Biographical information about our current bloggers
The following 19 brief biographies were submitted by the bloggers.
You will note that some bloggers have chosen to reveal their full real names, and some not. We try to respect their choice, although some of them have become known through winning or placing in the annual Times solving championships. These notes have been arranged by their blogging name in alphabetical order.
BletchleyReject / since 2022
brnchn / Bruce / since 2017
Born in the late 1940s. Discovered The Times crosswords in late 1960s, still learning how to solve them. After working backwards through the archives as well as doing the daily puzzle each day, I have some hope that the light has gone on! I live in Australia so normally start the crossword over lunch, but my solving times are generally meaningless, because I fit in a few minutes here and there between walking the dog and other things. Luckily that still leaves me time to have the Saturday blog ready seven days later.
Curarist / Peter / since 2017
Born 1965. Hospital Consultant with a bit of TV screenwriting on the side. My medical specialty – renowned for producing crossword enthusiasts – is something a keen crossworder might be able to deduce from my pseudonym. I started on the Times 15×15 in about 1984, when I would typically manage to get two of the answers, and then had to
wait 24 hours to find out they were both wrong. No online Quick Cryptic in those days! AND we had to lick t’ road clean with our tongues!
glh / George / since 2008
Born: 1970. Regular solver since 1983. Solving speed – try to keep it under 15 minutes. Expat Australian, now living in the western mountains of North Carolina in the USA. Started doing the cryptic crosswords in the Melbourne Age when I couldn’t beat my grandfather to the quick crossword. When I left Australia I found the Times crossword online and that’s been my mainstay since 1996. I regularly solve the Times, Mephisto, Azed and Listener.
Teacher, comedian and actor depending on the time of day and generosity of casting directors. Aficionado of craft beer and mediocre golf. Main weakness is botany – almost always have to get names of plants and trees from wordplay.
guy_du_sable / Sandy McCroskey / since 2018
Born: December 18, 1955, in West Virginia. I got the cryptic bug from the puzzles of former OSS cryptographer Frank W. Lewis, who, for many decades, starting in 1948, created somewhat idiosyncratic cryptics for The Nation magazine, where I’ve worked only since 1986, and where for some years I shepherded the creations of the puzzle team of Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto into print and onto the website at TheNation.com. I am also the magazine’s web copy editor. As there are enough deadlines in my life, and I really don’t like to be rushed, I never time myself.
jackkt / since 2008
Born: 1947. I have enjoyed cryptic puzzles for as long as I can remember, mainly in the Daily Telegraph until I discovered some 10 years ago that the Times is often more challenging and rewarding. I’m the tortoise of the regular 15×15 bloggers so you can take encouragement from my solving times!
JerryW / Jerry / Since 2009
Born: 1950. Started attempting the Times and Mephisto crosswords in my teens in the mid ‘60s and have done them on and off ever since. When I gave up full time work in 2000 I swore a mighty oath to complete the Times cryptic every single day and so far, up to April 2022, I have managed to do so. The advent of the crossword club was a godsend, especially when on holiday! It is sometimes a bit of a cross to bear, but I don’t have the courage to stop now.
I’m not very quick and anyway, tend to prefer enjoyment and persistence above speed, and reckon to take between 10-30 mins according to difficulty, sometimes more. So I will be attending the Times Championships in a spectating capacity, only… I usually also do the Jumbo, ST cryptic, Mephisto, and TLS crosswords, if time permits. Occasionally Azed, but for me the Listener (and themed crosswords generally) is a step far too far. I have discovered that when in bed I can solve almost any crossword clue, and one day I hope to learn how to transfer this ability for daytime use. I love cats and currently have two pedigree Maine Coons, plus six kittens as temporary residents… fortunately, I love wine too. I have Asbergers Syndrome, which I suspect may gradually morph into Alzheimers as time goes on ..
johninterred / John Moody / since 2017
Born: 1958. Although brought up mostly in the North-East of England, I have lived in Suffolk since the late 1990s (My blogging name is a clue as to where). My father introduced me to crosswords as a teenager in the 1970s by getting me to help him do the Sunday Times crossword. Away at boarding school in Barnard Castle I occasionally tried The Times, but never really got to grips with it. It was only when I started working away from home in about 2007 that I started doing The Times regularly. One evening, trying online to find help for a clue I didn’t understand, I stumbled across TfTT. At last! Somewhere that gave an explanation for all those clues I found so mysterious! It was such a help to me that I became a regular reader and commenter. I also found the Quick Crossword a great learning aid for
giving me the practice at the range of clue types that I’d never understood before. I got the opportunity to join the blogging team in 2017, taking over from Galspray. I particularly enjoy seeing others progress like I did with the help of the QC and the blog. After a long career in IT (although I initially trained as a scientist), I started working part-time in 2018 which gives me more time for walking, music-making, brewing, growing chillis.
keriothe / since 2014
I started trying to solve the Times crossword in my late twenties. Like most people I suppose I taught myself by looking (when I remembered and still had the puzzle) at the answers in the next day’s paper and trying, not always successfully, to figure out why they were what they were. After a decade or so of laborious progress I could finish the puzzle about half the time, and on a really good day I could do so on my daily 20-minute tube ride. At that point (2010) I discovered TfTT. Suddenly, rather than having to wait until the next day I could get all the answers immediately, with a full explanation of the wordplay, and my improvement accelerated dramatically. Fast forward a few years to 2018 and I qualified for the championship final. So the blog has been of enormous help to me and when a vacancy arose in 2014 I volunteered, and have been blogging every other Sunday puzzle ever since. I live in London with my wife, four kids, two dogs and a cat. I work in finance.
kitty / Kitty / Since 2019
I was introduced to cryptics as a teenager in the mid-late 90s when my father taught himself to solve the Telegraph puzzles. I would (attempt to) complete the nearly-filled grids he left, an exercise which involved much dictionary trawling. I dabbled very occasionally but only really started solving in earnest in early 2014. On discovering the blogs shortly afterwards the burgeoning hobby fast became something of an obsession. In 2015 I started blogging a few Telegraph puzzles for Big Dave’s blog, taking on the regular Tuesday Toughie spot a year later. As 2018 drew to a close I joined the Fifteensquared team too, blogging some of the Independent and Enigmatic Variations puzzles. After work commitments necessitated a break from weekday blogging, friends from this blog alerted me to a vacancy here … so here I am! I’ve really enjoyed meeting many members of the wider crossword community online and at the various gatherings and will forever treasure the friends made through crosswords. Rumours that these days I’m
only in it for the beer are greatly exaggerated. With what little time I can wrest from the urge to fill in grids, I like to read and play piano (badly). I walk a lot and run a bit, because my other hobbies are rather sedentary and I have to let off steam somehow!
Merlin / James / since 2022
All-time Favourite Clue Bust down reason (9) = BRAINWASH / BRA IN WASH
Mike Harper / Mike Harper / Since 2022
Born 1964 in Croydon, Surrey. My parents used to sit around in the evening passing the paper back and forth between them, originally the Guardian and later the Telegraph, each filling in a few of the cryptic clues. Occasionally they would let me have a look – usually when the puzzle was more than half done and perhaps all of the easier items had been solved! Once I had started work, I would buy the Telegraph myself and try to solve the cryptic puzzle on the train, before sharing ideas with one or two like-minded souls in the office. I was in my thirties by the time I developed any consistent proficiency and was regularly able to complete the puzzle alone. I did attend a Telegraph puzzle competition in London back in the nineties, where the prizes were dished out by Paul McCartney, the winner having completed the prize grid in six minutes or so – around three times quicker than me.
Fast forward to around 2015, and by now living in Lancaster with my wife and children, I noticed that my father-in-law took The Times simply because he had found an introductory deal and for a while could get it half-price, and I started having a crack at these newer, seemingly-harder puzzles. What puzzled me more was that on some days, I’d finish two-thirds and on others, barely scrape a few answers, little realising that different compilers on different days meant different puzzle strengths – eventually the scales fell from my eyes.
I discovered TffT in 2018 quite by accident while searching for a meaning to a particular phrase – quite the revelation, and it has been a source of help and support ever since. At first, I was amazed at the incredible times posted by the speed merchants, and improving my own times has been a very gradual process, one of learning new words but also developing a greater understanding of how clues are put together.
I regard myself very much as an amateur still, perhaps now though, with a little bit of promise. If there is ever a further in-person Times crossword competition, I hope to do better than the 59th place I posted on my first attempt in 2019. Oh, and if you were wondering, I never did work out how to give myself a mysterious sobriquet in Live Journal, ending up as a bunch of numbers (84801442) there, and so here on TffT, I have settled on my own name, taking over one of the QC Wednesday slots from william_j_s.
Interests: Music (recording, playing, listening); Genealogy; Football (Crystal Palace is my team); Books – so much to read, so little time, I will certainly never be bored!
penfold_61 / Ian Clark / since 2016
Born 1961. My first introduction to cryptic crosswords was in my early teens “helping” my Dad with the Telegraph cryptic and getting familiar with the conventions like T for model and RE for sapper. I was then little more than an occasional solver for many years, including time spent solving sociably in the coffee bar of the Leeds Polytechnic Business School and surrounding pubs with erstwhile Jumbo blogger 7dPenguin and other like-minded individuals.
I tended to limit myself to the Telegraph and Guardian (the latter in particular when there was an Araucaria bank holiday special on offer) as whenever I picked up the Times and looked at the previous day’s answers I decided there were too many unknown words for me to have got anywhere. Fast forward to January 2008 and a Leeds Poly reunion of sorts where the aforementioned Penguin told me how great the Times crossword was and how I should start solving it daily and use this very blog to help me understand the clues. Within 9 months I went from rarely having
completed a Times Cryptic (and certainly never in under 30 minutes) to my first ever sub-10-minute solve. Since 2010 I’ve participated every year in the Times National Crossword Championship, managing to scrape into the Grand Final in 2018 and finish a creditable (for me) 19th. My “par” time for the daily puzzle is probably around 12-13 minutes.
My lack of anything even remotely resembling a grounding in the classics can sometimes cause me grief, but I make up for that by knowing loads about far more important “stuff” like food & drink, modern music and sport.
TheTimes puzzles are my only regular crossword indulgence but I’ll occasionally do the Guardian if it’s a setter I enjoy (e.g. Paul, Picaroon and Tramp).
piquet / Philip Kirby / Since 2014
I was born in Dorset in 1948. I read Chemistry at Oxford, followed by an eclectic career in marketing, advertising, accountancy, European management and mentoring for small businesses. I left the UK in 1974 and have since lived in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Greece and most recently for 12 years in SW France. We moved back to UK (Rutland) in 2019.
A keen golfer and bridge player, I started solving crosswords with the Crosaire (Irish Times) in the 80s and joined the Times Crossword Club in 2007. I’ve done The Times and ST almost every day since, for pleasure, not as a speed test, but it’s usually done in 20-30 minutes. I enjoy and occasionally finish the TLS and stare, baffled, at the Mephisto.
I started cautiously, blogging the Quick Cryptic not long after its launch in 2014, then moved to alternate Wednesdays with JerryW on the main Cryptic, before becoming the “every Wednesday” man in 2015.
plusjeremy / Jeremy / Since 2018
Born1982, blogging Wednesday Quickies since Fall 2018. Pianist, conductor, math teacher, and stay-at-home dad to two wonderful boys. I started doing American-style crossword puzzles on long train rides in high school, then found American-style cryptics in puzzle magazines a few years later. About a decade after that I found the Times puzzle (syndicated in the New York Post), and was immediately hooked by a level of wordplay unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. This blog was instrumental in helping me get on the right wavelength. I try to solve the 15×15 puzzles when I can, though my day job (stay-at-home dad) does take up most of my time.
ulaca / Since 2012
Born in 1959 to a cricketing father, I grew up wanting to bowl like Fred Trueman until a back problem did for my natural away swing. It was to be another 30 years before I bowed to the inevitable and became an umpire. After a varied and chequered career, I am currently writing a book on the thought of CS Lewis while moonlighting as a propagandist for a large Hong Kong company. I got into crosswords in a small way when a teenager, as both parents took irregular stabs at the Telegraph cryptic. I got more serious when I discovered this blog at the back end of 2009, improving at an astonishing rate from rare finisher to under an hour with one generally wrong. Functionally innumerate, I have never done a Sudoku and don’t get Mephisto.
vinyl1 / Jonathan / Since 2009
I was born in 1953 and have been doing the Times puzzle for 30 years, having started in the late 80s when a selected puzzle was published weekly in New York Magazine. When it was cut over to the New York Post sometime in the early 90s, and came out every day, I really got serious and started to finish some, and then most. I have dabbled in American-style puzzle construction, and had about ten daily puzzles published in the New York Times when Gene Maleska was the editor.
I am an American who grew up in Connecticut, lived in New York City when I was working, and am now back in Connecticut. My educational background is English literature, but I also used to be pretty good in classical Greek. I know a lot about English popular culture from reading, although sometimes not enough. I am a little weak on cricketers and footballers, and the geography of minor English towns. I do not watch movies or television, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem with the Times puzzles. I am a serious record collector with 4000 records, so I know music pretty well.
I became the owner and administrator of Times for the Times in 2017, when linxit had to resign due to the pressure of work. There were no other volunteers.
william_j_s / William / Since 2014
Born in 1985, I live in Yorkshire. I started watching a friend solve the Saturday Times in a pub near Bristol University as an undergraduate, and was inspired to spend the next several years staring at empty grids as I attempted to solve independently whenever time allowed. When I decided to get serious about crosswords (sometime in 2012) another friend and I would have a go at the Times and Telegraph puzzles during our lunch break. Stumbling upon TfTT was a godsend, and I lurked here soaking up the conventions, abbreviations and chestnuts until the request for Quick Cryptic bloggers was made. My first blog was for QC5, and I’ve had a fortnightly slot ever since. I now solve the 15×15 (in around 30-60 minutes) and the Quicky (in around 10-15 minutes) every day.
zabadak / Ian / Since 2013
Crosswording is evidently part of my genetic makeup. My maternal grandfather had several packs of playing cards which were consolation prizes for the Daily Telegraph competition and which were very good for house-of-cards building. I was introduced to cryptic crosswords by my paternal uncle, who showed me how to do the Sunday Times when I was in my early teens. Burned in my memory is the first one I very nearly finished, flummoxed by a single clue that involved creating a decorator out of Trocadero. In an age long before anagram aids and internet, that was a bit of a heartbreaker. By the time I reached university (second time around – I switched from Law to Theology via
a spell as a psychiatric nursing assistant) I was solving the Times daily during coffee break (some breaks turned out to be quite long!). As far as I know, the “World Crossword Championship” – part of the Mind Olympics way back when – was the only one to have taken place involving the Times, and I maintain therefore that my 26th place, obtained in the incredibly noisy setting of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, is still current. My occasional attendances at Times
Crossword Competitions have yielded at least two further 26th places and a 6th at London Regional final, demonstrating a talent for finishing exactly one place outside any kind of qualification. I have also never yet won a prize. My preference is for solving the newsprint version, waived for competition puzzles and when it’s my turn to blog. I occasionally tackle the Listener and Mephisto, and regularly enjoy the Spot the Deliberate Mistake feature of the TLS.
In addition to the current blogging team, there is a glittering array of past talent who have given up their time to blog for TfTT. They include at least four past Times Crossword Champions, some very highly regarded setters, and other luminaries. There is more information about them, here.