The First All England RNIB 3D Crosswords Cup – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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The First All England RNIB 3D Crosswords Cup

The First All England RNIB 3D Crosswords Cup

August 6th 2011, The Midland Hotel, Cheltenham

Report by Eric Westbrook

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This unique tournament was won by Sue and Andy Wallace in the Pairs category.  They completed the fiendish 3D spinning jigsaw puzzle (and half the buffet) noting the anniversary of the last Queen concert with associated ‘She’s a Killer Queen’  theme in the recorded time of I hour 37 minutes just pipping ‘2 min 53 sec Times Ace’ John Henderson by 10 minutes.  Dr Henderson won the Singles event as well as every single item in the Crossword Tombola!  John promptly put all items into a raffle boosting proceeds from the event substantially.  The email section was won by Jim Pennington of Aberdeen who completed the puzzle in 2 days 8 hours 18 min.  Marianne Cantley and Torqui of Malvanua, Pacific Ocean, came a very close second in this section with a time of 2 days 9 hours 38 min.

After being revived by Sue, Andy said “That…. was ….. tough!” …. and appeared to pass out again with suspected ulterior motives.

The team section was won by Jane Teather, Tony Roberts and Richard Grafen.  Tony maintains a hundred per cent record in 3D puzzles with 31 consecutively correct 3D crosswords in the BBC CiNA series and this makes 32!  Their teamwork was thrilling to observe.  Jane and Richard’s terrific solving was matched by Tony’s 3D jigsawing.  John Henderson presented Tony with ‘A Symbol of Youth’ composed of a drumstick and cymbal given by Rufus Taylor and bearing his monica.  This Rufus is slightly younger than ‘our’ Roger Squires being the thunderous drummer in the musical “We Will Rock You” at Birmingham Hippodrome.  He is also the son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, and a splendid young man.

Remaining players in the Pairs section abandoned the category very cunningly and sought to chase down the final twiddles and fiddles by joining forces to make teams.

The Cheltenham tournament adjudicator was Roger Collins, one of our puzzle testers and invaluable advisers.  Jane Stephens managed the Crossword Tombola and gave great support.

Two of our furthest email contestants were Marianne Cantley in the middle of The Pacific Ocean on the island of Malvanua … and Wendy Burgess who lives in an extinct volcano in the Southern Island of New Zealand.

Incredibly, almost as if it were meant, Sue and Andy Wallace live just a few hundred yards away from the new RNIB home and school in Exhall on the outskirts of Coventry.  Sue is planning to become a volunteer at ‘The Pears Centre for Specialised Learning’ , the beneficiary of tournament proceeds.  Andy has been an All-England Mensa Darts Champion.  More significant perhaps, to tournament preparations is his hundred per cent record as a solver in the current BBC CiNA 3D Crosswords Championship operating from

The distinctive event with the puzzle dubbed “The hardest crossword in the World” attracted some media interest:

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 8.55 – 9.00 am interview with Evan Davis

(no longer available on BBC iPlayer)

BBC World Service Newshour 9pm 14 minutes into the programme

(also see below for a link that might last four years!!)

BBC Points West filmed the event and interviewed people. The item went out BBC One West at 5.30 pm 6.08.2011 but is not available on iPlayer.  Alice Bouverie interviewer and presenter will obtain a DVD and send to us. This has arrived via Alison Cox, BBC Bristol.

Enigmatist, Nimrod, IO and Elgar et al presented the trophy, and the  ‘Symbol of Youth’ percussion memorabilia to the winners and kindly and cunningly keeping back the bottle of Moet & Chandon (one of the ‘solutions’),  to pass to Eric Westbrook who being almost totally teetotal, distributed the life-giving fluid amongst all the finishers (which was everyone!!) to the slightly slurred toast of “Sloggers and Betters”.

All attenders completed the puzzle within the allotted two hours. Extremely impressive. I think we fulfilled the promise of having everyone finishing with a smile on their face – even those who had never heard of Queen. Then we unlocked the doors.

The event raised:

  • Awareness of RNIB activities on a large scale
  • Interest in this kind of event
  • £292.12 + 1€

Next year we hope to move the decimal point by one place. To mathematicians we hope to move the number past the decimal point.

The following year we intend to raise phenomenal sums of money!

We would like to receive feedback on the event with a view to future planning.

We received £424.12 + 1€ in tickets, extra donations, and the raffle.  £132 was paid to the Midland Hotel for buffet, wine and excellent support.  Thanks to landlord John Dix and staff plus customer Scot Johnstone, design engineer who fabricated the brilliant model of the 3D spinning jigsaw from white plates and wine glasses!

We were honoured to have George Heard from North Carolina who participated with panache and after a superb crossword related comedic routine left us with an ache in our pans.

Depending on feedback we hope to repeat this event and continue on an annual basis and establish the tournament in the crossword calendar.

3D Crosswords are very happy to design and donate 3D puzzles to any worthwhile charity if at all practicable.

This was an event in the “Sloggers and Betters” series of meetings. You will find details on a number of crossword sites by Googling. Thanks to John Henderson and Big Dave, fellow organisers and spirits who made it possible.

If you would like to have a go at the puzzle you can find it on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme website or for longer on the calendar puzzle site above.

Be there next year, or be a cube.

Eric Westbrook

Registered blind RNIB Member and Volunteer
3D Crossword Designer

Prize Donors

  • Cawthornes – Lesley and Michael, Nuneaton stationers/office
  • CovComp – Robin, Coventry
  • Rufus Taylor – Kate Warnaby, Birmingham Hippodrome
  • RNIB – John Godber, Products and Publications
  • CERN – Charles & Shirley
  • Several anonymous donors


Excellent choice by Big Dave with its extensive function room.

The Midland Hotel
247 Gloucester Road
GL51 8NW

Tel: 01242 234283

Landlord John Dix and staff including Ken, Jan, Marie, Jenny were extremely helpful and friendly. Customer and design engineer, Scott Johnstone, was a huge strength.

RNIB support and line management:

Louise Neal
RNIB Community Fundraising Executive – Central England
PO BOX 3183 Gloucester

Tel: 01452 721298
Mobile: 07908473046

Another milestone – this is the 2,000th post on this blog!

5 comments on “The First All England RNIB 3D Crosswords Cup

  1. Sounds like an excellent event and a worthy cause – well done.

    Have I understood correctly? A Dr Henderson – who can do the Times crossword in under three minutes (I’m not sure I can even read the clues that quickly) – spent an hour and three-quarters on a ‘fiendish 3D spinning jigsaw puzzle’ … ??? Must be IMPOSSIBLE for mortals…


    1. A couple of points to clarify:

      Dr John Henderson is probably better known to Telegraph readers as Elgar.

      The record was achieved at the Times Crossword Championship at a time when only one puzzle was solved at a sitting. Currently there are three puzzles to solve and I believe the record for all three is held by Mark “Magoo” Goodliffe in 17m 43s.

      1. Oh, he’s Elgar! How marvellous. I’m a fan.

        Thanks for the clarification, Big Dave.


  2. John Henderson, Elgar, is not just a top-notch crossword setter and solver. He is a top, top man who has given freely of his time to write clues to our 3D grids in projects to support RNIB and BBC CiNA.

    I was delighted to see everyone getting their teeth into the very tough puzzle. It challenged the ace solvers but by using pairs and teams, the arrangements allowed everyone to join in fully I think. It was enthralling to watch and Points West did a miraculous job in filming and producing a comprehensible news item!

    Despite being quite poorly BIg Dave still managed to get round all the tables and spur people on.

    Do come and join in next year Nick.

    Best wishes,

    Eric Westbrook

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