Times Championship 2010

Final update (Monday evening, Tuesday morning): I can now report that I beat Mark Goodliffe at something on Sunday – providing a definitive image of a solver in mental agony. See the new picture (with a short video) at the Times link below.

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.

Photos (courtesy of rival blogger Big Dave) here – and ones for the Saturday night revelry here.

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”.

30 comments on “Times Championship 2010”

  1. Much appreciated, Peter, thank you. I can find no mention of the Championship at all on the new Times Crossword Club pages.


  2. Well done to all who finished or came close. Mark G appears to be in a class of his own right now. Does he get to keep the trophy?

    Thanks for the prompt report, Pete, and well done on another fine performance.

  3. Well done, Peter, and Tony. And many thanks for the update. For me at least, news of moving the day to London is welcome as it will be much easier for me to get to.
  4. Thanks for an incredibly prompt update – now if you’d only spent a bit more time on the crosswords instead of making notes for the blog…
    I for one had a great day – my first at the championship for ages, with the delicious experience of missing the invitation cut by one. One wrong answer that felt so right when I put it in I didn’t bother to check it properly against the rest of the clue. Next year in Jerusa..er…London
  5. PS – that “abusive comment” thing. Do you think they’re keeping a note of the forum entries on the new site? I would, not least because it could save a whole raft of elimination puzzles and suchlike.
  6. I was in the second session, and despite putting my hand up second, after Mark G, realised after maybe 5 minutes that I had made a mistake in one answer. I didn’t wait for the full results as I had a long drive home, and while in the car I realised there was a second error in another answer.

    Having made the final in the previous two years that was a disappointment, and I will be back to the qualifying puzzles next year.

    I look forward to it being in London, though if they stage it on a Sunday there is a risk that public transport may be more difficult as they generally use the day for engineering works and some tube and rail lines often have problems.


  7. Sorry to have missed the event but considering my form presently no great loss. How was the goodie bag?
  8. Thank you Peter for such a detailed report. We can’t be there in person (among the specttts) and couldn’t conceivably compete, but really like to har about it and Mark’s astonishing head-above-the-rest performance.
  9. Many congratulations to Mark on another amazing performance. I’m currently at a loss to see how to close the gap.

    I thought the three puzzles in the final were all excellent and of just the right difficulty.

    1. Youth is on your side: you’re still five years younger than Mark was when he first won, and I reckon you’ve got about 20 years ahead of you during which the benefit of accumulated experience and knowledge will outweigh any slowing down as you get older.
      1. Hmm, “getting older” doesn’t really seem like a proper strategy… I hope you’re right though!
  10. It was great to meet you and Mrs B, Peter, likewise Richardvg, Linxit and John P Marshall.

    This was my first ever stab at the champs (I’ve only been solving the Times daily puzzle regularly for about 2½ years) and I had a great weekend.

    My first personal target was not to come last which I was glad to achieve. The second target was to finish all 3 puzzles within the allotted time which I managed with about a minute to spare, having agonised over one clue for about 5 minutes. Target 3 was to be all-correct but I fell into a trap in puzzle 1 and had another wrong answer in puzzle 3. It seems the markers only spotted one of the errors so officially I finished 33rd out of 77 in heat 1 but in reality I was 43rd. Still, I’m pretty chuffed with that.

    The grand final puzzles are absolute beasts so hats off to Mark G, Peter and the others who finsihed them.

  11. I’ve just completed (without checking the solutions as they aren’t published yet) the three final puzzles in today’s Times in under the hour, so I will definitely try again next year.
  12. Was good to see old faces and also some new ones including penfold and linxit. Had a bit of a struggle getting last 3 clues (all connected) in second qualifier but got finished in 48 minutes which had me 17th which is pretty much what I might have expected. Pleased to have been in top 20 in my heat in the 5 Cheltenham years and to at least have finished every puzzle (apart from the ones when I accidentally made the final one year!)
    Under no pressure I did the final puzzles simultaneously in the audience and was left with 6 or 7 unsolved after an hour (and I thought this was good). Congrats to the few who finished them correctly and gobsmacked at Mark’s 25 minutes. Well done to Neil Talbott for ‘finishing’ 2nd despite one mistake.
  13. Congratulations to all for sizzling performances. Would like to give the puzzles a try
    but don’t seem to be able to find them posted. Can someone please help with that?
    1. If you have a subscription to the Times newspaper site, you can follow the link near the top of this page and click on the “Graphic – The Final Puzzles” tab for a version that will print just about OK on one A4 sheet (and presumably on Letter paper too). Otherwise the only other way I know is to acquire a paper copy of today’s Times.
  14. Congratulations to you directly. Printing as per your directions unfortunately led to the clue numbers in #1 being cut off in landscape so printed three very small puzzles vertically then trimmed them and blew them up with the scanner.

    OK…now to do them.


  15. Can anyone tell me how to access the complete results as someone who isn’t a member of the Crossword Club? I’d like to find out if I was in the first 25 in the second preliminary.

    Thanks in advance

    Steve Williams

    1. I don’t think there’s any public record. Mr S WILLIAMS, sitting at desk no. 50, was 13th in Prelim 2, and I can’t see any other Williamses except the one who nipped ahead of you for the last qualifying place. I’ll add lists for 13-25 to the prelim results above.
      1. Thanks very much Peter. A bit frustrating for me, but a lot better than last year, when the very first answer I wrote in was PERPETUAL MOTION. Unfortunately the correct answer was BREAKFAST CEREAL. It’s a bit hard to recover from something like that.


  16. My fifth visit to the finals and fifth inability to reach the final – I finished in exactly the same position as last year of 16th in the second semi. Oh well. I am also getting older at exactly the same rate as Neil, but I think this is beginning to be a disadvantage!

    Nevertheless, had a great time as usual, with a lot of alcohol consumed (post puzzles – I am not in the category that consumes alcohol to get into the puzzle groove).

    I have updated the document I produced last year of cumulative results 2006-10 – if anyone stattos amongst you would like a copy, email me angusdmwalker at hotmail.com

  17. I don’t know if anyone’s looking at this now, but just to saqy I enjoyed tackling the three puzzles yesterday (Monday) and though they took me 2 hrs 25 min. and I made four mistakes, I enjoyed the challenge immensely. two of the mistakes were silly; but didn’t at all and had scrumpling simply because it fitted and for the “bottom”/rump); and Upon to go with i9t which had to be wrong. Great enjoyment nevertheless.

Comments are closed.