John Halpern

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John Halpern
aka 'Paul' from The Guardian
Birth nameJohn Halpern
Cuckfield, Sussex, United Kingdom
MediumCryptic Crossword Compiler
Years active1979—present
GenresCryptic crossword
Subject(s)Crosswords, British culture
SpouseTaline Halpern
Notable works and rolesThe Guardian

John Halpern a.k.a. 'Paul' from The Guardian was born in Cuckfield, Sussex, UK in 1967, and is a cryptic crossword compiler for newspapers including The Guardian, The Independent (as 'Punk'), The Times, the Daily Telegraph (as 'Dada') and The Financial Times (as 'Mudd').[1]

Halpern's interest in The Guardian cryptic crossword puzzle began when he was a student in Canterbury, and he wondered if the compilers could possibly be human beings.[2] After completing a puzzle for the first time, he set about creating two of his own to send to his hero John Galbraith Graham, also known as "Araucaria", and accomplished this two and a half years later. He now writes three or four a week for a variety of publications.[3]

Having studied music and maths, Halpern became a local reporter, barman, warehouse packer, bank clerk and lab technician. He taught English in Rome, but found that hands-on examples of the present continuous kept causing him to lead his students out of the classroom, on to the street and into bars where he would put their understanding of his lesson to the test: ‘You are buying me a drink’.[2]

Halpern’s favourite clue of his own is:
To make cheese, how do you milk a Welsh hedgehog? (10)
Answer: Caerphilly.
The first clue he ever wrote for the Guardian was:
Name sewn into footballers’ underwear (8)
Answer: kNickers.[1]

John lives with his wife Taline, near the East Sussex coast.[1]

In March 2012, Halpern and Graham hosted a crossword show which was held at The Guardian offices.[4] He is working on a film and follow-up tour.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Connor, Alan (22 September 2011). "Crossword blog: Meet the setter - Paul". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b Guardian Cryptic Crosswords Setters Series, 2007, Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-074-5
  3. ^ "Cryptica website". Archived from the original on 2002-05-25.
  4. ^ "Paul's Art of the Cryptic Crossword". The Guardian. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2016.