As noted above, it was originally intended that there would be a prize for each successful solver, but the magazine soon suffered a serious dent in its prize fund. The solution to No. 4 stated: “This was easier than usual, and twenty-nine competitors sent in correct solutions. The prize of three guineas is divided among them, the amount received by each competitor being made up to 2s. 6d.”
Soon afterwards there was a switch to book prizes, where every successful solver — and even some near-misses — received a copy of the chosen book. An early amendment to this policy was to allow solvers to nominate an alternative book of the same value. The fund was, however, not limitless and the editors occasionally admitted that a very hard puzzle had been scheduled on that account.
With puzzle No 498, published just after the outbreak of World War II, this generous regime was changed to one that awarded prizes only to the first five correct entries opened, although sometimes that number was not achieved.
Then, in May 1941, it was announced that the solver with the best record over the next six months, but who had not won a prize, would be awarded one. This was duly awarded to a solver who had 15 of the 26 correct, although it was noted that T. Carter, of Newcastle, and L. A. Jones, of St Albans, had each correctly solved 23 of the 26. It was further announced that this regime would continue. This was the first venture into the Listener’s full checking of submissions; see below. Further detail about this initiative, which was discontinued in 1951, can be read HERE. At the time is ceased, the number of prizes dropped from five to three, and ceased to be of equal value.
Since the puzzle moved to The Times there has been a variety of prizes, eg, a very expensive watch, books, book tokens or vouchers, luxury pens and champagne.