Roger Squires: The Mozart of Crossword Puzzles

In the world of crosswords, some merely dabble, and then some true maestros leave an indelible mark. Roger Squires, affectionately known as the “Mozart of setters,” was one such maestro. His extraordinary talent and dedication to the craft made him a record-breaking crossword compiler who will forever be remembered in the puzzle community. Today, we pay tribute to the remarkable life and career of Roger Squires, a man whose cryptic clues delighted and challenged millions of crossword enthusiasts worldwide. Join us as we unravel the fascinating journey of this legendary puzzle master.

A Magical Encounter with Crosswords

Roger Squires, a former flier for the Royal Navy, discovered crosswords while seeking entertainment during periods of idleness. As a self-taught magician and member of Britain’s Magic Circle, his companions prohibited him from participating in card games. In pursuit of a new way to pass the time, Squires got into cryptic crosswords, embarking on a journey that would establish him as the world’s most prolific compiler. His light and humorous style earned him the title “Mozart of setters.”

A Multifaceted Career

Aside from his aviation and magic endeavors, Squires explored various professions, including working as a holiday camp entertainment officer and actor in television series like Doctor Who and Crossroads. However, it was crosswords and puzzles that became his true calling, providing a reliable source of income. 

Despite the rarity of full-time crossword compilers, Squires’ exceptional output, reaching nearly 40 puzzles per week, resulted in his cryptic crosswords appearing in five different UK national newspapers simultaneously.

A Global Influence

Squires’ puzzles gained popularity among puzzle-solvers worldwide. Under different pseudonyms, such as Dante for the Financial Times and Rufus for The Guardian (his initials being RFS), he delighted crossword enthusiasts. His puzzles graced the pages of renowned publications like: 

  • The Times
  • The Daily Telegraph, and 
  • The Independent

Recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2015, Squires compiled an astonishing 77,854 crosswords in his lifetime, solidifying his place in history. He also holds the record for the longest word in a cryptic crossword, a mind-boggling 58-letter entry representing the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

A Life Transformed

Born in Wolverhampton in 1932, Squires’ love for poetry and prose was nurtured by his parents. Despite attending Wolverhampton Grammar School, his adventurous spirit led him to join the navy at 15. As a lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, he traveled the world, occasionally engaging in writing, directing, and performing in shows. 

However, a life-altering moment occurred in 1961 when his Gannet aircraft crashed into the sea near Sri Lanka. This tragic incident, which claimed the pilot’s life, transformed Squires’ perspective, inspiring him to embrace a carefree outlook on life..

A Puzzle Craftsman

Behind the scenes, Roger Squires meticulously crafted his puzzles. From his office in Shropshire, overlooking the impressive Ironbridge gorge, he immersed himself in the world of television and classical music, drawing inspiration for his clues. 

He employed a sophisticated dots-and-dashes coding system, guaranteeing his ability to remember every clue, and utilized Scrabble tiles to assist in solving anagrams. Squires’ office, adorned with dictionaries and reference books, served as his creative haven.

A Champion for Change

Squires did not shy away from fighting for what he believed in. In 1998, when The Telegraph planned to automate crossword production and replace the crossword team with recycled puzzles, he led a public revolt of compilers known as the “Telegraph Six.” Even Boris Johnson, then an assistant editor at the paper, sought his opinion. 

Squires staunchly defended his position, leading Johnson to reverse course, reinstate the compilers, and increase their fees. In celebration, Squires wittily clued, “Submit to pressure and return to base.”

A Lasting Legacy

Roger Squires’ influence extended beyond the realm of crosswords. An accomplished sportsman, he played squash until his mid-sixties and regularly enjoyed swimming. He is survived by his wife, Anna, his son, and two stepchildren. 

When Squires announced his retirement in 2017, readers of the Financial Times expressed their sorrow. One devoted fan from Washington wrote, “Nothing in this nutty world gives me more pleasure” than Dante’s puzzles, a testament to the lasting impact of his work.


Roger Squires, the record-breaking crossword compiler, enchanted solvers across the globe with his brilliant mind and playful spirit. His contributions to the puzzle community will forever be cherished, and his legacy as the “Mozart of setters” will continue to inspire future generations of crossword enthusiasts. As we bid farewell to this remarkable wordsmith, we celebrate the joy he brought to countless lives through his clever and thought-provoking puzzles. Roger Squires’ name shall forever be etched in the annals of crossword history.