently as September, discussing additions and amendments and, as ever, entertaining all with an anecdote and a witty remark.
Anne was blessed with extraordinary intelligence, as well as a lively sense of humour that was occasionally mischievous, but always warm. She is already much missed by her friends at Collins and everyone in the crossword world. The Bradford’s Crossword Solvers Dictionary will, happily, be continued by her daughter Gillian.
Written by Mary O’Neill, managing editor.
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