Northern Ireland

Remembering Richard Rogan: A lifelong fascination with puzzles

Coleraine-born crossword editor of The Times newspaper died aged 62

Times crossword editor Richard Rogan pictured in the Times offices with some crosswords in the foreground
Richard Rogan had been editor of the Times crossword since 2014. Picture: Richard Pohle (RICHARD POHLE/RICHARD POHLE)

Richard Rogan, crossword editor at The Times, traced his love of puzzles back to his childhood in Co Derry.

He recalled at a young age “looking over my dad’s shoulder as he did The Daily Telegraph crossword”.

“I became fascinated by the puzzles with their symmetrical grids, and how all the words linked together.”

A pupil at Coleraine Academical Institution, he first began compiling crosswords for his parents Pamela and Arthur, a Church of Ireland minister. Later, as a student at Reading and Lancaster universities, he had puzzles published in various publications and he became a regular setter for The Times while working at the government intelligence and security agency GCHQ and later the company Serco.

When he got the prestigious job of editor of The Times crosswords in 2014, the paper appropriately announced it with a cryptic clue.

“All change: arch or daring new man at the helm! (7, 5)” it told readers, with “arch or daring” being an anagram of Richard’s name.

In turn, he paid tribute to the outgoing editor, Richard Browne, with the clue “Expensive Wonderbra excited retiring gentleman (7, 6)”. The word “expensive” was a synonym for ‘Rich’, while Wonderbra provided the remaining letters.

“Rogan spent the next 10 years delighting and confounding the army of Times crossword devotees with his smart and witty wordplay, anagrams, puns and hidden messages both as a compiler and as overseer of the paper’s highly erudite cadre of about 20 setters,” the paper’s obituary said.

On one occasion, in 2015, he smuggled a reader’s marriage proposal to his girlfriend into a grid. Happily, she solved the clue and accepted.

Rogan preferred pen and paper to computers when setting his puzzles, which could take up to two days to compile. Tributes from readers in recent days have spoken of the pleasure he provided over many years.

He also hosted an annual event for cruciverbalists – crossword lovers – of varying levels of experience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, something he described as the highlight of his year.

“Try to become adept at spotting the straight definition, more or less cunningly concealed at the start or end of the clue,” he advised newcomers.

“In The Times crossword, I try to ensure that no word in a clue is wasted, so remember that every word in the clue is there for a good reason.”

In The Times crossword, I try to ensure that no word in a clue is wasted, so remember that every word in the clue is there for a good reason

—  Richard Rogan

Away from crosswords, Rogan supported Coleraine FC and Arsenal in their perennial attempts to solve the puzzle of footballing success, and he was a keen long-distance runner.

He is survived by his wife Malika, with whom he lived in Cheltenham, and their 16-year-old son Liam.

** The Irish News publishes a selection of readers’ obituaries each Saturday. Families or friends are invited to send in accounts of anyone they feel has made a contribution to their community or simply led an interesting or notable life. Call Aeneas Bonner on 028 9040 8360 or email