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After the Times Crossword Championship final back in October, I asked Mark Goodliffe to write up some notes on the Final puzzles for inclusion in the blog, expecting they'd publish all three on the following Monday as they had done in previous years.

Well, he did so, but when the puzzles weren't published there seemed no need for the details. However, now they've finally started publishing them he's sent me his notes for today's puzzle, so I'm adding them here in addition to mctext's blog for the puzzle, which you'll find underneath this one.

I tried this, Puzzle 2, having completed Puzzle 3 (25,038, to come, presumably) first, but could only get 3d and 12a (neat first definition). I spent a while trying to justify ANALYST (or maybe ACOLYTE) at 2d before giving up, and some further time trying to find another clue to cold-solve. I decided to come back to Puzzle 2 later, and went to Puzzle 1 (25,032 presumably).

Back to this puzzle later, and the same scouting around for a handle. A proper think about 14a, ending in L, led me to reject BERYL and PEARL and prove the right answer, at which point 1d became easier, and then 1a, and now I could see the right answer at 2d, and then 10a. The long 9d was clearly an anagram but even with _E_P to start with wasn’t coming to me. 5d looked like another long anagram, but not much help with the definition, so I was back to cold-solving unchecked answers. TEA looked like the beginning of 15a, and suddenly the extra letter gave me the 9d anagram. 18a came quickly, 19d must be HU----E (or could it possibly be H----UE? Why, yes it could, how lovely), and the rest of the SW corner was very fast – I barely glanced at the clue for 28a given all the checking.

Now a think about 5d, and suddenly the only word I know for ‘electoral arrangement’ pops into my head. The rest of the NE corner seems to be coming OK but I can’t quite justify TRACK at 6d or RAISINS at 7d. Try the SE corner, and come back to them. 25a is easy but I can’t think of a (Devon?) city to fit at 27a. 16d must end in D, so now I can get 29a, and after a little delay something about ‘the case of Oliver’ gives me the idea for 17d. Now I can study the anagram fodder and get that city at 27a – a surprising one. Which gives me 16d - which gives me 20a - which gives me T_ MOVIE at 21d. ‘Box’ in the clue proves that TV must be right but I don’t like the idea of TV being a 2-letter ‘word’ really – though it must be here.

So now 15a must be TEA TRAYS, and I can see the wordplay to prove it, so RAISINS is wrong after all. RAISINY? Is that a word? I don’t know it, and I would have thought I would if it was a genuine adjective. Another look at 6d, it has to be TRACK, though I can’t quite see why ‘cast’ = TACK, still it has a lot of meanings so it’s probably right (right answer, wrong reason, it turns out).

So RAISINY again? Surely nothing else fits R_I_I_Y, no I can’t think anything would. Deconstruct the wordplay: ah, RAINY, fair enough. So it must be right. Fill it in. It must be right. Mustn’t it? And in this state of 99% confidence, I handed in my script.

This puzzle probably took me about 9 minutes, including maybe two minutes thinking about 7d alone, but the time (like the answer to 7d?), is a bit of a guess.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
The man is just awesome, in this field at least. I treasure the discovery that we share something in common: an unawareness of the existence of "raisiny" :-)
Dec. 7th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
I'd like to think we have similar thought processes, but, even if that were true, the Magoo's work rather faster than mine. Actually, a very helpful set of notes, complementing, and adding something to, the excellent lessons I learn here each day. Thanks to Mark and Andy for making this available.
Dec. 7th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
I'd appreciate help on one or two of these. Where does the initial T in TRACK come from? Can "foot" mean the last letter of "just" or am I missing something. I put in TUNIC from definition alone and still can't understand the cryptic. Am assuming that there is such a thing as a PERPETUAL CHECK - as the only thing to fit the anagram. Never heard of it. Magoo is awesome but we lesser mortals need all the help we can get! A real struggle - 65 minutes.
Dec. 7th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
Sorry, Linxit! I didn't notice that this was an addition to your regular blog in which all is explained for slowcaoches like me... I thought it was replacing it.
Dec. 7th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
Hmm, if you thought that, others might too. I'll put in a note at the top.
Dec. 7th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you Mark. Not only a thoroughly awesome display of crossword solving but a genuinely exciting and entertaining read as well. Much more than mere 'notes'!
Dec. 8th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
Interesting. I actually made a rather better start at this one than Mark, with SNAPPY, AGITPROP and AMIGO plus a few of the downs going in fairly quickly. I slowed after that (simply lacking the basic pace that I once had), but had around two-thirds of the puzzle filled in after about 10 minutes. However, at that point I did the equivalent of hitting "the wall" in the marathon at around 9 miles (I'd completed the first puzzle in just over 10 minutes so had used about a third of the time available) and spent the next 10 minutes getting virtually nowhere.

I then switched to the third puzzle, and (after completing it slowly but steadily in 20+ minutes) came back to this one again and made more slow but steady progress to finish it without too much difficulty - but feeling old and tired at the end of it all. (Deep sigh!)
Dec. 8th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
Bloody bloody! Does this mean I have more Finals puzzles to blog? Hats off to Mark though. More confirmation that it's not worth the $$ to turn up next year.
Dec. 8th, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
Only two more, and this one was the hardest! There's no competition without competitors, and even if Mark's the crossword equivalent of Phil Taylor in darts, he still needs opponents!

Anyway, it's a great social event too (translation - we all meet up down the pub afterwards).
Dec. 8th, 2011 10:02 am (UTC)
I feel for you, MC. Did you see the private message I sent you?
Dec. 8th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
This was definitely the hardest of the three Final puzzles for me, sitting at the back in the spectators zone. I finished the first puzzle in a reasonable time, maybe 16 mnutes or so, then spent another 15 minutes on this one for maybe 5 or 6 entries, then moved on to the third puzzle and had it almost complete when the hour was up. I looked at them again the following day and finished both correctly in the end, around 90 minutes for the three. It's the taking part that counts...
Dec. 8th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
Phew ! What a stinker ! More than an hour and then I had the presence of mind to look at the preamble and found that I had managed a tough Championship puzzle. Rewarded myself with some 12 year-old single malt for the gallant effort.
Most satisfying; yeah, both the puzzle and the whisky :-)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )