This blog is now 0.5 years old!

If a week is a long time in politics, 6 months seems an eternity in the blogsphere. Bloggers, and more so commenters, come and go, and I don’t know who reads the ‘About this blog’ page; so I’m not sure how much our current audience know about our history.

Keeping it fairly short, I wrote a single-handed version of this blog for nearly a year, but then deicded to ask for help and make it into a team effort. This had two advantages – introducing some fresh blood, and freeing up some of my time, which has been used partly to extend the coverage of this blog to more puzzles, and partly to let me contribute to the fifteensquared blog.

This seems a good time to review where we are – but it’s what our readers think that really matters. So, readers (including other bloggers):

  • What can we do better?
  • What are we doing well?
  • Is there anything we do that you think we shouldn’t bother with?
  • Is there anything we don’t do that you think we should do?

My own wish is that now that there are blogs for three of the five British ‘broadsheet’ cryptics, there’s someone out there who can pick up the baton for the Financial Times and/or Daily Telegraph puzzles – both good puzzles, each without a solving blog at present. This is especially sad for the FT puzzle, as the good availability of the FT in US paper shops means that quite a few American solvers begin their experience of British cryptics with its puzzle. If anyone out there is willing, let me know in comments here or e-mail peter (at) biddlecombe (dot) demon (dot) co (dot) uk.

16 comments on “This blog is now 0.5 years old!”

  1. The Internet is a brilliant thing for bringing together like-minded people with less than mainstream interests (Abba fandom, crosswords, terrorism etc).

    I only rarely solve the Times daily, but I quite often read this blog anyway. I’ll probably never take part in the Times championship, but I take a keen interest in the outcome. So, despite not being part of your main target audience, I’ve got a lot of fun (combined with a fair bit of solving envy) out of this blog.

    To answer your questions (a bit), I think what you do well is create a meeting place for solvers. Also you’ve proved that the blog format works well, and it’s been copied successfully elsewhere (Fifteensquared, T2, Listener). The introductions to setters and solvers are very good for giving a human face to anonymous/pseudonymous members of the community, and could maybe be enhanced (a la the Collins book by Azed, which is brilliant). Apart from that, there’s a lot to be said for doing one thing and doing it well, which is what I think you do already.

  2. As a Times setter(who prefers to remain anonymous – in this posting)I greatly enjoy getting the feedback. However, there is a danger that blogs (and this applies to other blogs such as Guardian Unlimited) do not always reflect the ‘solvership’ as a whole. They attract the keen, competent, younger elements – and for that reason alone they are to be welcomed (we desperately need younger solvers). However, there are many everyday solvers (older, less gifted maybe?) who wouldn’t go near Times for The Times, and there voice needs to be heard!
    1. Huge thanks from this setter to Peter for creating this forum (and inspiring the similar one for Guardian/Indy). And to all the bloggers for their reports.
      As a setter I’ve had some invaluable feedback, and have tried to reflect some of the comments/criticisms in my puzzles.
      As a solver it has added a new dimension as I can solve the puzzle in private as usual then log on in anticipation to find out if others have had the same solving experience as I have had.
      I agree that of course the bloggers may not be representative of the great mass of solvers, although I think that we are seeing an increasing number of comments from a wider range of people. In this respect I’d urge more people to comment as, with respect to my fellow setter’s point, it’s hard to cater for a voice which can’t be heard!

      I hope we will take clanca up on his offer of blogging the DT.

  3. Your “blog” is good,timely and informative.The only thing i can think of as an improvement is:a chapter,or a few lines each day on the absolute basic definitive “code” for solving,i.e.a sailor is
    an ab,rating,salt,matlow,jack,tar,etc.,etc.,etc.,in addition to explaining each crossword daily.
    I feel that crosswords are a great source of further education,and so English in nature.Completing The Times crossword should be every-ones goal,its the best.I complete the Times most days,but never time myself,i like to savor the moment.My progression through crosswords were the Sun(don’t snigger!)about 2years,then the Telegraph for about 15,and now the Times.I found in the end that the Telegraph was too easy ,it did’nt challenge me.Anyway,must’nt rumble-on,good-bye,and,keep the flag flying!
    1. In case you have not come across it, I would like to recommend “Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary” by Anne R Bradford.

      Under “sailor” it gives 66 possibilities (in my edition).

      The words given for an entry are not necessarily strict synonyms but also “associated” words.

      Mike O, Skiathos.

  4. I’ve fairly recently come across this blog. I’d like to say how grateful I am to those who contribute. I don’t know anyone who does (cryptic) crosswords, so it’s great to realise that other people (even the outstanding solvers) sometimes have the same problems that I do, and that their minds sometimes work in the same way as mine.

    Keep up the good work!

    Steve Williams

  5. I´ve just moved to Spain and so do the Times crossword printed off the internet each night over a glass of rioja! I sometimes even complete it (twice last week – don´t ask me my time though). I used to do the Independent crossword when I lived in the UK, but they don´t print the crossword on the internet any more, more´s the pity.

    I find this blog very useful indeed and find it helps my enjoyment of the crossword – especially the new “tricks” you have to learn to fit in with the Times house style (e.g. “a” for “are” in 18dn today is a new one on me).

    So keep up the good work and hopefully in a few years I´ll be progressing to the Listener crossword (4 attempts to start it so far and not one clue solved!)

    Patrick Beare

  6. I enjoy reading the blog and always look to see how the times compare with my own. It’s refreshing to have a range of solvers rather than just Mark and Peter recording their usual sub-five minutes then lamenting how they were stuck “for ages” on two or three clues (are you kidding, guys?). At least my own times (typically between 6 and 17 minutes, average 11) don’t look too hopeless compared with some of the others!

    Do keep the blog coming, please.

    Mike Grocott

  7. I think that you are basically doing everything right. So carry on!

    I live in California so usually I am doing the next day’s crossword since I print it off soon after midnight. By the way, at that point in the day “The Times Cryptic” link doesn’t usually work (it still points to the previous day albeit with the solution now available). Ages ago I worked out that if you use the URL:,,,00.html?crosswordID=23579&type=1
    and changed the ID appropriately (and set type to 1 for Times,
    2 for Times 2, 3 for Saturday, 11 for Sunday) then the crossword is almost always available on the stroke of midnight.

    I would be happy to contribute to a blog on either the FT or the Telegraph (or be a backup on this site), but I don’t have the time to do it daily. And I’m not super fast. Under an hour is normal, under half an hour is good and I think I beat 15 minutes a couple of times.

    Paul paul at greenfolder dot com

    1. Indeed your direct URL to “tomorrow’s” puzzle still works. Thanks for the trick
  8. I love this blog, even though I fall into the category of ‘older’ solvers! I live in Australia, print out the crossword and do it in the evening with a glass of Australian red! Can usually do all but two or three clues and sometimes finish, even if I have to come back to it next morning. I also like to do the Times2 online (but have not been brave enough to try RTC!)and enjoy Tony Sever’s blog as well. Thank you to all you people who give up your time to increase our cruciverbial enjoyment.
    Ann Hall Western Australia
  9. Most of the people who have left comments can anyway solve most of the xword and yet find this blog useful. So multiply that usefulness by 100 for a newbie like me – I celebrate if I solve more than half of the clues *grin* Just wanted to say that I am really grateful for this blog. Pete and other contributors, I think you are doing a great job. One thing I am curious about though… why is that some of the clues are left out from the explanation?
  10. Don’t change a thing! I am hooked on it and can see absolutely no room for improvement or change. Many thanks.
  11. Thanks for the many replies, and the offers (here and by e-mail) to contribute to FT or DT blogs. We already have a likely home for FT reports if we can get a few more volunteers. Chris L: if you made your DT offer to me, I apologise unreservedly for not replying, though had I done so I might have pointed out that judging by numbers of comments, the Saturday puzzles are of less interest to blog readers than the weekday ones, which can be discussed while fresh in the memory. So given the offer of a weekly DT report, I’d choose any other day first!

    Mike Grocott: Have you ever tried the Times Championship? Those times suggest you would have at least some chance of making the final.

    Beginners and slower solvers: we’d love to see comments from you too. The main purpose of giving times is to help you assess the difficulty of each puzzle, not just to brag. It’s just as useful for the setters to see something like “only got 10 answers today compared to my usual 20-25”.

    Why are some clues left out? See the comments on this blog entry.

    The definitive vocab suggestion: An intriguing idea, but extra work which I’m reluctant to saddle people with. If you want to speed up your learning of the vocab., Anne Bradford’s book mentioned above is excellent – see my review here. (In fairness, Chambers xwd dictionary has been improved since this was written, though I’d still recommend Bradford first.) You can also get some tips from my Yet Another Guide to Cryptic Crosswords pages, or by reading ‘how to solve’ books like the one by Don Manley. But the real skill to cultivate is understanding the sort of thing that can be used as standard vocab, and spotting it for yourself. With experience, your brain will learn things like which of the 66 sailors to suggest first, for example – probably more useful than knowing 66 rather than 6 or 16. Some of us include snippets of the vocab in our posts, and I’d encourage solvers to learn a little each day rather than pore over long lists in books.

  12. I greatly enjoy this blog. Use it for explanations when I can’t see the wordplay and sometimes to find the last one or two clues after struggling for an hour or two. I agree the FT is a super puzzle just a tad easier than The Times and I strongly recomend it.
    I am an older solver having hit 70 years.
    A much better blog than The Times Crossword Club Bulletin board!

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