How many crossword clues have you solved this year?
At least one among us can answer that question straight off the bat. Daniel Peake, a 27-year old meteorologist in UK, pledged that he would solve 2500 clues of the Guardian weekday cryptic crossword in 2013, a target that he has been tracking meticulously throughout the year. His progress report is available online in a spreadsheet with detailed statistics of solves and misses, along with aggregated information such as graphs by setter and day of week. His flickr stream shows his hand-written attempt at each weekday Guardian cryptic.
Why this challenge, and why 2500 and not any other number? Daniel says the figure of 2500 was worked out after a couple of test weeks back in 2012. He calculated that his average was about 8 or 9 clues a day, making the target of 2500 clues over 261 weekday crosswords, something he could aim for if he performed at the upper end of his solving ability.
Dan is following a set of rules in the process, such as a clue split over multiple entries in the grid is counted as one, no solving aids are allowed except Bradford's Crossword Dictionary, and the clues have to be solved within the date of publication.
The purpose of the 2500 Clue Challenge is to raise money for Rethink, a mental health charity that provides support for people who suffer from mental health issues, and helps research into the underlying causes and new therapies to deal with them. Dan says:
I want to promote awareness of depression as it's something I suffer with and has quite a taboo marked against it. I want to tell people it's ok to feel sad, and there are things that you can do to help yourself (even if you don't know what they are). The more we can understand depression and mental illnesses, the better we can deal with them.
Dan finds that his ability to think and solve is related to how happy he is - if he is feeling low he finds it harder to think and ends up with fewer clues solved. On better days, he solves more even though he spends roughly a similar amount of time everyday trying to solve clues. The variations are visible in his progress report – there's a 1/28 score at one end of the spectrum, a whopping 32/33 on another. He finds Puck and Enigmatist the hardest setters to tackle, and Brendan the 'easiest' (although still not easy, he adds!) He enjoys themed crosswords the most, specially those in which a word is repeated across many clues.
At the time of writing this post, Dan is about two days behind schedule and trying to make the ground back up. Cheer him on, and if you would like to contribute to Rethink, head over to http://www.justgiving.com/danielpeake2500.
Daniel Peake with his gallery of Guardian crossword clippings.
Dan's favourite clues from October 2013:
Guardian 26073 (Picaroon): Time, an hour after midnight, to get music and liqueur (3,5) T__ _____
Guardian 26076 (Arachne): Put new gloss on a Pinter play? (7) R______
Guardian 26084 (Brendan): Fashionable judgment shown by doctor on a lot of points (5,5) _____ S____
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