Cross Wits (ITV, 1985-1998)
For 11 years from 1987 to 1998 ITV used to have a slot for game shows at 9:25am. I always enjoyed this slot and it featured a lot of memorable shows, it really was the only way to start your day, so here’s a review of one of them.
Cross Wits was a Tyne Tees production shown five days a week and hosted by the cardigan-wearing Tom O’Connor. The show was all about crosswords. Every weekday a contestant was paired with a celebrity to play the game. I did enjoy it when Countdown‘s Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman competed against one another and there was a friendly rivalry to discover who would come out on top at the end of the week.
The idea was that in each round there were six crossword clues that were all linked by one word. The teams worked together to solve a simple clue to have a chance to guess the link for ten bonus points. There were also variations including the mystery round, where contestants had to guess the link after only one clue and if they got it right they won a telephone, the anagram round where the first letter of each clue spelled the link, and the musical round where all the clues were lyrics to a famous song.
When time was up, the highest-scoring team went into the final round. They had to get ten clues right in one minute for the contestant to win the star prize of a holiday, or a consolation prize if they missed out. Although I remember watching Cross Wits regularly in the 9:25 slot, it was only shown there from 1988 to 1994, and it appeared in various timeslots at the beginning and end of its run and eventually ran for over a decade.
For me, Cross Wits was of all the 9:25 game shows the one that seemed to be enjoyed most by older viewers, “the blue rinse brigade” as you could call them, the show was very cosy and easy-going, helped along by Tom’s corny gags, lots of knitwear, and it could be enjoyed by people who liked to compile and solve crosswords, although I think it was suitable for all ages to watch.
Cross Wits used to be repeated frequently on Challenge, but it hasn’t turned up since that channel joined Freeview, maybe it could be time to dust off the tapes and give them another re-run in a daytime slot as I think there’s still a lot of people who would enjoy seeing this show.
Of course, “And remember, if there’s ever a cross word in your house, make sure that it’s written and not spoken, just for me, all right” was the show’s catchphrase.