Listener Crossword: History


7. Statistics

Because initially every correct entry received a prize, and the names of all winners were published, it was possible to deduce the number of correct submissions for the first 500 or so puzzles. From then until 1976 this number was unknown, except for cases where there were insufficient correct entries for the number of prizes and for a very few cases when it was declared in the solution notes. The number of correct entries is shown in this website, in the detailed list of puzzles, whenever it is known.

As noted above, consolation prizes were introduced in 1941 for those solvers with the most correct puzzles in a six-month period who had not won a weekly prize. This lasted for only ten years but the keeping of statistics was revived in 1976, by Michael Rich. On 11th December 1975, the following notice appeared in The Listener:
“The solver submitting the largest number of correct entries over the period January to September, 1976, will be invited to meet the setters of The Listener crossword at their annual Dinner later in the year.”

This notice was repeated on several occasions. Also, a count of all-correct solvers was intermittently published:

  • up to and including 2373: 47,
  • on 27 May: 11,
  • up to and including 2385: 6,
  • on 16 Sep: 4.
Then, on 14th October 1976, the day on which No. 2,398 was published, the following notice appeared:
“The following solvers submitted correct solutions to every puzzle from No. 2,368 to No. 2,395 and are being invited to meet the Setters at their annual Dinner on 6 November: J Dawes, H W Evans, M D Laws, J A Sever. Adjudication to find the most consistently successful solver from October 1976 to September 1977 began with publication of the solution of No. 2,396 on 7 October.” (Puzzle No. 2,397 was published on 7 October; No. 2,396 was counted in neither year.)

A similar countdown was given for the next year (covering 2397–2435): 19 correct up to 2406, and 10 up to 2415. Finally, it was announced that only one solver (R.M.S. Cork) had submitted correct entries to every puzzle from 2,397 to 2,435.

The checking of solvers’ entries was developed into its current form by John Green, since he took over the mantle in 1984. Every entry to each puzzle is checked and any solver successfully completing the whole (calendar) year receives an invitation to the next Setter’s Annual Dinner. At that dinner, the solver with the best record receives a trophy, the Solver Silver Salver, and is invited to present a corresponding prize to the setter of his favourite puzzle of the year. Both prizes were provided by Ascot, in whose honour the latter has been named the Ascot Gold Cup despite its being a silver rosebowl.

The current solving record is 320 consecutive correct puzzles (from No 3675 to No 3994) submitted by Simon Anthony; this run that came to an end in 2008.

Determining the best solver each year is, however, only a small part of the statistician’s service to the solvers and setters. He maintains individual records, which he happily divulges to those who ask — in response to an advertisement attached to puzzles near the start of the year — in addition to lists of puzzle data, the records of the best solvers (those who make errors in or fail to complete 10 or fewer puzzles), and the most common errors.

Back to History main page
  1. The first puzzles
  2. Grids and Clue formats
  3. Later developments
  4. Setters
  5. Editors
  6. Prizes
  7. Statistics
  8. Correspondence
  9. Miscellany
  10. Further information