Barry Cryer (1985-6)

Tom O'Connor (1987-97)


Bill Steel
Judi Lines
Jonathan Morrell


Tyne Tees in association with Cove Productions and Action Time for ITV, 3 September 1985 to 23 December 1998 (435 episodes in 12 series)


"We'll have 8 Across please."

"They're wits, and they're in the shape of a cross (9)."



The New York World has a lot to answer for.

Players have to solve cryptic clues in this comfortable weekday show. Two teams of two, an ordinary member of the public coupled with a celeb would compete for points. On the computer board was a giant crossword puzzle, all the clues hinting towards a common keyword.

A recent (pale-coloured) version of the Crosswits set

Teams took it turns to choose a clue, a correct answer giving them one point for each letter in the word and the chance to solve the keyword for a bonus of ten. This carried on until the end.

The computerised game board, showing an anagram round in progress (the answer was AURORA)

Special rounds included the Song round, where all the clues were lyrics in the first line or two of a well-known song, the Anagram round where the first letter of each clue formed the clueword, and the Mystery round, where if you can find the keyword after one clue (with no clueword given) you won a cordless phone.

The team with the most points after the siren went through to the Crossfire round, a ten clue crossword and they had 60 seconds to finish it in. If they did they won a holiday, if they lost they won obscurity. They'd keep the same two celebs from day to day throughout the week so you could really see a slice of competitiveness.

Carol Vorderman helps out a contestant

Cheerfully hosted by Scouse ex-English teacher Tom O'Connor. The guests on the show included anyone they could get to make the journey to Newcastle, including Colin Baker, Kate Copstick, David "Kid" Jensen, Carol Vorderman and - the real master of the game - comedy writer John Junkin.

Tom doing his "Never a cross word..." ending

Key moments

Usually some close finishes in the end game.


"And never a cross word... just for me, alright?"

"If there's a 'cross word' in your house, make sure it's written and not spoken."


Devised by Jerry Payne.

Theme music

There were three different signature tunes. The first two incarnations were written by Graham Elliott and Mike Bersin.


Patricia Walton writes:

From around 1989 puzzles were compiled mainly by two people: the late and marvellous cruciverbalist Bob Smithies aka "Bunthorne" to people who solved his puzzles in the broadsheets, and by me; Patricia Walton. In fact it was at my suggestion that the music round was introduced. Space Oddity was one of many puzzles I compiled during the seven years I worked on the show.

There were some earlier series of Crosswits hosted by Barry Cryer. It was then a weekly show, with the points being shown as an amount of money in pounds.

To give you an idea of the calibre of celebrity guests the show got on, here's the line-up for the summer 1989 series. If you don't know who these people are... well, there you go:

Week 1: Dinah Sheridan and Richard Whitmore
Week 2: John Junkin and Janice Long
Week 3: Leslie Crowther and Kathryn Apanowicz
Weeks 4 & 5: Chris Tarrant and Wincey Willis
Week 6: Gordon Honeycombe and Brigit Forsyth
Week 7: Jenny Hanley and Alfred Marks
Week 8: Pamela Power and Reginald Marsh
Week 9: Colin Baker and Carmen Silvera

Correspondent "Miss Emma" says: "We had a carpet right through the 80s that was exactly the same colour as the Crosswits board background" which was "brown, medium-dark". It's this kind of detail that makes the web's number one source for game show analysis and light entertainment-related retro furnishing gossip - remember, you don't get this anywhere else!

Regional transmissions information

  • 1985–87: The first and second series aired on Tuesday afternoons at 3:00pm (no episode aired on 1 October 1985 due to live coverage of Snooker and no episode aired on 17 March 1987 due to live coverage of Budget '87) while the third series aired on Tuesday to Thursday afternoons at 2:00pm.
  • 1988–94: From the fourth series up until the tenth series, the show aired on Monday to Friday mornings at 9:25am, just after TV-am/GMTV had finished.
  • 1996: The eleventh series aired on Monday to Friday afternoons, but was not networked. Depending on the region, it aired at random times in certain areas. Carlton, Central, Tyne Tees, Westcountry and Yorkshire aired the episodes at 1:25pm. Ulster aired the episodes at 1:55pm. Grampian aired the episodes at 2:50pm. Scottish and HTV aired the episodes at 2:20pm. Scottish aired the episodes four times a week and took until 31 December 1996 to complete. HTV did not follow the same pattern as Scottish and did not complete. Border and Granada aired the episodes at 5:10pm, but did not follow the same daily pattern and took until 31 December 1996 to complete. Anglia and Meridian aired the episodes on most days at 12:55pm. Anglia continued to broadcast more episodes, finishing on 24 January 1997.
  • 1998: The twelfth series aired on Tuesday to Thursday afternoons at 1:50pm for the first 32 episodes from 6 January to 19 March. The last 3 episodes were aired from 21 to 23 December 1998.


A Crosswits puzzle book was published by Boxtree.

(ISBN 1-85283-694-6)

Web links

Wikipedia entry


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