Harold Park crossword setter swaps papers for paperbacks - and reveals truth about final News of the World grid

11:01 17 July 2012

Harold Park crossword setter Marc Breman with his e-book Crossworld (photo: Melissa Page)

Harold Park crossword setter Marc Breman with his e-book Crossworld (photo: Melissa Page)


It’s one down for the Harold Park crossword setter trading puzzles for pulp – he’s finished his first novel.

Marc Breman, of Colchester Road, has set thousands of crosswords across newspapers and magazines over the last 20 years – but now he’s won across interest with the self-published tale Crossworld, he’s hoping to attract a company to put out the book nationally.

“Crosswords are very solitary to write,” said the cruciverbalist, 51. “I don’t actually know any other compilers.

“I believe there are clubs for people who meet in houses and try to come up with different clues but I think that’s a bit weird, frankly.”

Marc’s writing first gained exposure last year – but it wasn’t his fiction that interested people. He set the infamous final crossword in the News of the World, which allegedly contained veiled references to News International’s disgraced chief exec Rebekah Brooks.

The national press believed clues like “woman stares wildly at calamity” invoked Ms Brooks’ struggle to keep the newspaper above water.

But one year on, Marc says it isn’t as black and white as all that.

“That crossword was submitted a week before the announcement that they were going to close down, so there’s no way I could have known,” he said. “That clue seemed to work very well with the famous photograph of [Rebekah Brooks] looking through the rain-spattered car window – but that photograph hadn’t even been taken.

“Maybe I should start a new career in psychic crosswords.”

Marc’s novel Crossworld centres around a man “trapped inside a crossword” who is forced to solve cryptic clues to resolve the issues he faces over the course of a day. He hopes to complete a trilogy in the same vein, before writing a fourth book about codebreakers at government decryption centre Bletchley Park.

During the Second World War, crosswords were used as a method of sending covert messages.

But Marc says he’s hidden hardly anything inside his crosswords.

“The 5000th grid I did for the Mirror had a pre-amble saying I had put the sum of all my knowledge into it,” he revealed. “I hid something like ‘hardly anything’ inside it.”

But the paper failed to print the explanation so no one got the joke. “‘Hardly anything’ became hardly anything,” he said.

Marc’s e-book Crossworld is available on Amazon for £2.05. For more information go to www.marcbreman.com.

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