In Memoriam Tony Sever: 1944-2023

As many of you have heard, our former blogger and long-time commenter Tony Sever passed away in March of this year.   Tony blogged the Times Literary Supplement puzzles in 2010, back when those puzzles were still available in the version of the Crossword Club that was then current.   He continued to comment on nearly every daily puzzle until 2017, when the Times substantially increased their subscription prices.   His blogs and comments may still be found on this site.

Working behind the scenes, we at TftT have been trying to get our hands on a suitable obituary to mark his passing.  Since Tony was a relatively humble fellow, this was not easy. However, thanks to the persistence of Janet Ballard, we have finally succeeded. I would like to thank Janet for writing this obituary and making it available to TftT:

Many will have been sad to hear of the death of Tony Sever in March.  Tony was born on 7th February 1944. He went to Queens College Oxford and recently described himself in his Twitter account as  “Yorkshireman. Retired from designing and writing computer software. Interests: art history, crosswords, dance, languages, literature, London, music, science”. He and his wife Janet (a community nurse) moved in to Brentham Way in Ealing in about 1975 and soon they joined the Brentham Society and became involved in various community activities, particularly the annual May Day parade where Janet helped teach the children their country dances.

Tony was seen on the day, dapper in his boater and striped blazer, playing his accordion to accompany the dances. In the evening he could be found on the dance floor, demonstrating clog dancing.  He and Janet were members of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and enjoyed various dancing styles – country, folk, ballroom, baroque, as well as a stylish jive and Morris dancing. They would sometimes hold dance events in their garden in Brentham  Way.

Tony had a life-long passion for crossword puzzles, and had a great group of fellow enthusiasts, both online and in person. A proud moment for him was winning the Times crossword championship at age 37. He liked to explain his theory of what it takes to win. He said when you are young, you have the speed but not so much experience. When you are older, you may be slower but have knowledge and experience. The sweet spot occurs when these characteristics meet optimally; Tony’s sweet spot came in 1981.  He had his own crossword website and was both well liked and respected for his extremely quick solving times.

Tony had an ongoing thirst for learning and, in recent years, he studied Mandarin. He could often be seen rushing down to the station to attend a class in London.

Tony and Janet attended most Brentham events and are remembered as good neighbours who welcomed new arrivals in Brentham Way.

For the last few years Tony devoted his time and energy to caring for his beloved wife, Janet, as her health deteriorated. She has now moved into a nursing home.  Sadly, his own health failed and he passed away peacefully on 3rd March, after a few days in hospital.

Tony and Janet made lots of friends in Ealing and provided a perfect example of people who helped to make the area they lived in friendly and more fun. They are missed by many.

15 comments on “In Memoriam Tony Sever: 1944-2023”

  1. I first met Tony at my Championship Final debut in the early 80’s. We hit it off immediately – maybe our common Yorkshire heritage was a factor – and at every future Championship where we’d both qualified we would find each other for a chat.

    Tony was one of those rare people that you could never imagine anybody disliking. He was unfailingly cheerful and to be in his company was a pleasure. If we have a Championship again, his not being there will spoil the day for me, even before I miss the cut !

    Thank you for sourcing this excellent obituary.

  2. I dig into the old crossies from time to time and Tony’s comments, usually at the end of the day, are always a good read.

    Sounds like he was a splendid man and will be much missed.

    Thanks to Vinyl for organising this – much appreciated.

    Ps coincidentally my son is living a minute away from Brentham Way. Who knows, might have not realised that that chap rushing along the street was Tony…

  3. A real gentleman – it was a great pleasure to meet him once at a crossword ‘do’.

  4. I went to Pocklington School as did Tony. We both competed in The Times Crossword Championship in the 7os and Tony was polite enough to call me a rival.
    He was a lovely man.
    Jeremy Baker

  5. I have seen and appreciated Tony’s comments many times over the years and I believe he will be missed by many people.
    What a lovely and sensitive obituary! Thank you so much.

  6. One of the things that impresses me about TftT is that one can get to know and cherish people one has never met in person, and Tony is really the best example for me. While he was still blogging I always looked for his entry just to be amazed about his superb solving times (and the usual comment about difficult puzzles if he took 10 minutes to solve them). I was sad to see him go when he stopped contributing in 2017 and much, much sadder now to hear of his demise.

  7. Sever left the forum—because of the unconscionable rise in the Times subscription price—just after I had begun to fully engage with TfTT. As a lurker, though, I had often marveled at his remarks to the tune of “Made heavy weather of this. It took me all of six minutes.” This account of the other colourful sides of this well-rounded personality is a welcome revelation.

  8. I hardly met him, only briefly at a S&B once. I said that as one got older (he was only two years older then me) one got slower: was that because one was less supple physically and simply couldn’t write the answers in fast enough, or because one’s mind was going? He said it was both (irrelevant to me of course, since I was nowhere near his league as a solver), in a delightful humorous self-effacing way. Lovely man, very sad.

  9. RIP Tony. It was a great pleasure to meet him at the 2013 championships where he sat directly in front of me and dropped his pencil three times. He had more reason to be nervous than I did – no one would notice how my results came out. Nice to think of him as an accomplished dancer.

    1. Accomplished singer too, I think. I’m pretty sure he sang in the London Symphony Chorus, which I don’t think is the kind of choir you can join just because you’re available and willing.

  10. I remember that Tony also ran a predecsssor to the current Daily SNITCH tool, which scraped results from the Times site and tried to work out people’s real relative scores.

  11. Oh, I am so sad to learn of this. He was my favourite attendee of early Times Crossword championships, such a wise and witty solver.

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