Cryptic Crossword Solving Research

A Message from Dr Kathryn Friedlander and Dr Philip Fine

University of Buckingham

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A number of you may have seen some articles last week in the press concerning our crossword research and, in particular, the recorded crossword solving trials we conducted in Buckingham during 2011, which some of you kindly volunteered to assist us in. I’m afraid that (the press being what it is) our research has been rather mangled, and I’d like to set out what the real position is.

On Wednesday we gave an interview to the Times, at their request, which touched upon our research in general terms. This article appeared on Thursday 27th June. We are entirely happy with the content of this report, although we very much regret the sideswipe by Tom Whipple (not us!) which was aimed at Daily Telegraph crossword solvers and which understandably offended some of you.

The article appears to have spawned three bizarrely inaccurate articles in The Mail, The Telegraph, and The Express (particularly the first two). These articles appear to have been based on old information from an interview given to the University of Buckingham alumni magazine back in Jan/Feb 2012. This interview described work we were in the process of conducting at Buckingham, involving the videoing of 30 (not 750!) participants solving crosswords. It also discussed a range of potential outcomes we were hoping to explore.

Unfortunately, this conversation has been misreported as a completed and published study, and wholly inaccurate assumptions have been made about the ‘findings’ arising from it. Neither Philip nor I were consulted about these recent articles before publication, and all quotations are about 18 months old and quoted out of context.

Our press office has sent the following correction to the Mail and the Telegraph yesterday, with the request that it should appear prominently on the web-page of the original articles:


The University of Buckingham commented:

The research reported above is an ongoing small-scale project involving 30, not 750, participants. Transcription of the video recordings is not yet complete, and no data analysis has yet been concluded of the recorded sections of the trials. Accordingly, no research papers have been published as yet in this area. The above conclusions do not reflect the views of Dr. Fine and Dr. Friedlander.


We are aware that the articles have gone ‘viral’ in many countries worldwide, and that it is impossible to prevent the spread of this misinformation. But we thought it was important that you knew what had happened.

A small (genuine) paper is coming out this autumn and covers the first of the pre-solving activities at these trials. We will post information about this on the usual boards and will honour our promise to get back to all our participants individually if they requested this at the time.

We remain extremely grateful to all of you who have assisted us in our research over the years.

 Kathryn Friedlander and Philip Fine

University of Buckingham