Times Crossword Championship 2023 Result

Photo from The Times Crossword Club.

We have a new champion – Matthew Marcus, aka Times for The Times former blogger Verlaine! Read The Times Crossword Club article about it here.

You can read my own write-up on the event including photos of several TfTTers who were there here.

Full results can be found via these links…

76 comments on “Times Crossword Championship 2023 Result”

  1. Thanks John. It was a great day, so nice to see some folks again after a four year hiatus and also to make some new acquaintances. I was very pleased for Verlaine to come away with the title after having come so near previously.
    As for my competition I did similar to Magoo, only in the first round. I handed my three crosswords in after 45 minutes but with one dubious answer, then 5 minutes after that I realised what the correct answer was. Frustratingly I did quite well in the semi final puzzles which I sat and solved despite not being in the semi final. The final puzzle was a toughie, but I managed to complete it on the way home after visiting The George. Maybe I should go beforehand next year!

    1. Pootle – sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet up on Saturday. Next year.

      Out of interest was GRANDTOTAL your nemesis in the qualifier? I had reached the stage of just that one left at about 50 minutes and was so frazzled by that point I almost threw in the towel but after 5 minutes of further confusion and staring, and writing in GRANDWOMAN a couple of times and deleting it, I finally saw it!

      1. Hi Deane. I think it was the practice in previous years for The Times to publish all of the Championship puzzles over the ensuing weeks. If that is the case we might need to avoid discussing specific clues on here.

        Fantastic effort by the way, making the semi-final on your first attempt. I think I’ll make it a bucket list item to turn up one year. I’d inevitably be an early starter at The George, but that’s no bad thing. Had an excellent day there in June.

        If I’m wrong about the Championship puzzles being published, my apologies, and discuss away!

      2. Hi Deane. That clue, and that wrong answer, were indeed my undoing. With hindsight I should have waited and maybe even stared out the window for 5 minutes to clear my mind, but worried about time I went with it. Anyhow, I’ve improved my performance over the three years I’ve attended and that’s good enough for me.

    2. Glad to meet you too Pootle, and to say hello to a lot of old faces and some new ones too.
      Smashing day all round!

    3. I’d concur; whilst an espresso x3 and copious tobacco is a sine qua non, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that a good size glass of rustic Italian red with a hearty brunch does no harm to my solving time.

  2. Thanks for the update and I look forward to seeing the breakdown of results when available.

    Is somebody planning to blog the final puzzle at some stage?

  3. Many Congratulations Verlaine!!! Sounds like a great day.

    Just read the piece in the Times and did the final puzzle, in 36 minutes which I felt was not too shabby 🙂

  4. Very well done Verlaine! Dedication above and beyond the call of duty to fly over but I’m sure the title, the cash and hopefully a pint or two of English ale will have eased the pain.

    Looking forward to clicking the link in the paper and settling in for a day or two of combat with the final puzzle, trying to work out where Magoo went wrong.

  5. Johninterred’s write-up is well worth looking up. Besides the full description of the day and photos of the TfTTers present, the large picture of the dark clouds over London is very impressive!

  6. Lovely write up, John! I love the idea of crosswords as a spectator sport. My family are more of the physical sporting types and thus my hobbies aren’t quite as exciting in comparison.

    I will say though that I probably have decades of crosswords to come whereas they will all have to give up contact sports lol

    Mark Goodliffe explained his error in his latest YT video, interesting to see the risk benefit analysis of trying to be quick vs trying to not have any errors

    I just really enjoy the fact that a hobby as solitary as crosswording can still bring people together, it’s nice

    1. Tina! Great to hear from you again after a long break. I’ve missed your cheer and positivity.

      1. Hey hey!

        I discovered American-style crosswords in the New York Times that have themes and tricky bits and multiple letters in one square sometimes and they were just so much easier than the cryptics in the UK Times in terms of me knowing the references and the slang etc

        Like even in John’s photos of the crossword comp event you can see that the demographic for UK cryptics skew heavily in a certain direction!

        I do enjoy cryptics much more though, I discovered a crossword in a weekly Australian paper here that is compiled by someone my age and they’re so much easier for me – so one day I’ll just suck it up and memorise all the little English rivers and counties so I can enjoy these too! I miss it here a lot

  7. Great coverage John, thank you. Are those competition puzzles available anywhere for the rest of us to have a crack at?

    1. Where do you get your daily crosswords from LindsayO? It was published online in the Sunday Times in the Crossword Club section of the Puzzles, if you have access to that?

      1. Hi Alto, thank you, I was actually wondering about the first round puzzles because I was desperate to be humiliated by being unable to finish them in, say, twice the time. John has been kind enough to link us to the final puzzle which, judging by the comments here, sounds like it needs to be approached with great trepidation!

        1. If precedent is anything to go by, the prelim and semi puzzles will be the Wednesday daily puzzles for the next six weeks.

    2. The final one is online now – if they follow the pattern of previous championship years the 6 from the qualifying and semifinal rounds will be published on Wednesdays leading up to Christmas.

  8. Great write-up John.

    I went along for my debut on Saturday and had a great day. I found the first heat a bit more nervy than I was expecting and was actually a bit discombobulated by solving with pen and paper so was slower than I would have hoped but I did manage to squeeze through to the semi in 55th place.

    Was a bit more relaxed in the semi but, as you say, the puzzles were tougher and I couldn’t crack the bottom left corner of the 3rd puzzle in time. That said, all-in, I was pleased with 43rd.

    Unfortunately I had to rush off quite soon after the final to help with half-term holiday packing (I’d already delayed the start by a day!) so didn’t get to the George as would have been great to say hello to those from here. Will definitely plan better and do so next time.

  9. Sadly I missed it – Storm Babet meant there was 1.5m of flood water between me and my car (although thankfully our house stayed dry). It’s a shame though, it sounds like it was an exciting event!

  10. My first time competing at the Championships too. I have attended some as a spectator in the past, but not taken part because I felt I was just not quick enough to be worth the bother, and it was nice to be able to prove the point on Saturday… I finished the first one but had a couple of clues left in each of the others. Much enjoyed the day, though!

  11. Great write up and photos John. It was great to meet you and other TfTTers for the first time and to catch up with old acquaintances after a four-year hiatus.

    There was a definite step up in difficulty between the prelim and semi. I solved the first 3 in around 35 minutes to bag 13th place in the former, but failed to complete the semi puzzles (4 gaps, one wrong answer and it seems a typo somewhere) and limped home in 45th=.

  12. For the first time in 3 attempts I was actually able to raise my number rather than just get timed out, for a perfectly acceptable 35th in the qualifiers (my target was to finish and by extension make the top 60).

    Got quite bogged down in the semi though, and ended up 8 short. Had to dash off to rescue my credit card from the wife and children who were camped at Hamleys so haven’t yet found out my final finishing position – attempted the final one this morning, and came in a shade under 25 minutes – suspect it would have been very different under championship conditions though.

    Good to see a few of the regulars from here, which in turn has led to my new-championship-year resolution to get a bit more active on TffT once again.

    1. Mike – I took a photo of the results page – you came 49th. Hope to catch up with you next time

      1. Thanks Deane – I’ll take that!

        Will definitely be back next year, hopefully they’ll bring back the name badges so we can all identify each other a lot easier – although it won’t have been a 5 year gap for me next time so my vague-at-the-best-of-times face/name associative memory won’t have had as much of a chance to dissipate.

  13. First of all, congrats to Marcus who’s been knocking on the door for a few years now. Mine was one of the empty seats, as my journey from Ilkley to London on Friday afternoon was terminated at Doncaster with the East Coast main line declared closed by “fast-flowing water near Grantham shifting the ballast under the rails.” Got back to Leeds to find a) there were no seats left on National Express coaches to London, and b) there was no longer any rail service back to Ilkley. When I read that Mark’s semi-final error had opened things up for the final, gutted became double-gutted. Hopefully I’ll still be around next year.
    Many thanks to Johniterred for his write-up and photos (which include quite a few of old friends I now haven’t seen for 4 years).

  14. I’ve just managed the Final grid, in 33.51, which I’m quite pleased with. When it’s blogged – surely V should do it as a continuation of celebration – I’ll be interested to see where the disqualifying error was: I’ve had a guess, and would be willing to open some kind of sweepstake!
    Maybe next year, if I can solve my travel issues.

    1. I very nearly goofed with a BIFF that was only rectified by pausing to parse it.
      I’m with you with the sweep; I think my oversight might prove a favourite.

    2. I’ll blog it if people want. I’m ashamed to admit though that there are still some clues I haven’t parsed!

      1. 🏆 To blazes with your shame; it ‘s the silverware that counts and, having enjoyed your blogging and contributions to TfTT for years, you deserve it. Very many congratulations!

      2. In golf the saying is “you don’t have to draw pictures”. Just submit your scorecard and take the spoils!

  15. A great day and a great blog article here and on your own blog John. Many thanks.

    Well done again to Verlaine. Fantastic achievement. It would be great to see you back here blogging regularly again Marcus. 😀

    1. Great to catch up with you again AV1. As mentioned the Listener crossword that I recommend as a good starter is 4783. I’d be interested to know what you make of it.
      Could you add me to the Discord group you mentioned please? I’ve just created an account with username _pootle.

  16. Lovely write-up. And great to meet a few folks. I even snuck into one of the photos from The George (the one where Penfold is successfully delivering three pints).

    This was my second attempt at the Championship. Apparently I came 61st last time so 38th was a definite improvement. All correct in the first round in about 52 minutes. Just one answer missing (and one silly mistake) when time ran out in the semifinal.

    Huge congratulations to Marcus – great to meet you – and well done everyone who made the trip (and commiserations to those who couldn’t).

    The only disappointment was there was no clue-writing competition this time round. As the (ahem) reigning champion I was keen to try to get my name in the paper again. No chance of it happening for any other reason!



  17. Thanks for the write-up, John. A Grand Day Out, as always (or in fact, two days – I had a cheeky early visit to the George on Friday evening, and gave myself the newly-created job of “Sobriety Consultant”, which consisted of persuading the champion-in-waiting that he’d benefit from having a few pints but not actually staying right through till closing time, so I take a small percentage of the credit for his performance). This modest amount of restraint also contributed to my own best ever finish, so more than satisfied with that, even if I had one of those submit-with-fingers-crossed moments which will doubtless be discussed when the puzzles appear in the paper, so not entirely nerveless on the day. Looking forward to next year’s event, which will hopefully be announced further in advance and less stormy!

    1. In a field of 113, tenth definitely counts as a placing, so I’m ready to claim my each-way bet.

      Well done.

  18. Great to see everyone. I did freakishly well in the qualifying round but then came crashing down to earth in the semi-final, struggling mightily with the puzzles and making two very silly errors.
    Sorry to have missed the George stage of proceedings but for reasons of domestic harmony I had to get home.
    I’m not sure who this Marcus fellow everyone keeps congratulating is, but well done Matthew! 😉

  19. Nice piece Johninterred, and great pix. The full results are up now on the Crossword Club, feel free to link. Thanks so much to everyone who came, with commiserations to those banjaxed by Babet. Nice to see you all, sorry I didn’t manage to get to talk to everybody!

    1. Thanks Mick, I’ve used your links and updated this post and my own blog. Thanks also to your Event Team for making it such a great day, the setters for the excellent puzzles and you for being our congenial host and Master of Ceremonies.

  20. Congratualtions to Verlaine and thanks to John for the excellent write-up. It sounds like a great day out and I hope to come next year in order to put a few faces to names.

    I was chuffed to finish the final puzzle in 35:21. I suspect my biffed LOI is the 4-letter one that’s already been referred to here.

  21. Great to meet so many of you this time round, and put some faces to so many pseudonyms. My day started on arrival at Lancaster station at 6.30am to the news that all Euston trains were cancelled, with one exception which would require a change at Crewe, getting me to London for 10:03 (actually arrived 10:13) instead of 9.12 for the booked train. I had also had the good fortune to acquire so many points with Club Avanti, that I was entitled to a free 1st class return, so enjoyed two free breakfasts (one on each train), washed down with coffee and fruit juice.

    As for the event, arrived at the venue at 10:45 and with the clouds already threatening, it was nice to be let into the building a few minutes early, meeting a few faces (johninterred, pootle and astonvilla) before the event commenced. Never expecting to qualify for the semi-finals (my average on the Snitch is twenty-something mins), I had hoped that I might at least do better than my only previous attempt back in 2019, however I found the first grid tough to get into (perhaps early-doors nerves?) and moved onto the second grid after the first five minutes with only four clues solved. Things picked up a little though I probably managed only a further eight answers before moving onto grid three which I found the easiest of the three. I then flipped and flopped between the three grids, without managing to complete any of them within the hour. Unsurprisingly I didn’t make it, though I believe I did marginally better than last time round.

    I commiserated with Pootle who had just missed out on qualification due to one wrong answer, watching the semi-final while having a go at the same grids at the back of the room – Pootle did well enough to finish each of them in the hour, while I was again way off (concentration shot to pieces by this point). Enjoyed the final too, watching Verlaine gesticulating wildly and possibly inwardly tearing his hair out as the minutes ticked by – must admit when I tried the grid later, it took me more than an hour…

    Escaped fairly promptly afterwards with Johninterred, heading for The George – after some time, other contestants started drifting in – however after a comfortable couple of pints of Landlord, I had to make tracks, so bid my farewells, managing to knock Phil Jordan’s pint over Pootle in the process (sorry Pootle!) and made my train oop north in good time. (This time 1st Class service was non existent – very bad, Avanti! – but had some excellent company who seemingly knew that would happen and generously offered their M&S nibbles and drink throughout the journey – home by 21:15, and fell asleep in the bath soon after…)

  22. Many, many congratulations to Verlaine, and to John for the excellent write-up.
    It was indeed a splendid occasion, and it was great to be in the presence again of so many fellow enthusiasts.
    I’m delighted to say that after seven or eight previous visits, for the first time I got all 90 right – and quickly enough to make the top 60.
    I was, and remain, deeply chuffed about this. To see my name on the same sheet as some legends of the game… I might have to frame it.
    Sadly, the euphoria didn’t abate in time for me to concentrate properly in the semi. Well, that’s my excuse for not finishing any of them.
    I missed the pub because I had to race off to Stamford Bridge. Yes, there were plenty of cross words there too…

  23. I’m a bit foxed in that the final is in today’s paper on page 5 but I see no blog. Am I missing something? I can’t work out the Potter thing at 7d.

    1. The puzzle will be blogged in a few days time to let people take their time over it. It is outside of the normal blogging rota and we’re still trying to agree who will blog it. But blog it we will.

  24. Thanks for all the comments here and on my blog. Sorry not to mention several of you who were there but I didn’t know. Say hello to me next year.

  25. Thanks for the write-up, John. It looks/sounds like a great day and nice to see what some of you look like.
    Many congratulations to Verlaine. Do come back to us, your comments are missed!
    I’ve just done the final puzzle, fully parsed, in about 19 minutes which I am well chuffed with – easier without the Championship pressure, of course!

  26. Didn’t go but I see the usual unbelievable standard was required to win. Had a go at the final crossword in the Times and after a very slow start was pleased to finish in around 55 mins. But got Five pound a bit wrong – which was annoying as it was an answer in a regular Times edition fairly recently.

    Also failed with a four letter word which I wouldn’t have got in a month of Sundays.

    Viva Verlaine. Well done.

  27. Congratulations, Verlaine! It’s exciting to see a new winner and even more so to see such a deserving one.

  28. I don’t know any of you except by blog handles and reputations, but many congrats to all who competed and completed, and especially to the triumphant Verlaine.

  29. Well done all. I have just finished the final puzzle (including that 4-letter clue) in less than an hour which is good going for me so more of a Friday workout than a stinker I think. I did have four general knowledge failures but they were so clearly clued that they were easily guessable. 25d made me smile for its sheer silliness.

  30. Verlaine is awesome. I loved his live solves. All of you competitors and finalists are very clever folk. Aspirational to me as a plodder. Thanks a lot. Brian from Neutral Bay in Sydney Australia.

    1. Very hard to solve a cryptic on the B-Line or ferry from Neutral Bay. You need a longer commute!

      Or a nice quiet spot in the beer garden at The Oaks.

  31. Thanks for the report. For those of us who haven’t met anybody face to face, and being in Oz probably never will, it would add to the pleasure to have some text with the photos, to say who they are.

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