Unofficial Times cryptic RTC contest No. 1 – your solving times please

In July 2007, someone commenting on Tony Sever’s Times 2 RTC blog suggested having a competition like RTC for the Times cryptic. The same request has been made more than once on the Times club site bulletin board, without success. Hence this unofficial one – the format and exact rules may evolve a bit as we go along. The “your times please” post like this one will appear on the Friday if I have time, otherwise the Saturday.

There are two contests each week, both covering the 6 Times cryptic puzzles from Saturday to Friday – a “mini-championship” and an “RTC points table”. For the mini-championship, you need to have times recorded for all six puzzles, but for the RTC points table, you just need times for (all-correct solutions) to one or more of the puzzles as your score points for each puzzle based on your ranking. One advantage of the points table is that Times setters can compete (probably under pseudonyms) without waiting for a week with no puzzle of theirs. Some of the setters are former championship finalists, so this could add a bit of spice at the front end.

Sample comments:
For the mini-championship and the RTC points table:
Joe Bloggs 16:43, 5:15, 6:17, 7:37, 8:21, 11;43, 2, 23345/12A, 23346/17A (Total: 55:46)
Format: Name (optional – I’ll use your LJ name otherwise), times for Sat., Mon, …., Fri, number of wrong/missing entries, Total
In the list of wrong/missing entries, A/D is only required where necessary, or if you can’t remember whether there were both Across and Down answers with the number concerned. The total time is optional, and will be ignored if not correct – it’s just to let you see quickly whether you beat your own closest rivals.
For the RTC points table only: Joe Bloggs 16:43, X, 6:17, 7:37, 8:21, 11;43
Format: Name (optional – I’ll use your LJ name otherwise), times for Sat., Mon, …., Fri – X represents a puzzle you missed or did not solve correctly. As with Times2 RTC, only correct solutions score any points at all. If you want to add information about any mistakes made, that’s fine, but not necessary. The reason for listing missing/wrong clues is that I can mention ‘popular’ mistakes if there are some.

It’s up to you how accurately you time yourself, but if you round your times, do so on a “nearest” basis. If you’re short of a second-hand, your computer almost certainly has one somewhere (e.g. try double-clicking the onscreen clock in Windows, but take care not to change the system time or date), or you can try a google search for “Javascript stopwatch”. If you take more than one hour, just show the number of minutes, e.g. 70:30 rather than 1:10:30. Whether/how you check your answers is up to you, but the schedule is arranged so that you can check your answers for all the puzzles, including the Saturday one at the beginning of the week, before entering. I don’t mind if you put up your times on the Friday because it’s convenient, and then own up later if you discover any mistakes on unchecked puzzles.

If it’s difficult for you to get internet access at the appropriate times, you can e-mail your times instead. Send them to CrypticRTC at biddlecombe dot demon dot co dot uk if you don’t already have an e-mail address for me.

Deadline: add or send your times by 3 pm UK time on Sunday. I’ll then collect the comments and do something in Excel to produce the rankings, and add some comments about who’s done well and badly (maybe having “star” and “spoon” awards in the tradition of a running club I once belonged to – both based on performance compared to your normal standard). A few days after the results post goes up (or when putting up the next “Times for the week’s puzzles” post), I’ll delete the previous post containing the comments with your times.

The mini-championship will be done the same way as the current Times championship – someone with N mistakes beats everyone with N+1 mistakes, and those with equal no’s of mistakes are ranked on total time.

The RTC points table will be done in a similar way to the T2 RTC contest – the quickest N all-correct solvers for each puzzle will score points from N for the quickest down to 1 for the slowest, and these points will be added up for the week. In this ranking, like Times2 RTC, someone who’s very quick for half the puzzles but messes up the other half will still do quite well. In Times 2 RTC, N is always 10 – I’ll amend it so that N is the number of people who do the most popular puzzle of the week. That way, you all score some points, but those who complete the tougher puzzles will get extra credit as the slowest correct solver will score more than one point.

The only time limit per puzzle is the number of hours from you starting it until 3pm UK time on Sunday.

Reference books: please give times based on solving without any books or computer-based solving aids. So if you can’t get the last two answers without riffling through a dictionary or using TEA, stop the watch at that time and say that you have 2 missing answers.

One sitting? I expect most times will be for one continuous solving effort, but if you get interrupted by real life, don’t worry – just add your two or more solving spells.

Timing disasters: if you mess up the timing, do your best to give an honest but conservative estimate of your time. (That’s a nice lead-in to my first set of times, as something went wrong on Saturday – I completed a clean sweep in what felt like sub-10, but had a timing well over 10 – and then lost the paper to boot. So I’m starting off with a nominal 15.)

Times received so far

Name Sat Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Missing/wrong Total
Peter Biddlecombe 15:00 6:00 15:35 22:51 16:50 6:51 0 83:25
Mark Goodliffe 6:30 5:57 11:12 12:07 9:48 6:50 0 51:24
fgbp 6:25 X 11:48 X 13:49 10:10    

11 comments on “Unofficial Times cryptic RTC contest No. 1 – your solving times please”

  1. ilanc: 41:00, 29:00, 42:00, 35:00, 27:00, 26:00, 2, 23657/9,23657/28 (Total: 200:00)
  2. Jamesj 11, 6, 10, 20, 17, 9 = 73 – the 20 would have been better without phone call in the middle, but I failed to time the call.
  3. Chris Peake 25.00, 7.13, 10.17, 21.47, 25.26, 25.09, 1, 23653/21D

    As the nuisance who suggested this on Tony Sever’s RTC blog I am really excited about this, despite having no illusions as to my capabilities. I am definitely one of the social solvers who desperately misses the old Times Xwords Regional finals format and hopes this may go some way towards restoring the atmosphere.

    I perhaps wouldn’t have put my times in as I stuffed up on last Saturday’s for two reasons. I’d forgotten that the week went Saturday to Saturday, so my solving time is guessed, plus I didn’t know Orvieto, so looked it up, but if I knew I was under exam conditions I would probably have had some sort of a guess (intelligent or otherwise). I expect you need some strong contenders to hold up the rest of the field!

    Thanks though for offering to do this and I do hope that it is a success and worth the undoubted effort it will cost you.

    All the best.


  4. Hi. Am I correct in thinking that to join this I’d also need to join the online Times Crossword club? The solution to the Saturday crossword doesn’t appear in the paper until the Monday 9 days later, so I’m guessing subscribers must be able to get it before that, to be able to check their Saturday answers in time.
    1. You’re right – the solution can (usually…) be seen by club members on the Saturday. If you’re happy that your solution was right, enter anyway. If you’re in doubt about one answer that’s not mentioned, put a comment in the report about the puzzle (we only wait for the closing date to go by before blogging), or in this posting.
      1. OK, thanks. I didn’t notice this was happening in time to keep records for the first week, so I’ll have to start in week 2.
  5. Sat Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri
    5:35 13:19 X 31:29 11:13 8:21

    Tuesday had a mental block about the artist, and felt very stupid six hours later when it suddenly dawned on me. Wednesday, attempted the crossword while watching Neighbours with my daughter, not ideal exam conditions!

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