What is Catsdown?

Susie Dent is the permanent judge of the Letters Round on Countdown and Catsdown. On Catsdown, Dent only uses a dictionary.

In the Letters Round, contestants get 30 seconds to make the longest possible word from nine letters randomly chosen by a contestant. Susie Dent is consistently on par with the best contestants.

Admittedly, I watch 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, a.k.a. Catsdown, but not "regular" Countdown.

The Purpose of the Dictionary

Not to discredit Dent's prowess, does a dictionary help you make a long word?

I thought the dictionary was there for checking a word. How else it would help eludes me. Yet, several comedians joked Dictionary Corner having a "big dictionary" is unfair.

"It's Just a Game."

Though Catsdown is mostly comedy, Dent often gets eight or nine-letter words.

The Question

I think a computer program on a laptop might help, but not a dictionary. I must think Dent's skills superhuman unless she has some help. Does the dictionary help Dent (If so, then how?), or is she just that good?

  • 1
    This is probably one of those "you'll never know unless you work on the show" answers. Presumably they picked someone with a good skill-set for the part, but someone with an anagram app on a computer could easily be feeding data to a monitor or earpiece. You'll just never know.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 15:47
  • @Tetsujin I thought this would be the place to ask if anywhere at all Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 16:32
  • 1
    I have no idea why there are downvotes. It seems a reasonable question to me. It could be described a little more simply, but those familiar with the show would understand it.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 18:37
  • 2
    It's a trivial question and one that gets asked a lot online. The reality is that she's a lexicographer and simply knows a lot of words. There have been cases where contestants beat Dictionary corner or where DC didn't see a word whereas viewers did. AFAIK she only uses the dictionary to check if a word exists or how it is written. The rest of this question is fluff (e.g. comedians joking about the size of her dictionary).
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 20:26
  • 1
    Related: in this clip Suzie Dent mentions that she's "getting teased so much by upstairs": youtube.com/watch?v=b6a7qNl1Fug , so there is a team backing her up.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jan 3, 2021 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


First point: what you see onscreen doesn't happen in real time. It can take several hours to record a half hour panel show. Half an hour of witty banter is extracted from three hours of mostly unfunny remarks. Onscreen, it takes 30 seconds to come up with these words. In real life, they may take several minutes to look them up.

Second point: there is such a thing as an anagram dictionary.

In the main type of anagram dictionary, the letters in words or phrases are rearranged in alphabetical order, and these transpositions are themselves then ordered alphabetically within word-length groups, so that any words consisting of this group of letters can be found. This arrangement is designed for use in solving word puzzles such as crosswords, or for playing games such as Scrabble. The first such anagram dictionary was The Crossword Anagram Dictionary by R.J. Edwards1

I used to watch Countdown in the Gyles Brandreth era. He was frequently shown consulting books.

  • Susie has used a probe-like camera to show the dictionary; it's an ordinary dictionary. Having an anagram dictionary may have helped her practise, though. Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 8:26

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