The principal aim of this website is to provide access to archive materials. Those who are relatively new to the Listener Crossword may find the material in the introduction helpful. The website also aims to complement that of The Times Crossword Club, at which current and recent puzzles can be accessed.
The Listener was a weekly magazine run by the BBC.
It published its first crossword in 1930,
coincidentally the same year as The Times started its daily puzzle.
The Listener Crossword currently has an average entry of around 500, although there is a huge variation in entry levels depending on the difficulty of the puzzle: a few puzzles each year have fewer than 100 correct entries and one in The Times had as few as 8; the very easy puzzles, intended to encourage new solvers, may attract 1000 or more entries.
There have been over 400 setters in the series to date. Some early puzzles were unattributed, the first pseudonym (Doggerel) appearing in number 18. The true names of most are known, but it is likely that the sands of time have obliterated some names for good. Currently there are around 100 active setters. An outline record for each setter is available at setters.
Each year, in February or March, a Dinner is held, open to all setters and to some solvers as well. Sometimes the menu is subjected to a setter’s skills in wordplay. For all recent dinners, and some earlier ones, a report has been included with the Annual Statistics. These documents can be viewed at dinners.
One unique feature of the series contributes to its loyal following: every entry is recorded by a volunteer statistician — these records are compiled into the Listener Annual Statistics, which solvers can obtain along with their personal results. The entire collection of annual statistics, from their start in 1976, can be read at statistics.
Solvers aspire to be “all correct” for a calendar year and usually no more than ten or so manage this difficult feat. All such solvers are invited to attend the annual dinner, at which they are honoured. The Solver Silver Salver is awarded to the one who has solved the longest without making a mistake. He or she nominates the best puzzle for the year and its setter is awarded the Ascot Gold Cup. The lists of past winners can be found at a link in the dinners page.
The reference section contains miscellaneous materials, such as a list of crossword books and reference sources of particular interest to Listener solvers and setters. Also included are some materials associated with the mathematical puzzles that have been a particular feature of the Listener series.
Finally, this section gives access to the current “Guidelines” that the editors provide to setters, to help them attain the standards expected of a Listener Crossword.
As far as possible, files have been provided using simple HTML, the standard format for the World Wide Web. In some cases, particularly files associated with the Annual Statistics, the Portable Document Format (PDF) has been used. Most browsers capable of reading HTML have an in-built facility to read PDF documents. If not, a free Adobe® Reader® program is available from its creators, Adobe.
The Co-editors and the Statistician (John Green) are grateful to those who have provided material for this site, particularly Ross Lawther, for the list of puzzles and setters and the late Derek Arthur who set up the website.