Respondents could thus be assigned to the appropriate research group on the basis of mature performance in the field, thus avoiding possible confounds which can arise when classifying inexperienced novices of unquantifiable potential. In the event, only 11 participants with less than 2 years’ experience completed the survey (1.4% of the total); of these, 9 were classified as O and 2 as H. As the two questionnaires used were identical, data from the two surveys were combined and analyzed together. Participants were assigned to expertise groupings on the basis of responses to key fields within the survey (see below, “Definition of Research Groups”), regardless of survey phase. Analysis of the survey data to identify characteristics of both the expert and non-expert population, leading to a grounded research rationale for the design of key elements in subsequent stages of the investigation. This avoids the potential trap of confounds arising from preconceived theoretical or ideological assumptions.
weak reasoning abilities, leading to deficits in both clue interpretation and the use of ancillary information such as intersecting, cross-checking letters. Research on expertise development has attempted to reveal the mechanisms through which some individuals are able to show levels of performance, skill-sets, or knowledge which are reproducibly superior to that of others active in that particular domain . Studies of expertise development on both sides of the argument have tended to remain focused upon a relatively restricted range of practice-intensive domains—primarily chess, music, sport and Scrabble—and to have followed well-worn investigative paths. There is a danger that, in all of these approaches, research may be based more upon preconceived, theoretical assumptions concerning the demands of the domain, or upon strongly held ideological convictions about the nature of expertise, than on grounded empirical evidence.
You lifted up the seat and there was the chamberpot, called a commode. And the mattress on the bed was made of straw. It must have made a big impression on me, as I still remember that bedroom vividly. The overall excellence of the puzzle has been mentioned by everyone, as well as the problem of 11a and the mistake of debase, which was mine as well. The chamberpot as I remember was always under the old people’s bed not by it. Which meant I couldn’t do 28a or 19d, which was annoying as I completed the rest of the puzzle without too much trouble.
Finally, for a few highly expert cryptic solvers, the ultimate challenge is to compose cryptics oneself. ‘It was always very hard, very witty and a joy to solve. I was hooked.’ Samer Nashef on crosswords. Having been way off the mindset yesterday I was bang on it today, most unusually for me with a Jay puzzle. Having started half an hour earlier than I normally do then having been interrupted by a zoom conference I found to my chagrin that the bottom row was covered.
Of these, the Listener Crossword is the most notoriously difficult, employing a high degree of clue mechanic concealment, obscure vocabulary, grids of startling originality and a thematic challenge, often involving a number of tricky lateral thinking steps on the basis of minimal guidance. Speed is not important—solvers have 12 days to submit their solution to each Listener puzzle. Very few entrants achieve an all-correct year (21 in 2010; 16 in 2011; 14 in 20121) and those submitting 42+ correctly appear on an annual roll of honor. The Magpie2, a monthly specialist magazine with 5 highly challenging advanced cryptic crosswords per issue, runs a similar all correct/roll of honor system, and is broadly of Listener standard. In contrast to competitive SCRABBLE proficiency, crossword proficiency relies on semantic aspects of language such as general word knowledge (Hambrick et al., 1999) and superior recognition for word meanings (Underwood et al., 1994).
• Survey 2 took place in April 2010 and invited mainstream solvers of daily block-style cryptics to take the same survey in order to obtain comparative data from non-experts. Adverts were placed on a number of websites providing a daily analysis of a wide range of block-style puzzles from UK newspapers; the survey was also re-advertised on the Crossword Centre website. An exploratory survey was therefore designed to capture responses of cryptic crossword solvers to a broad range of 84 questions (many with extended sub-sections), as above.
Toma’s characterization of crossword expertise is certainly very plausible, so far as it relates to the American crossword puzzle. At the root of the challenge set by US-style crosswords is the nature of the puzzle layout which consists of a heavily interlocking grid with fully cross-checked letters . Clues are almost entirely “straight-definition” with very few exceptions; these include puns, quiz-clues and obliquely referenced clues, such as “Present time? ” , where the answer is “YULETIDE” (Shortz, 2001; Nickerson, 2011). Essentially, therefore, US crosswords may be seen as semantically cued retrieval tasks , requiring considerable crystallized knowledge, much of it obscure “crosswordese” [words frequently found in crossword puzzles, but very rarely in conversation (Hambrick et al., 1999; Romano, 2006)]. This paper presents a relatively unexplored area of expertise research which focuses on the solving of British-style cryptic crossword puzzles.