There’s a link to a PDF full list of results on this Times Crossword Club page – though you have to wonder why we all need to know how every contestant’s spelling of their name has varied over the years (pp 6-11). Names of 13th-25th finishers in each prelim are now included in this report.
Monday update: Times report now available here (presumably for those with newspaper site subscriptions only). This page has a tab with the Grand Final puzzles on it – not the clearest printout on the planet, but usable if you only print page 2 of the three pages, and remember to choose landscape.
I’ll aim to have reports on these puzzles available by Thursday. Mark Goodliffe, Neil Talbott and instant new recruit Hilary Marchant have all agreed to write a report from a finalist’s point of view, and on this occasion we’re going to make the reviews a bit easier to understand by including the clues.
The preliminary round puzzles will be the next six Wednesday ones, and I believe full results will be on the Times club site some time today.
Congratulations to Mark Goodliffe on his third successive win, possibly the most impressive of them all. In a final with puzzles tough enough to force all but 6 of what had seemed a strong field into at least one mistake, he beat everyone by at least 5 minutes per puzzle – almost fast enough to complete two more puzzles at the same speed before anyone else finished.
Comments about particular clues below are deliberately vague, to avoid spoiling the puzzles before they’re more widely available – almost certainly tomorrow for the Grand final puzzles.
The morning preliminary was quite dramatic, with the “5 minutes left” announcement accompanied by a statement that there were still fewer than 12 people with all-correct solutions handed in. In the end, about 15 people out of about 33 to put their hand up before the hour were all-correct, including these 12 qualifiers:
1. David Howell
2. Richard Crabtree
3. Peter Biddlecombe (c. 9 minutes a puzzle)
4. Tony Sever
5. Philip Meade
6. John Henderson
7. Phil Jordan
8. Gerard McHGugh
9. D Luke
10. Oli Grant (oli_orthopod in comments here)
11. S Rice
12. Prof. R Davies
13th-25th finishers (who get a free entry next year – title “Mr” where not stated): R Bull, C Gibson, A Esau, C Williams, S Shabankareh, M MacDonald-Cooper, N Robinson, B W Tilling, P Dodd, M Rupp, A Wallace, P S N Kendall, C MacKenzie)
The day’s fair play award goes to Michael MacDonald-Cooper who was credited with finishing all-correct in 4th place but owned up to a mistake which the checkers had failed to spot. I’m as impressed by his powers of memory as his sportsmanship. I can recall two clues with wordplay requiring a replacement of a single unchecked letter, but also requiring careful reading of the clue to choose the right answer. There was also one fairly obscure answer for which an non-existent but plausible-sounding alternative that partly fitted wordplay tempted a few people.
The main drama in the second preliminary took place just before it was due to start – someone preparing correct answer grids in the marking room discovered that the 3rd puzzle had been printed with the wrong grid (even though proofs of the booklets had been correct). There was a delay of about 15 minutes while some fairly hasty photocopying was done. The qualifiers from this preliminary were:
1. Mark Goodliffe
2. Helen Ougham
3. Peter Brooksbank
4. Neil Talbott
5. Alan Dorn
6. Simon Chillingworth
7. Shaun Feakes
8. D Rees
9. Clive Spate
10. Hilary Marchant
11. Adam Sanitt
12. J S Williams
13th-25th finishers (who get a free entry next year – title “Mr” where not stated): S Williams, M Hodgkin, P King, A Walker, J Marshall, Ms J De Rhe-Philipe, Dr A Martin, D M MacArthur, N Petty, Lord Aberdare, Mrs B J Widger, T Stubbs, A Heald
I found the final very difficult indeed, though I didn’t help myself by getting so engrossed in crossword chat that I didn’t notice the approach of the starting time, and had to be reminded by a call for “any more finalists”. I only finished about 60% of the clues in Puzzle 1 before deciding to give it a rest and try Puzzle 2. This was even more depressing, with a wait until the last but one across clue before getting my first answer. Again I stopped well short of a complete solution and moved on to Puzzle 3. This was relatively easy, but by the time I finished it there was about 15 minutes left and maybe 15 clues left to solve, so I was starting to feel seriously concerned about handing in solutions before time ran out – not usually a concern for me. I somehow fought my way through the rest and put my hand up with about 8 minutes to go, having dodged a quite tempting wrong answer in Puzzle 1 that tripped up at least 3 of the finalists.
The finalists who finished with two or fewer errors are listed below, with their number of puzzle points and average solving time where known. The rest will probably be quite pleased not to see their results on public display yet – I believe all the others had at least 5 wrong or missing answers.
1. Mark Goodliffe – 90 puzzle points, 8:23 per puzzle
2. Peter Brooksbank 90 / 13
3. Phil Meade 90 / 14.5
4. Alan Dorn 90
5. Peter Biddlecombe 90 / c. 17
6. Tony Sever 90 / c. 19:55 – I believe his hand went up in the second half of the last minute.
7. Neil Talbott 89 (second to put his hand up)
8. David Howell 89 (third hand up)
9. Richard Crabtree 89 (fifth hand up)
10. Hilary Marchant 89
11. Helen Ougham 88
Two pieces of news about the 2011 tournament: First, as the Times will no longer be sponsoring the Cheltenham Literary Festival, the championship finals will return to London (presumably still with the current one-day format). I hope the new venue will be more “spectator friendly” than this one – spectators were in an upstairs gallery which allowed them a distant view of the grids being filled in, but without much in the way or chairs to sit on – my supporters were not impressed. Secondly, the Times is reserving the right to bar people from the championship if they have made abusive comments about the championship or Times crosswords on blogs or other internet discussion forums. I hope that polite but negative criticism will not be counted as “abuse”.